AND so, it finally happened. The Department of Health has confirmed a local transmission of COVID-19, despite hemming and hawing all the way. This occurrence will now usher in a different phase of anxiety among the populace, given that there is still much we do not understand about COVID-19. Our officials must keep this very human reaction in mind, and must consider this reality at every step and turn.
There is much to write about the way the administration and the Department of Health has dealt with this crisis, specifically in terms of keeping the public in the know about developments. There will be another time to discuss about how it can be improved, but for now, I choose to write about what ordinary people like me can do to help our communities in this time of uncertainty.
First, much of our uncertainty comes from having very little information about COVID-19 and how it behaves. This uncertainty can easily turn into panic, especially with the wall-to-wall media coverage about these cases. This panic translates into very tangible things: sharing things left and right on social media and chat groups, rushing to groceries to stock up on essentials beyond what is necessary. These actions, while perfectly understandable, create a reactionary chain of behavior in other people, which can create misinformation and undue panic. Trusted institutions such as the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control regularly release updated advisories for the public, detailing measures about how one can keep safe in these times. Washing your hands frequently (and properly) is one of them, and developing this habit can go a long way in protecting one and one’s family not just from Covid-19 but other common illnesses.
Take 30 minutes to read these advisories, and make sure you are getting them from the correct source. I’ve received so many forwarded texts and memes about supposed measures against contracting the coronavirus, many of them from false or dubious sources.
The most annoying perhaps is the one that advises people to drink hot water every 15 minutes because it makes your mouth inhospitable for the virus, because it claims that the virus cannot survive in hot temperatures. I hope whoever started that gets a burnt tongue for life, really. The second most annoying one advises eating plenty of garlic to ward off the virus. You might be laughing at the absurdity of it, but the South China Morning Post reported about a woman who had to go to a hospital for treatment because she ingested 1.5kg of raw garlic in one sitting.
Dear millennials, please help in making our fillennials more aware about fake news and false information. Sit down with your aunties and uncles and tell them about URLs and finding trustworthy information sources. Resist the urge to roll your eyes, dear ones. Our fillennials may be difficult at first, but I’m sure you can all get through at one point. After all, our elderly seem to be the most vulnerable to COVID-19, and we want to keep our elderly ones safe as well from the virus.
Second, help others access the correct information. I know I’m not the only one receiving forwarded messages and links about how to stay healthy, which increases in frequency every time the media reports a new case. I have received the usual health advice via chat group ranging from the common sensical (“boost your immune system and take Vitamin C”) from the absurd (eat garlic and hot pepper) and with so much noise, coupled with our feeling of uncertainty, can cause us to hold on to irrational advice. We can help fight the spread of misinformation by sending legitimate advisories from trusted institutions. You can also download and distribute printable graphics carrying health measures to your neighbors and the Grab or Angkas drivers you encounter. One lady I know has taken to giving cotton gloves to the Grab drivers that she meets; gloves that can be washed, disinfected, and re-used to help protect them as they do their daily work. Not everyone has employment that will allow them to work from home, so it is good to keep these people in mind, also.
We all need to look out for each other, as this virus, like others of its kind, knows no race, politics, or preference. While we may have gripes (or not, hahaha) about how the current government runs the country, we can certainly follow prevention measures like avoiding large crowds, washing our hands, and disposing our garbage properly, to help prevent making ourselves and our communities more vulnerable than we already are to contracting the virus.