The World Health Organization has asked countries to refrain from increasing “fear and stigma” in the international community by imposing travel and trade restrictions. On the other hand, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also says that the world is “dangerously unprepared” for the pandemic that is coronavirus. So, who should the people believe?
In turn, the world leaders are asking the public not to panic about the coronavirus outbreak. They might be trying to control the mass hysteria by underselling the seriousness of the situation. But the WHO has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.
The calm and composed nature of the world leaders has not helped the situation. The mass hysteria is spreading. The rising number of cases around the world and the spread of fake news are contributing factors to this. These are some online examples of fake news:
People have started taking precautions which have rapidly increased the sales of medical masks around the world. Pharmacies in China recently ran out of them. To help out, the Vatican City has shipped hundreds of thousands of medical masks to the most affected provinces in China – Hubei, and Zhejiang.
Dr. Eric Litvack, medical chief for preventive medicine and control in Montreal’s Public Health Department in an interview with National Post said that “A mask that you buy in the pharmacy can never give total protection against a virus that is transmitted through the air… they act as a barrier to stop the tiny droplets that are expelled when they cough or sneeze.” So, medical masks are not useful unless you have flu-like symptoms.
Coronavirus has already exceeded the number of deaths and people infected in comparison to the 2003 outbreak of SARS in mainland China. 349 people died and 5,327 were infected by SARS in 2003, whereas 490 have already died and 24,324 are infected because of coronavirus in mainland China.
According to the Chinese state news outlet, the 1,000-bed hospital that was built in under 10 days in Wuhan, officially started operating on February 3rd. The second hospital is currently under construction. 50 million people across the provinces in China are under quarantine – the largest in human history. The quick action by the Chinese government raises doubts about the seriousness of the situation in China. Is the Chinese government misinforming the world? Are they sharing all the information they have about the virus? If not, could we have found a cure by now and controlled the spread of the virus?
Hospital in Wuhan built under 10 days.
Until February 3rd, China was blaming the United States’ response to the outbreak of coronavirus to be the cause of mass hysteria. The United States and many others have restricted travel to and from China, and many countries are sending planes to evacuate their citizens. Washington has “unceasingly manufactured and spread panic”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters. This clearly implies that China is focused on other issues, rather than the severity of the outbreak and its repercussions. This also questions China’s legitimacy towards the situation, keeping in mind their track record. Could they have underestimated the outbreak and toned down the seriousness of the situation to not alert the world?
On February 4th, a Senior Member of the Chinese Communist Party admitted to “shortcomings and deficiencies” in the country’s’ response to the coronavirus outbreak. Now that the situation seems uncontrollable, President Xi Jinping declared “a people’s war of prevention.” Chinese officials have also agreed to let American experts visit China in the upcoming days as part of the WHO team, and work together in finding a cure.
The panic amongst the public is not unjustified, as the number of cases continues to rise rapidly. A lot of questions remain unanswered but the best course of action for countries is to prepare themselves as the risk of global widespread remains high.