Infectious disease expert says coronavirus panic may be worse than disease itself

  09 March 2020    Read: 882
Infectious disease expert says coronavirus panic may be worse than disease itself

A post from an infectious disease expert is going viral after he warned that people's exaggerated reactions to the spread of the coronavirus could do more damage than the disease itself.

Abdu Sharkawy, a doctor and expert at the University of Toronto in Canada, wrote late Friday that the disease is indeed dangerous but that the often self-interested measures to contain are in some cases proving worse.

His post, which has been shared around 310,000 times at the time of writing, attacks the "spellbinding spiral of panic" he observes around the world as the number of cases increases.

"I am not scared of COVID-19," Sharkawy wrote, using the scientific name for the disease caused by the coronavirus.

However, he continued:

"What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world.

"I am scared of the N95 masks that are stolen from hospitals and urgent care clinics where they are actually needed for front line healthcare providers and instead are being donned in airports, malls, and coffee lounges, perpetuating even more fear and suspicion of others.


"I am scared that our hospitals will be overwhelmed with anyone who thinks they 'probably don't have it but may as well get checked out no matter what because you just never know…'"

Sharkawy appeared to be referring to widespread prepping in countries including the US and UK, where many stores abruptly found themselves sold out of essential items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Police in Australia on Saturday reminded the public that the situation "isn't Mad Max," a post-apocalyptic dystopia, after shoppers were videoed brawling over toilet paper in Sydney.

On Friday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said that people had been looting surgical masks from local hospitals, and asked police to investigate.

As well as criticising individual-level actions, Sharkawy warned of over-zealous actions by governments, like restricting travel and trade, which would disrupt people's lives and economic growth.

International travel has been hit hard by the outbreak. As well as a slump in demand from cautious travellers, governments have blocked flights to afflicted areas, particularly China, and are examining the travel histories of those who have been to at-risk areas for fear that they will import the virus.

Sharkawy concluded that, though the coronavirus will take its toll on the elderly and those with poor immune systems, "the fact is the virus itself will not likely do much harm when it arrives."

"But our own behaviours and 'fight for yourself above all else' attitude could prove disastrous," he added.

Business Insider


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