Toning Down the Coronavirus: A Fatalist Psychotherapist’s View
I have to say that I am not impressed with the way that the media have covered this topic. I believe that they have hyped this phenomenon and it has certainly penetrated global media, political and scientific platforms.
Compared to the outbreak of, say, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or Ebola, there has been a rapid and well-coordinated response – epidemiologists, researchers and public health and funding agencies have worked together to reduce the spread of 2019-nCoV. Now, compare this to the Ebola outbreak when the Chinese government were accused of being slack in dealing with this problem. However, the news and, particularly, social media have also been unprecedented—Chinese whispers? In fact, they have been relentless. Indeed, in the social media domain, articles have included statements from academic articles which have over-exaggerated and overstated the strength of causal inference. Stories of evacuation, quarantine and the eating of Chinese bats have added to this hype. This has also caused some xenophobia and racism amongst some Brits, and this has led to racist verbal and physical attacks on some Chinese in the UK. In fact, the WHO warned recently against, ‘unnecessary unhelpful profiling of individuals based on ethnicity’.
Moreover, the volume of articles (including posts and cartoons) reporting Coronavirus makes it impossible to collate, analyse or cross-reference existing scientific data. What this does, of course, is fuel speculation and exaggeration, leading to mass hyperchondriasis. The media have focussed its attention now on this virus, rather than on Brexit.
People tend to be frightened about what they don’t know, and it is these unknowns which fuel fear. For instance, how many people left Wuhan before the lockdown were incubating the virus?
According to figures recorded on 10th of February, there had been 118,347 and 4,267 deaths reported to WHO. It is true that some patients remain in intensive care, but the overall mortality rate is 1.4%. The average age for someone to die with this virus is 79%. There is no evidence to show that 2019-nCoV spreads more rapidly than the flu or has a higher mortality rate (Rodrigues-Morales, 2020).
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In conclusion, I believe that we should help to reduce all this hype and hysteria surrounding Coronavirus, certainly at this stage. The media tends to focus on doom and gloom. But, as a health professional, I can focus on the networking that has been done so far on this virus, and other altruistic measures. For example, vaccine developments and public health measures have been put into place so far and these are becoming more effective each day. Diagnostic tests have also been developed over the last month and these have been shared outside the UK and the US. As a psychotherapist and counsellor, the most important thing that I tell my clients to do is to not panic. We have had pandemics and epidemics before; the only difference here is the fact that this one has been reported on over and over again. People have been brainwashed and have over-reacted. Let’s be sensible, wash our hands and keep healthy.
David Kraft is a well-respected psychotherapist in the Enfield area; he also has a practice in Harley Street, London.