Fear and selective information is often our worst enemy


Coronavirus

For at least six months we have been locked in a battle with the dangerous Sars-Cov-2, which is known by the more familiar term “corona virus” and the illness it causes, covid-19.

Given the daily and almost continuous coverage of the pandemic, we are quite aware of the progress of this virus at home and around the world. It has cut a deadly swath everywhere and continues its ravages at this very minute.

The virus, like all of its family of coronaviruses (flu viruses) that appear every year to harass humanity, has been particularly severe on the aged, the infirm, and those with underlying illnesses and diseases.

Even though it has largely bypassed the children, the youth, and those less than 60 years of age, they have not been untouched. Recently that group has become a larger target, as societies begin to relax the extreme lockdown measures implemented in the early, virulent stage of the virus.

The volume of information has not been lacking, and is compounded every day by almost hourly briefings. The message has been consistent, as newsreaders, medical officers of health, epidemiologists, politicians, experts (genuine or self-described) stay firmly in line.

The information has been valuable in so far as educating us on how to avoid and to prevent the spread of the virus if one becomes infected. But the sheer volume and consistency of the message has also instilled fear, which is not a good state to be in under almost any circumstance.

Dreadful as covid-19 is, it is still every thinking person’s responsibility to exercise some degree of skepticism. That is to say, one should ask questions that seem to be never asked in the blanket media briefings. Furthermore, one should seek other sources of information that try to tackle the unasked questions and provide reasonable answers, based on both science and histories of previous coronavirus infections.

About the official briefings of experts, politicians, etc – all reading from the same page day in day out – one enterprising columnist, who believe that a healthy dose of skepticism should be the business of a thinking population, wrote “Being skeptical isn’t anti-expertise, it’s anti-expertocracy and pro-democracy.” He could well have added that it’s the best way of ridding oneself of fear, which can be debilitating, and prevents one from resuming normal life when Sar-Cov-2 moves on as it inevitably will.

That is not to say that we should not take the appropriate precautions and forget many of the hygienic habits that we should always practice. It should not have taken a deadly virus to get us to wash our hands and take personal measures to prevent the spread of any contagion we may be carrying.

Finally a small opening, a sliver of light amid the closed media coverage: it appeared in the form of a report in last Saturday’s Toronto Star.  The report discussed “herd immunity”, an idea that was summarily dismissed in the coverage so far.

Herd immunity was being discussed on other media platforms for some time by other nonconformist scientists. It argued that the history of all previous coronaviruses outbreaks suggests that when a certain percentage of persons have been exposed to such viruses, they develop herd immunity, starving the virus of persons to infect. The virus eventually goes away.

The article quoted a number of scientists and researchers, and admitted that herd immunity is a real possibility; the only question is what level of herd immunity will tip the balance against Sar-Cov-2.

It took a member of the “official” media long enough to open a new and promising information frontier.

Of course, it does not mean that we should let our guard down. But more discussions like that will certainly remove some of our fears and allow us to start looking to the future with some confidence.