Keep your distance, stay close | Daily News

Keep your distance, stay close

This is a situation which calls on everyone to do his or her bit. A state, a government, a hospital or an army of medical personnel just cannot handle it without the full cooperation of the public.

Sounds like a contradiction doesn’t it? It is and it is not. The one (keeping distance) is literal and the other (staying close) is metaphorical. Distance anyway is in the news thanks to Covid-19 and the recent ‘breakout’ that has rudely shocked people out of complacency.

Wash hands. Wear a face mask. Maintain social distance. The mantra has made a strident resurgence. This is good.

We still know very little about Covid-19. The entire world is still largely in the dark. There’s talk of multiple strains of the virus, which obviously doesn’t help identification and treatment. It also calls for greater vigilance.

As in most cases like this, the initial response has been little more than a blame-game. Pointing fingers is the easy thing. Of course, we need answers. We need to know how it all started. We need to know whether relevant authorities at Brandix were negligent when the warning signs first surfaced. We need answers because that helps us prepare better.

And yet, we need to go beyond all that. We have to recognize that it is our fellow citizens who have unfortunately contracted the virus. We need to recognize that they are not to blame. They didn’t invite the virus and if they were, as the case may be, negligent in terms of precaution protocols, well they are no better and no worse than any of us.

Almost everyone has a mask, but does everyone wear it when in public or when talking with or in the presence of another person? Do we wash hands as recommended or go through motions so we can get our work done faster? And distance: did we maintain it or did we ignore it altogether?

This is a situation which calls on everyone to do his or her bit. A state, a government, a hospital or an army of medical personnel just cannot handle it without the full cooperation of the public. No country on earth has a citizenry endowed with 100 percent civic consciousness.

There will be that one person who out of arrogance, ignorance or pure ill-will acts like an adjutant of the virus. On the other hand, if such acts and such persons form a significant percentage, then we are well and truly on the way to being sunk.

So we need to keep distance. We need distance for safety and we need distance for perspective. When we are safe and have some perspective, we tend to be less emotional and more rational. That cannot be a bad thing. And yet, we need to be close. Metaphorically, as mentioned above.

Close as in showing solidarity with the infected, if not for any other reason than the high possibility that each and every one of us could become infected too. Those who ridicule the infected, blame them and badmouth them must understand that they could very well be infected themselves. They would stop being finger-pointers and become ‘the finger-pointed to’ so to speak.

That possibility is not why we should stand, metaphorically, with the infected. The simple truth is that if we look away, if we run away or in any other manner, in word and deed, shun the infected, we feed ‘stigma.’ That is dangerous. Very dangerous.

Stigma, clearly, makes people hesitant to seek medical treatment or get tested. They try to suppress the symptoms but they just can't stop the virus from spreading to each and every person they come into contact with. They might even be reluctant to self-isolate for fear of someone wondering why they are isolated and putting two and two together. Essentially it leads to under-reporting and to more people being exposed. Sooner or later it comes out. No one can hide. However, by then, things could have progressed to a point where tracking and tracing is virtually impossible.

No Covid-19 patient should ever feel that his or her fellow citizens do not empathize. They should feel that the entire nation is wishing them full and swift recovery. If we can get that kind of message across to the infected, it will mean that we are strong as a nation, resilient as a people and single-minded in our solidarity.

That might be what it takes to beat Covid-19 or rather that might be the best we can do as individuals and collectives in supporting relevant authorities to fight the virus. We must stand with each other, even as we maintain recommended social-distancing protocols.

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