The Connection Between the Coronavirus and Moral Panic
This complex and monumental task does not benefit from panic or extreme worry among citizens; this should be controlled and reduced as much as possible. Even Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte first asked the public to “stop the panic”, then to act responsibly, when scenes of hundreds fleeing Milan surfaced – living proof that there is more to be understood and more that can be done in managing health (and many other) shocks.
This is a problem for governments. Practically, they need us to obey their recommendations and to only buy what we need. They can enforce these behaviours upon us through policing, but some, such as the UK government, have preferred to appeal to our sense of duty and morality to act in the interest of society as a whole. They say “we have to ask you” rather than “you must”. They are invoking a communal spirit to do what’s right. The key point being that we should follow guidelines out of a sense of duty rather than needing to be commanded. Judging from the fact that I am having to ration my coffee supply, this is having mixed success. Friederich Nietzsche argues that appeals to morality are no less a system of power and discipline than the police. In his book The Genealogy of Morals, he argues that moral thinking arises first, not from a desire to be a good and happy human being, but from the upper classes as a way of distinguishing themselves from the lower classes – justifying why they had benefits those less fortunate did not. He points out that, in most languages, the words for good and evil arise from the words for “clean” and “unclean”. The evidence of the moral nobility of the upper classes was their cleanliness and the decadence of the lower classes was proven by their dirtiness. This still seems to be true today, as we are told it is a moral duty to be clean and that those who do not obey the bodily discipline of handwashing, facial awareness and social distancing are not simply dangerous but selfish.
Since particles can penetrate even five surgical masks stacked together, health-care providers in direct contact with patients must wear N95 (series # 1860s) masks but not surgical masks. In addition to masks, health-care providers should wear fitted isolation gowns in order to further reduce contact with viruses. Viruses can also infect an individual through the eyes. On January 22, 2020, a doctor was infected with SARS-CoV-2 although he wore an N95 mask; the virus might have entered his body through his inflammatory eyes. Thus, health-care providers should also wear transparent face shields or goggles while working with patients. For the general public in affected or potentially affected areas, it is highly suggested that everybody wash their hands with disinfectant soaps more often than usual, try to stay indoors for self-quarantine and limit contact with potentially infected individuals (Cowling BJ, Muller MP, 2006). Three feet is considered an appropriate distance for people to stay away from a patient. These actions are effective methods to lower the risk of infection as well as prevent the spread of the virus (Momattin H, Mohammed K, 2013).
So, if we need to self-isolate to protect self or others, or be brave and get out there, at the risk of being Polyanna-ish, let’s try to keep hold of compassion, for ourselves and others.
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