Covid-19 Report Introduction:
Is our reaction more dangerous than the virus itself?

UK DEATH TOLL HITS 27,000 scream the headlines

Welcome to the ‘new normal’: a dystopian world where we are reminded on a daily basis of the dead. But even though it turns out horribly for some people, I wonder why just for Coronavirus. Why not for those dying of cancer, heart disease or alzheimers? Is it really that dangerous? Are we being fed information through a lens heavily distorted by what the media deems trendy to focus on? 

Mass hysteria has always been one of the most infuriating aspects of humanity, where we revert to idiotic sheep bleating around in panic in the dark. That sounds harsh, because I like sheep. However, it often just takes someone to flick the light switch and the ‘wolf’ becomes far less scary. The mob mentality that it can lead to, however, is less funny. 

Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, brilliantly portrays the claustrophobic feeling of panic when mass hysteria takes hold within a community. It uses a partially fictionalised account of the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692-93 as an allegory for ‘McCarthyism’ in America in the 1940s and 50s, where those accused of being communists were persecuted without regard for evidence. In the play, as peak hysteria approaches, those responsible for whipping up a frenzy realise that the monster they have created is far more dangerous than any black magic they were afraid of, but it is too late. The panic and fear become a self-fulfilled prophecy, with too much momentum to be stopped, resulting in the death of good people and the destruction of a community.

Today, our highly connected societies can facilitate the spread of hysteria faster than ever before, much like a virus. People lose their jobs when vigilante groups on twitter unearth a silly tweet from years ago. People’s lives are ruined because they dare to express an opinion other than the status-quo. More recently, people have stockpiled toilet roll and set 5G masts on fire because of hysteria about the coronavirus. This behaviour has always been around, but it seems we as a society are listening to it more than ever when it should be the opposite.

Hans Rosling, the author of the brilliant book ‘Factfulness’ describes how the world is improving. As it does, we should be safe with the knowledge that those who govern us and feed us information are not part of a mob with pitchforks. As The Crucible conveyed so well, just because an idea is taken as virtuous and correct by some, does not mean it’s either of those things.

Therefore, the biggest questions about the current Covid-19 situation should be: is our response to it proportionate? Does it help as many people as possible? Are those in power whipping up mass hysteria and has our reaction contributed to creating a monster more dangerous than the virus itself? What is our long term exit plan? I give these questions a fair trial by looking at the data available. I will first present the facts, and then discuss them in a wider context.

Each point will be released as a daily installment, starting with the comparison of Covid-19 to other major causes of death. Read Part 1 here!


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