Covid-19 pandemic: stop the stigmatisation & discrimination — Timothy William and John Teo

OCT 4 — The Covid-19 pandemic broke out in February this year and arrived in Malaysian shores and many other countries very soon thereafter.

We have been bombarded daily with ominous news of this virus disease  viral  daily since then.

The intensity and often conflicting and confusing  information have overwhelmed many people. Our  knowledge of this disease is evolving with new information of this disease as time passes by different sources.

These are  important information which have been globally established 

It’s a viral respiratory disease and mainly spread through respiratory droplets and close contacts.

If  we physically distance ourselves, wear a mask properly  and wash hands, our risk  of getting infected is comes down.

If we avoid large crowds, prolonged close  contact and confined spaces, we can reduce the possibility of infection.

Some medications have been found to be useful to treat Covid-19 such as  steroids and antiviral drugs.

Many vaccines trials are  ongoing and may be made available in the near future.

High  risk individuals like elderly, those with chronic diseases or immune compromised needs to be shielded from Covid infection as much as possible.

There is already a lot we learned about this disease and a lot more we can do to fight it 9 months on.

Knowledge and Facts are vital in  allaying fear towards this disease causing unnecessary harm or unintended consequences more than the disease itself.

The fact remains that Covid-19 although is newly discovered  is an infectious diseases like Tuberculosis and other transmissible diseases and share common features.

Covid-19 can be managed. It needs to be treated early and patients have to be monitored closely. Testing plays a vital role in controlling this pandemic.

Among  the greatest  barriers to  testing other than the availability of tests are the Stigmatisation and discrimination that follows once an individual is diagnosed with the disease.

Those who are infected with Covid-19 or any other transmissible diseases did not ask to be infected on purpose.

They may have predisposing factors or are in circumstances that unfortunately caused them to acquire the infection.

Sometimes it’s because of misinformation, myths or ignorance but the fact remains that NO one on purpose sought  to be infected. They should not be blamed for being infected and neither should we blame anyone for infecting others.

The demand by some to know the past  itinerary of the infected persons, their names, place of work or even worst taking photos of them being transported away by ambulance and personnels in full PPEs to hospitals add nothing to the fight against the pandemic other than to cause shame and humiliation.

On the same note, the call for persons from a certain place, city or state to be quarantined should be based purely on public health evidence & needs rather than fear and discrimination.

At the start of  this global outbreak, we were reluctant to accept anyone with a certain passport alleging that if they  orginate from that country, everyone else from the same country is potentially infectious.

This conveniently ignore the fact that it is the world’s most populous country, with a population of around 1.4 billion and covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometres (3.7 million mi2).

It is also the world’s third or fourth largest country by area.

We even start to chase foreigners away when pre Covid times, we welcomed them with open arms.

These unwarranted and uncalled for actions caused real harm by Stigmatisation of the patient and adds to the mental  anguish and physical challenge of recovering from the infection.

Their  families, colleagues, workplace and even their district, city or state may be stigmatised in a similar way although there is no real scientific basis to categorise everyone under the same risk.

Every person have a different risk profile depending on their interactions, which part of the city or state they come from, what job they do and a myriads of other factors.

It is critical that once infected, the patient need as much support as we can give with the greatest empathy rather than victim blaming or shaming.

We are all in this together and the only way to overcome this pandemic is to fight it together rather than divided.

Stigmatisation, discrimination and lack of empathy cause untold harm much more that the pandemic itself can inflict.

Covid-19 do not discriminate whether you are  President, High officials to Common people, it will infect regardless, if given half a chance.

We must realise that no one individual , community, state or country is safe if others are severely affected.

We share the same land, water and breath the same air in the same planet and for that matter, humanity and every one must help and support each other.

There is simply no other way.

There is enough suffering and despair everywhere, the least we can do is not to add to it.

Let us be united and fight Covid-19 together. We shall overcome this disease.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.