Coronavirus: Medic warns mass panic could prove worse than disease

Coronavirus: Medic warns mass panic could prove worse than disease

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Foto: Nine News/Twitter
Shoppers in Sydney, Australia, argue over toilet paper in a video posted on March 6 by Nine News.

  • Abdu Sharkawy, a doctor in Toronto, Canada, wrote a Facebook post late Friday that’s going viral.
  • The doctor, an infectious disease expert, argued that, while the coronavirus will be bad, people’s selfishness could make it far worse.
  • He cited incidents like people stealing face masks from hospitals and panic-buying supplies as proof that the virus is bringing out the worst in people.
  • The post urges people to be calm and compassionate instead. It has been shared at least 300,000 times,
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

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.

Foto: A sign in a US branch of Costco warning customers of shortages. Source: AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus

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.

#BREAKING: A scuffle broke out at a Woolworths in Chullora this morning with patrons coming to blows over toilet paper, forcing employees to intervene. Bankstown police attended the scene and no charges have been laid. #9News pic.twitter.com/9TmDAStb9D

— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) March 7, 2020

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 criticizing 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 travelers, 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 behaviors and ‚fight for yourself above all else‘ attitude could disastrous,“ he added.

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