After an Australian television presenter revealed that he had picked up coronavirus from the actor and singer, headlines have declared her responsible. But now is not the time to play the blame game.
Nobody should be surprised that a highly contagious, extremely spreadable virus whose rate of infection has been described as a pandemic by the WHO has spread from one infected person to another.
And yet that seems to be the response to news that, in Australia, a television presenter who interacted with Rita Wilson has been diagnosed with coronavirus. Wilson and her husband Tom Hanks both tested positive for the infection on 12 March on the Gold Coast, where Hanks was filming Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic. (He plays Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker.) They have been in isolation ever since, listening to quarantine playlists curated by fans and eating slices of toast with a suspiciously large amount of vegemite on them.
Coronavirus is extremely contagious. It’s why we are all being urged to practice social distancing as much as possible, limiting the amount of close interactions we have with other people and ensuring that we wash our hands to reduce the spread of the disease.
Wilson had a close interaction with Australian television presenter Richard Wilkins after her concert at the Sydney Opera House on 7 March and, two days later, in a television studio on 9 March. Since then, he has been diagnosed with coronavirus.
“It’s actually a bizarre feeling to have tested positive to this thing we’ve all been talking about,” Wilkins tweeted over the weekend. “I feel 100% …no symptoms at all ! Thanks again.”
Both in the media and in some corners of the internet, people are taking Wilkins’ diagnosis as the chance to point fingers at Wilson for being the source of his coronavirus infection. Wilkins mused as much, telling his television network that “we’re assuming this is from Rita.”
He then backtracked a little bit, saying: “It may not be. They’ve all said it could be anyone, anywhere, any time, such is the prevalence of this thing… I was having a chat to her and that’s probably my best guess as to what happened.”
But let’s crunch the numbers, shall we? Wilkins was diagnosed in a 24 hour period in which 37 new cases of coronavirus were declared in the state of New South Wales, which now has 171 cases since Monday.
Globally, that same 24 hour period saw the biggest increase in coronavirus deaths in the UK, with the death toll rising to 35. That same day some 232 new Covid-19 infections were confirmed in the UK, bringing the country’s total number of infected people to 1372. There are now approximately 175,235 people with coronavirus in the world and a death toll of 6,713.
This thing is spreading, and it’s spreading fast. Pointing fingers isn’t the right thing to be doing now.
If someone is diagnosed with coronavirus it’s more important that they isolate themselves, ensuring that the spread of the disease is stopped, than it is to play the blame game to figure out where the infection came from. Especially considering that someone can be asymptomatic and pass on the disease, effectively meaning that they can infect other people without even knowing that they themselves have been infected.
When you start pointing fingers, all you will get is a society that feels scared to get tested or own up to coronavirus symptoms, out of fear of repercussion. And the only thing that will do is increase the rate of infection.
What’s more important is to practice kindness, compassion and empathy. Now more than ever.