COVID and Social Stigma

“COVID has divided people.” “One meter apart you say?”. When have we ever been that close? People have been vaguely apart since years. Corona has just depicted it– visually repelling each other based on race, gender, cast, language, etc. You see, the problem is not in any of those things we blame on. The problem is us. People.

February 2020.
The news had just hit the press. It was simple and clear.  There’s a virus outbreak. It’s contagious. It takes a while for you to realise you are infected. The symptoms are ‘increase in body temperature’, ‘cough’ and ‘shortness in breath’. If you have the symptoms, isolate yourself, seek contained medical attention. Stay quarantined until you are cured.

It was hard to digest. People were not buying all the scientific abbreviations. SARS-CoV, RNA, HMV, etc. We have had watched enough movies about apocalypse and zombie outbreaks to not panic about the situation. How cruel were we to even think ‘Ah, the Chinese deserved it’ or ‘They must stop eating everything that moves’ until we actually heard the first case in our own country or city?

On the brighter side or more of a dusk shade, the medical professionals put their lives at stake and worked effortlessly to save the rest. And in the sewers, the media professionals of WhatsApp and Facebook, continued to share everything they came across with; conspiracy theories, videos of warzones with mismatched titles, voice notes after voice notes, as if they hold PhDs in the subject.

The stigma of having contracted the virus grew within the people, because of all the lies they’ve been fed with. They were emotionally devastated and pushed to an extent of thinking, ‘If I ever become Corona Positive, I will not be accepted within the community.’

It is this thought that prevented people from actually opening up about their symptoms. What did it result in? Nothing good, but a hike in the rates of Positive cases!

In a country far away, that shall not be named, the understanding of Coronavirus was a bit bizarre. They claimed that the virus was found and spread by a group of people, especially belonging to one religion in order to destroy the people of other religions. I too was convinced there for a bit.

And did it stop there? Geniuses came up with home remedy for the problem. ‘Drink Bleach’ was one of them. (No, it’s just stupid and you might die if you do it.). Anti-maskers appeared from nowhere, claiming it’s their right to breath oxygen. And another protest underwent, refusing to isolate or to be locked-down at home. Economy fell, Businesses went bankrupt, people lost their jobs and lives were put on hold. We, people, blamed it on a lot of things. The Chinese, the 2020, The Government, the neighbour who was tested positive and the delivery boy who stood outside with the Pizza you ordered to enjoy your lockdown with!

The Actual Problem

We have developed an unrealistic ideology of hatred. At first, it was just the rejection of the idea that contradicted to ours. Slavery, superiority and other similar aspects that can be named. It evolved and that’s where the problems began. We started rejecting people as an entirety.

If we think about it, in the past, feminism was a mere idea that most people failed to apprehend; but now want to deliberately take part in. Until the recent times, Black lives mattered only to black people. Interestingly, it wasn’t racism when it was perceived by most people. And when asked, “It’s freedom of speech”. You know what I mean.

You may ask, why am I talking about all these global issues in an article that’s supposed to cover the pandemic. Well, I have news for you. If there’s one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it’s this. “We are not ready for a pandemic.”

Countries have overcome worse cases than Corona. SARS and MERS have killed more people than Corona has. We faced Ebola, Swine Flu and many other in the history. The other diseases weren’t contracted easily. The difference is that Coronavirus is difficult to control or contain. It can take days for you to notice you have had the symptoms and you could be spreading the virus without even realizing.

Although most of us did (and doing) our part by staying home, wearing the masks, keeping the distance, soaping and sanitizing hands, some failed us all. And because of the stigma, people didn’t report their symptoms. And I don’t blame them altogether.

Adding up to all the stigma that’s been already placed by the fake news circulations and community double standards, in a land far away – the government has implemented a strict cremation policy that even the WHO has not mandated. This may sound like a simple case for most, but for some – burial is one of the most important ritual. The fear of dying from Coronavirus is among all the people. This has eluded many people who has the symptoms from seeking medical assistance. Now with this stigma attached to cremation, people are more unlikely to turn themselves in, hence increasing the chances of community spreading of the virus.

What Can Be Done?

This is important. We can all take notes. Firstly, we must embrace the reality. There’s still a pandemic out there. But is fear going to help? Absolutely not. We will make sure we follow all the safety guidelines. But at unfortunate circumstances, if we ever get contracted or feel the symptoms; we must then respect the community guidelines. Believe in the healthcare sector and hope that you are treated properly until you are cured.

It’s also crucial that we ensure those who are infected are not alone. We isolate together for the betterment of all. And we will look forward to having them back once they are fully cured.

Let’s break the stigma.

Feroz Mohamed

Feroz is an ardent reader who decided to write. Holds an associate in psychology on the side.


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