When I first heard of the term ‘social distancing’ I thought, that’s new. COVID-19 has changed the world in a way, unimaginable a few months back. Who would have thought that billions of people would become home-bound for indefinite periods of time? Who could ever imagine global prices of fuel ending up at zero dollars? Who could have possibly imagined staying healthy would become a bigger priority than making money!! Well, the new normal is here. Welcome to the world post-Covid19.
The term we needed to use is actually physical distancing, not social. Socially we’re attempting to become closer than ever before. We are on innumerable WhatsApp chats, connecting on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. We are video conferencing with family, friends, relatives, cousins and colleagues; playing games on multiple apps. Man is a social animal. We need human interaction to feel normal. We need to talk, read, reach out and connect in some way or the other.
Physical distancing is imperative, we need not shake hands or hug, but when our smiles are hidden behind the masks let us try to make eye contact, let us wave out to each other, let us wish good evening from balconies. Reach out to people around you to let them know you still want to remain connected. I find people have become afraid of each other, we are frightened that someone might be carrying the virus and infect us.
The racist attacks on people in India, Australia, USA, because of the virus, is very saddening. No one knows for sure why the infection started in Wuhan, but to attack anyone who looks a certain way is simply a display of your own ignorance and depravity. The attacks on healthcare workers, police personnel, and those in public service are only going to harm society. We can stay indoors and keep out of harm’s way. We just need to be 3-6 feet away and wear a mask to remain safe. Why hurt anyone else??
The social stigma that has come along with the disease is disturbing and will hinder the authorities’ attempts to control it. Many patients have told me, we would rather stay at home, heal ourselves than go for voluntary testing. If we become positive, our home will be sealed, we will be taken to isolation wards, our landlord will ask us to vacate, our families will never talk to us…can you realise the fear that has become attached to this disease?? It’s a danger to all of us.
This fear of social ostracization is more than the fear of the disease itself. It was the reason why doctors were being evicted from their homes until the administration intervened, and why people with fever and sore throat are not seeking treatment or getting tests done.
We all need to remove the stigma of COVID-19. The only thing we need to feel is empathy. The fact is herd immunity will develop when 70-90% of us have been exposed to the infection. We are all going to get exposed, we will respond to it depending on the status of our immune response. Many of us will remain asymptomatic; some may develop a mild infection, some with high viral load exposure or underlying disease will develop pneumonia and may need hospital admission. Some of these will need ventilatory support.
Please remember if today someone else has come positive, tomorrow it might be you or someone in your family. What goes around, comes around. Treat anyone you know who is positive with love, empathy and compassion. Reach out with words of encouragement and prayers. Let them know you are their friend even in the worst of times.
Let’s remember to remain physically distant but close to each other’s hearts. Remove the stigma of being COVID-19 positive. We might be next, make no mistake.