I’m sure we have all heard it the last few weeks ‘why is everyone panicking about Coronavirus? It’s just like the flu?’
You are correct in thinking the flu kills many more thousands of people than COVID-19 but there are some substantial differences between the two that means they simply cannot be compared with each other.
We can vaccinate against flu
Every year in the UK we vaccinate hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people against the flu, this means we are able to continue visiting our elderly grandparents without worrying about giving them anything. The symptoms of COVID-19 might be similar to the flu but the problem is we don’t know enough about the virus to know whether it can cause irreversible health issues, we don’t know exactly how it is spreading so fast and we don’t know 100% the profile of the disease and why the mortality rate is higher. The flu has been around for a long time, long enough that we have developed effective treatments and immunisations, the same cannot be said for COVID-19.
It could cripple healthcare systems
In the UK we are extremely blessed to have access to free healthcare. Our healthcare system is put under strain each winter due to the influx of cases of the flu. Now, imagine how bad it is when dealing with a huge flurry of cases of a virus you don’t know 100% how to deal with, don’t forget we are still in flu season and they are dealing with that too.
COVID-19 is likely to put an unprecedented strain on the NHS the number of cases here takes the same pattern as what we have seen in China and Italy. This is not only bad on those who catch the virus and need hospital care, but for those who need hospitalisation for other conditions who cannot even get a bed because they are all full.
“It only kills the elderly”
My first question is, why should we palm something off because it might only kill the older generation? That is a hideous way of thinking, these are people who all deserve to live just as much as we do. At what point does a person’s life stop mattering? We need to change this way of thinking, many of these ‘elderly’ people have children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. They may have pets, they may be pillars of their community, they may have fought for the freedom of our country, and that is why we ALL need to take this seriously. Travelling to places such as Northern Italy might not affect you more than giving you mild flu symptoms, but you could infect tens or even hundreds of people on your return home, who could infect hundreds more. This puts the most vulnerable people of society at risk just because you think YOU will be fine. Remember the bigger picture.
To help curb the outbreak, we need to rely on the actions of young, healthy people take, including reporting symptoms and following quarantine instructions, as this will have one of the most important roles in protecting the most vulnerable in society.
COVID-19 could cause extreme health complications to those with underlying health problems
You don’t have to be 85 years old in order to be vulnerable to COVID-19. There are hospitals filled with patients with cancer, cystic fibrosis, cancer etc – many of these people are young, some are children and some are even babies. These may be people who have a good chance of recovering, but if they are hit by Coronavirus, it could set back their treatment or even kill them.
It may still affect you, even if you don’t catch it
We have seen in China and Italy how schools and universities have been shut down, huge office blocks closed. The pressure on businesses could be huge, especially small, independently run businesses that don’t have huge amounts of cash or assets.
Then we have the issue of who looks after the children if schools are shut? Parents or guardians will be forced to take leave from work to take care of the kids that have been sent home for two weeks. There are 3 million children in this country who rely on school dinners to be fed, if these schools close, these children are at a huge risk of going hungry as their parents cannot afford to feed them. In countries with major outbreaks, the burdens have fallen on nearly everyone, sick or not. I have had paid jobs cancelled or postponed due to the risk of travelling, I appreciate there has been no way around this but I am self-employed and every job matters.
Economic consequences can spiral quickly, supply chains are being disrupted, many businesses rely on products being shipped from China, Tesco for example sources their pasta from Italy. When each area is shut down, that is another bump in the supply chain. The domino effect feeds the decline of each business which effects us all in some way.
Governments have limited budgets, and at a time when more needs to be put in healthcare, it can then become difficult to support those who are left out of work due to the Virus. FlyBe has recently blamed Coronavirus for their collapse, as a budget airline, they had very little cash reserves. As a company that was already struggling to stay afloat, the negative economic impact and the apprehension of investors to put a rescue package together at this time has meant FlyBe has gone into administration, leaving 2000 staff without a job.
So, next time you think Coronavirus isn’t going to cause a threat to you, just think about the time you will need to take off work if your child’s school is closed, or your grandma who wants to reach her next birthday, or perhaps even just your financial position, we all have a reason to worry. And before I leave you, let me remind you that worrying should not = panic. Panic does not help anyone, we just need to be sensible and aware. If you have travelled to a COVID-19 hotspot such as northern Italy or China, you need to speak to a healthcare professional or self-isolate. If you need to buy supplies, be sensible about it, you don’t need 50 packets of toilet roll and a cupboard full of pasta. If you live near someone who is vulnerable or alone, offer help, perhaps you could do their shopping for them or at least leave some supplies at their door so they don’t run out or have to enter into a high-risk area.
Last but not least, please be kind and please be empathetic. We all rely on each other in some way and it’s selfish to dismiss someone else’s plight because it doesn’t make you suffer.
The world will continue turning, hopefully, the number of deaths will stay fairly low. But at the end of the day, the worry is much more than the risk of us becoming ill.