Every day we are seeing more red:
Red patches across global maps,
Red letters on airport boards as flights are cancelled,
Red ink across global market charts,
Red numbers rising on temperature readings,
Red faces as fevers rise,
All alongside red decorations and highly anticipated red envelopes swept aside in massive stacks, still untouched since cancellation of Chinese New Year weeks back.
The colour of COVID19 is red.
As each new day begins, we wake to new numbers – numbers of new countries and new cases, of those now affected by the Coronavirus, COVID19….and those lives lost.
With each new day fears rise. Fears of the spread. Fears of the severity of where now. Fears of the probability of where next.
The number of those ‘affected’ is reaching in the millions.
But how, when the official statistics indicate, as of time of writing:
- just under 89,000 cases reported
- across 62 countries,
- taking 3,043 lives?
Where is the ‘millions’ number coming from?
Simple – those affected are not only those fearing for their physical health. It includes those fearing for the financial, social and emotional health. It is those affected by the impact of the contagion of fear, fear that is spreading even more rapidly than the virus itself as:
- cities lockdown, shutting down manufacturing lines,
- supply chains are stopping scheduling,
- airlines cancel routes,
- hotels close their doors,
- major global events close their registration,
- iconic attractions block off museum and theatre entry lines,
- celebrated theme parks turn off their rides,
- conference centres and meeting halls are hollowing out,
- casinos switch off their lights,
- local festivals, churches, sporting venues and entertainment complexes turn away their communities,
- schools call off their classes,
and ultimately, not yet fully understanding what is going on, and not sure what else to do, fear that is seeing the global community starts to close its heart.
The contagion of fear is reaching three main areas, its damage reaching literally millions, without geographic limits.
First, as we know, there is the raw, relentless fear of the virus. We see the coverage of the COVID19 maps stretching daily. Importantly, we know from where the facts must come – critical, qualified entities making sure updates are managed carefully, holistically, in the most globally coordinated effort as possible to monitor, measure and message around the must-knows. At the heart of this quest of guarding global health is the World Health Organisation (WHO – https://www.who.int/)
Sadly, however, as also know of the fiction – messaging that is either passing on false information, or seeking to create fear in its own right. It is a reflection of how social media has become antisocial media. The damage being done has resulted in the WHO declaring an ‘infodemic’, the Secretary General of the UN making an early appeal to the global community to stop the false information, to stop the flames of fear.
As stated by the UN Agency:
“The 2019-nCoV outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ – an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.
Due to the high demand for timely and trustworthy information about 2019-nCoV, WHO technical risk communication and social media teams have been working closely to track and respond to myths and rumours. Through its headquarters in Geneva, its six regional offices and its partners, the Organization is working 24 hours a day to identify the most prevalent rumours that can potentially harm the public’s health, such as false prevention measures or cures.”
The fact that global bodies seeking to control and find a cure for the COVID19 challenge must also apply resources into managing false, fear-generating messaging is shameful. Our global community is better than this.
That is one dimension of the contagion of fear.
A second: global fears being generated at social and economic levels as millions fear the profound hardship that is being created around the world around job security, even if COVID has not entered their world. Millions upon millions are seeing the central source of their income being stopped, unexpectedly, indefinitely as central systems of global commerce come to a grinding halt.
In the travel and tourism industry – an essential sector required for not only global economic growth and development with its:
- over 1.5 billion international travellers per annum (5x the number domestically),
- 10% contribution to global GDP,
- 1 in 10 jobs worldwide,
as well as being:
- a critical role as a source of global unity,
- a basis for national identity and competitiveness,
- a vital basis for inward investment in core infrastructure (hard and soft),
- a platform for cultural and environmental protection and promotion,
- a powerful vehicle for fulfilment of the UN SDGs,
tens of millions of people are becoming fearful not just for their physical health, but for their financial health and as a result, the health of their families, the health of their societies, the health of their future.
It is hard to believe that it was less than 100 days ago that 2020 felt like the turning of the corner – the global community uniting around a new decade. Suddenly, unity is taking place through fear for one’s job, one’s business, one’s livelihood. Decision makers across the world are having to test their leadership minds and muscles like never before. Do we stop or do we go? Do we say ‘yes’ or do we say ‘no’? Government leaders and business leaders are frequently locking horns as cancellations and cautionary actions are debated. What is the right decision? What is the measure of right response. Bottom lines vs voting lines?
Will we ever really know?
What we do know is that global travel and tourism is grounded at a level unseen since the 2008/9 economic downturn.
Importantly, the contagion of fear here is based on the fact that, even when airlines are ready to take to the skies once more and hotels opening their doors to host the world, will the world feel comfortable venturing out? Will they have the personal financial health to get back to the travel they love following a period of fear for the financial wellbeing for they and their loved ones?
What will it take to travel the journey from fear of heart to freedom of mind?
This fear should not be overlooked, should not be judged, should not be seen as secondary. It is real, and it will form the root of our future challenge to push past this chapter in the story of our generation to a place of recovery, returning to hope and unity.
Finally, the third fear we face: the sad reality of a panic and prejudice that has been sparked from the early days of the fear against the people of China.
Those of Chinese descent, of Chinese visible identity, of any Chinese affinity, even if not living in or linked to mainland China, are being looked at with fear. With this, doors and hearts across the globe are being closed to a population people needing compassion.
We must not forget for a moment that the nation of China is a victim of what has happened. While the Chinese people are being looked at with fear, they themselves are fearful of what this is going to mean for themselves, their families, their futures. Their value is far, far greater than the fact that their country represents the highest number of outbound travellers worldwide (close to 170 million in 2019), with the highest spend. They are human, they are hurting, they need our help.
Now more than ever, we as a global community need to stand together. We might stand a little bit more apart than we did three months ago. Still, the fact remains that the only way our world is going to recover from this virus is going to have to require that we as a global community come together.
As the great minds of medicine are coming together and find a way to identify and resolve how we break through COVID19, the great hearts of the world need to come together to find a way of making sure that we as a global community can look one other in the eye once more, with compassion and with conviction, to get our world moving forward for all.
Once again, as is proven whenever a crisis hits, our world needs travel and tourism. Our world needs to keep connecting.
So, what therefore is the best strategy for all nations to take on COVID19 and accelerate recovery?
Simple: HUMANITY, supported by a full-strength prescription of calm, caution & compassion. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020