Dr Abdu Sharkawy’s post has been shared over 1.7 million times on Facebook alone.
No matter how hard we try, it’s proven impossible to avoid all of those coronavirus headlines. Just today (11 March), the BBC announced that a total of 380 had been confirmed in the UK – a rise of 63 from the previous day.
Meanwhile, airlines have cut thousands of flights including to and from Italy after the country was put on lockdown. GPs are warning routine appointments at NHS surgeries may have to stop to deal with the rising number of Covid-19 cases. And as many as one in 10 UK consumers are stockpiling goods, which is why everyone’s finding it hard to find loo roll at their local supermarket.
The hysteria is infectious, and no wonder. After all, studies have repeatedly shown that, when exposed to negative news – particularly those headlines which use emotionally charged language – we’re not only more anxious, but far more likely to catastrophise our worries and make them bigger than they are. And thus, more difficult to keep under control.
It’s this overriding sense of fear which Abdu Sharkawy – a doctor and infectious diseases specialist with over 20 years experience – has warned us against via social media.
“I am not scared of Covid-19,” Sharkawy writes, in a Facebook post which has been shared by 1.7 million people to date.
“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.”
Sharkawy continues: “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…’ and those with heart failure, emphysema, pneumonia and strokes will pay the price for overfilled waiting rooms with only so many doctors and nurses to assess.”
The doctor also admits he’s afraid that people will continue to steal vital supplies from hospitals and clinics, such as N95 masks and antibacterial hand gel. That travel restrictions will force people to cancel weddings, miss graduations and skip family reunions. That global panic will result in a worldwide recession.
Above all else, though? Sharkawy is scared about the message we are sending to children and young people.
“Instead of reason, rationality, open-mindedness and altruism, we are telling them to panic, be fearful, suspicious, reactionary and self-interested,” he says.
“Covid-19 is… coming to a city, a hospital, a friend, even a family member near you at some point. Expect it. Stop waiting to be surprised further. The fact is the virus itself will not likely do much harm when it arrives. But our own behaviours and ‘fight for yourself above all else’ attitude could prove disastrous.”
Finishing his powerful post, Sharkawy has pleaded with everyone to “meet this challenge together in the best spirit of compassion for others”.
“Facts not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts,” he adds.
You can read the post in full here:
As previously reported by Stylist, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently declared the outbreak of Covid-19 a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.
However, when we spoke to Dr Daniel Atkinson about the situation, he had this to say: “Yes, at present this situation looks like it is extremely serious. Saying that it is an ‘emergency’, however, would imply that we all ought to be taking radical action to avert disaster.
“In reality what we have to do is be more careful with our hygiene – which, while a very simple thing to do, is likely to be the one thing that makes the most difference to the way that the situation progresses.”
If you are worried about coronavirus, there are some very simple measures you can take.
The NHS has advised that you:
- wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
- always wash your hands when you get home or into work
- use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
- put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
- try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
You can read up on the truth behind the coronavirus headlines here.