I have not written anything about COVID-19. Dealing with disease is a science and seeking to contain its consequences involves the science of managing prejudice, sometimes mass hysteria. Polemicists are useful for politics or sport or culture. Anything beyond science is a distraction for medicine.
So, I will not comment on whether I think the local authorities have been too casual about the risks of this or whether they are exaggerating the potential harm of a largely harmless illness. I will not comment because I have no special expertise to offer anything useful to others or anything better informed.
Adding layers of confusion on the information provided by the health authorities is a public disservice. As is second guessing their decisions at every step of the way.
Health Minister Chris Fearne yesterday announced the first positive test of coronavirus. The patient – a young girl – contracted the illness on a trip to Italy. Her family followed guidelines on quarantine on their return from a high-risk area. After the Chris Fearne’s press conference the authorities also announced that the girl’s parents had also tested positive, while in isolation at the general hospital.
The Minister refused to answer questions about where the girl goes to school. In the judgement of the health authorities the information is not relevant because after her trip to Italy the girl never went to her school.
This was met by suggestions of a cover-up or in any case lack of honest transparency with the parents of the patient’s school mates. What would parents (and school children) do with that information, given that in the circumstances it is irrelevant? Let’s just say that supermarkets running out of bog roll would be less consequential.
Facebook has really become the mirror to the horror of collective stupidity, the real plague that we can never contain. Everyone is an expert. Some people are now speaking of an outright ban on travel, a veritable blockade. Xenophobia is running wild with a misguided idea that the Maltese have been chosen by God for immunity from coronavirus and our moral duty is to preserve that immunity by assuming all foreigners are infected.
Of course, not everyone is thinking like this. PN politician and hotelier Robert Arrigo is suggesting rather the opposite: a discount on prices for Air Malta tickets and a suspension on taxes on eating in restaurants.
Coronavirus will pass. Even the Black Death passed and these days we seem better equipped to manage contagion. Can we calm the fuck down please? I understand suspicion of political leadership, irreverence and questioning of authority. I preach that from the rooftops.
But can we stop confusing that with questioning our doctor? Can we just listen to those who are trained at managing these situations and follow them through this right or wrong? It’s not like anyone untrained is likely to have a better idea than them.
If they tell us the smartest thing is to go on as normal then that is what we should do. If they ask us to work from home for a couple of weeks, then that is what we should do. Please help distribute information that is distributed officially and stop sharing hysterical paranoia however funny or compelling it sounds. Please stick to the facts. Please listen to those who actually know what they’re talking about.
We’ll get through this: coronavirus I mean. The stupidity will stick.