Moving on from ‘Corona-Phobia’

OPD 4 April 2020 Edited by Laurence Bouvard

Proof in progress (hs) Note to proofer: backdate and email translator; not specifically about the USA

During this time of crisis, some people have become addicted to fear and to panic, to the point where it almost turns into full-on phobia. That is excusable, given the enormous “information overload” people been exposed to on everything surrounding the new coronavirus. If ever such an expression were appropriate, it would be when a single topic dominates every communications network in the world, global and local, as if nothing else were going on apart from this pandemic. Every detail and bit of minutia is exhaustively explored every minute of the news cycle and every second by the masses, nearly driving them mad. Much of the information people are absorbing is accurate, of course, but much of it is also exaggerated, sensationalized or outright fabricated in a manner specifically designed to stir up terror in people. May God help them.

Clearly, breaking free from this “phobia” mindset will be extremely difficult for these people, and they may very well need much more time than we might first imagine. They will assuredly show great resistance if the threat of the pandemic starts to recede and countries begin to roll back their lockdowns in preparation for a return to the status quo.

This has already begun happening in this country on a smaller scale. When the Ministry of Housing announced that the contractors responsible for employing nearly 4 million laborers, employees, technicians and engineers would return to work at full capacity, we heard many voices protesting this decision as a risk to the lives of industry workers. The policy is seen as a form of subjugation that threatens workers with hunger and with cutting off their livelihoods should they not return to work out of concern for their health. To its detractors, the state instead has the responsibility to compel these companies, which for years prior “have earned billions from the sweat of the workers,” to give their employees a paid vacation for a month or two so they can protect themselves and society as a whole from what could inevitably be an “epidemic disaster” caused by a rush to ease emergency precautions.

This fear isn’t objective or rational, but rather derives from the over-exaggeration of the danger at hand. The virus is being treated like a “nuclear bomb” that will vaporize anyone who comes into contact with it, even though the scientific data say precisely the opposite. China has declared that the cure rate of the virus is 93% of those infected. In Egypt, the statistics show that more than 83% of those infected recover on their own without taking any medication or treatment (especially given that no specific treatment has been identified yet). Overall, statistics show that the death rate for this coronavirus only amounts to about .5 deaths per million, meaning that among a population of 2 million people, there is only one person who dies.

You can see just how miniscule this number is if you recall that the overall death rate in Egypt is 5.7 per 1,000 people, according to official statistics. That is, 5,700 individuals die every year out of every 1 million people. So 570,000,000 citizens die annually from various diseases, accidents and injuries. What is so scary is the fact that among these 570,000 deaths, 300, 400, maybe up to 1,000 of them will be from this coronavirus (as of yet, the total number announced is only 66). Note that the number of deaths from road accidents in all of 2017, for example, was 7,370, and injuries amounted to 11,685.

I am not trying to understate or downplay the seriousness of the threat that this virus poses, but rather attempting not to dramatize or exaggerate the gravity of the situation. I simply intend to ease our collective fear about gradually returning to our normal way of life, a goal that might seem radical in the midst of the “corona-phobia” still gripping our nation.

With respect to the decision to resume work in the contracting sector, we must consider the matter realistically. It is an enormous and vital sector with ties to many industrial and commercial activities. Furthermore, in practical terms, the sector has not stopped working entirely, even during this lockdown. Rather, its work has been carried out under the curfews, prohibitions and precautionary measures put in place by the government and the companies. These companies will refuse to halt operations in fear of the immense material losses they will incur, not merely because of their obligation to pay employees while revenues are frozen, but due to the fact that failure to meet their contractual obligations means heavy delay penalties for their clients in the event of overdue services. The state cannot force these companies to bear these losses, nor can it compensate for them financially.

On top of all that, the precautionary measures enacted by the government have so far yielded positive results in confronting the epidemic and limiting its spread. This observation is attested to by the World Health Organization itself, whose CEO thanked the president of Egypt for the executive’s impressive efforts in controlling the spread of the coronavirus. In his own words, the WHO chief executive described our president’s handling of this crisis as a “monumental display of effective leadership.”

This should all tell us that we are on the right track in combating this crisis, and that it’s time for us to reap the fruits of our labor and to move on soberly with our lives, without tolerating any more of the unsustainable losses to our economy and our social fabric. In taking this path, we are preceded by other countries who have likewise succeeded in weathering the brunt of the virus.

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