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PANDEMIC PARANOIA 

 Should we be taking the coronavirus (COVID 19) panic seriously, or cooling the temperature on the alarming reactions to the impending loo roll crisis?  I didn’t know whether to laugh or scoff at the Australian family who had ordered 2,300 units of the coveted stuff, allegedly by accident, racking up a mind-boggling $3,000 plus. 

 Now, I’ve always kept a well-stocked larder as advised by my wise female ancestors, rotating cans and preserves by date, and buying in bulk when finances allowed. Doing this throughout the year has meant I haven’t had to worry if I got sick, snowed-in, or needed to avoid bumping into scowling locals doing the weekly supermarket dash. 

  The way people are reacting to this latest global crisis is by turning into a drama. Our feeds are clogged with images of empty shelves stripped of pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, disinfectant and hand sanitiser, giving the impression that supermarkets are under siege, and are in need of military protection against  armed robbers. 

 It’s stripping us of our common decency as we imagine ourselves caught up in yet another apocalyptic film set, fighting for survival and let no wo(man) get in our way. 

  The government talks of “battle plans” and the “enemy disease”. Those looking to project their fears look for someone to blame and anyone looking vaguely Chinese is an easy target: #jenesuispasunvirus is already trending on Twitter. Both the powers that be and the media are stoking the flames with their rhetoric. It’s enough to put the wind up even the most level-headed of people. 

 As a long-time sufferer from anxiety, I understand what’s driving this panic. It’s uncertainty- the not-knowing. We’re looking for someone to fix it, and do it now so we can sleep easily at night. 

 At first, I was sucked into by the sensationalist headlines and most of my day was spent in checking the latest figures. “UK cases up 70% in 24 hours!”  OMG. We’re all going to die!

   According to the specialists, the cases will become clusters and go onto join up and explode. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle BUT 80% will experience mild to moderate symptoms, and the recovery doesn’t lie in a huge stash of lavatory paper. 

 This is no time to be complacent. The threat is real. It’s fast-moving and it’s invisible. We now know that there are asymptomatic carriers. They could be sitting next to us at work, serving our coffee or indeed ourselves. 

 So what to do?  Ignore the hype and spin and stick with the facts. My go-to source is Dr John Campbell. An elderly unassuming, calm, rational presenter from Carlisle (UK) who has decades of experience teaching nurses under his belt. He provides concrete evidence and explains basic science in bite-sized pieces. 

 Panic ensues when we feel we are out of control. Life is riddled with uncertainties and part of being human is being able to develop resilience so that whatever crisis befalls us, we have coping skills. It’s normal to want to be safe at all times, but that’s not reality. 

 There’s little we can do other than follow the medical guidelines, one of which is to thoroughly wash our hands whilst singing Happy Birthday. Having survived the polio epidemic in 1962, ( and measles) I know something about hand hygiene. My father was a TB nurse and this routine was drilled into me. I’m surprised my hands have any skin left. 

 So, we keep calm and carry on, and hope that hourly hand washing doesn’t lead to an outbreak of germophobia. The last thing we want to do is replace one fear with another. 

Angelena Boden