Let’s talk some facts –
11 March 2020 the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Corona Virus (COVID-19) a Pandemic, it moved from an Outbreak, some cases in a relatively limited geographical area, to an Epidemic lots of cases in a wider area and a big rise in the numbers of cases, to a Pandemic, which is like an Epidemic but across more countries and/or continents.
There is currently no cure or medicine that will deal with the disease, there may be some treatment to relieve some of the symptoms.
For most people who get it, they will be mildly unwell, however 1 in 5 will require hospital treatment.
The death rate is relatively low, but as the numbers of people infected are high, there will be thousands and possibly tens or even hundreds of thousands of deaths globally by the time the virus eventually slows down.
The WHO say that the safe distance to stay away from people is 1 meter, which is 3 feet approximately, although in the UK we are being advised to keep 2 meters away from anyone we don’t live with.
For some people, they may have the disease and feel mildly unwell, have a cough and not realise that they are infected with COVID-19, so can unknowingly pass it on and infect others.
There are a number of people who are “at risk”, older people, those with heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes, but there may be others diseases that put people at risk of having a more serious illness, if they were to catch COVID-19. If you are concerned, speak to your doctor to find out if they think you are at risk.
The way it is spread is via the tiny water droplets in coughs and sneezes by an infected person, either by the droplets directly landing on them or by touching a surface that has the tiny droplets and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose with those droplets and infecting yourself. Hence the constant cleaning of surfaces, the advice to sneeze into your sleeve (to catch the droplets) and not to touch your face (to stop any infection that might be on your hands to get into your body).
The public health concern is with the wider spread of the virus, comes the greater the pressures put on acute hospital services to care for the 20% that will become seriously ill. The 80% who will feel mildly unwell can receive care from family or friends at home or may be able to manage their own symptoms. And afterwards, it is hoped that this 80% will be immune and will be able to function in society without worrying about future infection, but this is as yet unclear how long the immunity will last.
Having dealt with the facts that are known about COVID-19, it is time to consider the worries and concerns that people feel. There is a sense of panic for some people, whilst others are unsettled, others appear unconcerned. Everyone is entitled to feel how they feel, they should acknowledge how they feel about this. For anyone who is extremely anxious, they would probably benefit from speaking to someone about their anxiety, to try to work out if their fears are realistic or if they have catastrophised the situation. For anyone who is at risk or is in close contact with someone who is at risk, the consequences could be serious.
Social isolation or distancing means staying at least 1-2 meter away from anyone else and I have heard stories about one member of a family who is intending to stay at home for the next 3 months, whilst the rest of the family go to work and school. If the at home member of the family comes within 1-2 meter to the other members, then they can potentially catch COVID-19 from them, if they became infected within the community, making the point of staying at home meaningless. The purpose of social isolating is to stop the spread of the disease.
Humans are by their nature, pack animals, we therefore have a basic need for human contact, social isolation is therefore in conflict with our basic need to connect. It is likely therefore to cause some level of distress or anxiety or create a need to connect in another way.
Catastrophising can be paralysing, it feels like it is real and is a very difficult mindset to break out of and people may need support because they are at risk or because they fear they are. People who are not at risk, are could still potentially be responsible for passing it to someone who is at risk and the consequences that will arise from that, including the guilt that they might feel.
So – listen to the scientific advice, take the precautions that you feel are right for you. And be kind to anyone who might be having a hard time, that might mean being compassionate towards them or it might be buying them groceries if they are isolating, different people will need different things.