After all other containment measures failed, raising awareness seems to be the answer

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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If the COVID-19 coronavirus had been visible to the naked eye, like flies, cockroaches, or scorpions, we might have been able to cope better with its danger, even if a vaccine was not possible. For instance, if we heard that a single scorpion was found in a shop somewhere, then normally people would flee and avoid every nook and cranny that this scorpion could hide in. However, since the coronavirus cannot be seen with the naked eye, it is only human nature that we underestimate its threat, since we all fear only what we can see.

Since there are no mass funerals in the streets, and since most patients have fully recovered, most people remain skeptical of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, while some of them even question its existence in the first place. This state of apathy and indifference regarding the coronavirus is not that surprising. Let us for example consider breast cancer patients: The risk of breast cancer can be greatly reduced if all women susceptible to this disease commit to undergoing early detection screenings.

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Therefore, it is safe to say that spreading awareness can help people be better equipped to deal with diseases. In my opinion, directing our collective efforts toward spreading health awareness is much more fruitful than focusing on lockdowns and quarantines. Coronavirus awareness can play a greater role in reducing the number of cases and facilitating the gradual return to normal life. At this point, health officials should spare no effort toward raising awareness and warning the public about the severity of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, while at the same time easing restrictions on social movement. A conscious society is responsible for its actions. It is not feasible for governments to keep instating lockdowns forever; we have reached a point that requires resolving this issue once and for all, by shifting all responsibility onto the public’s shoulders, after having raised awareness of the potential danger.

People should realize that the possibility of contracting the disease is relatively high at every corner, and this possibility can be greatly reduced by practicing caution and sticking to all the prevention measures without the need to stay locked up at home.

A woman looks out her home's window amid a lockdown to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus in Bogota, Colombia on June 12, 2020. (AP)
A woman looks out her home's window amid a lockdown to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus in Bogota, Colombia on June 12, 2020. (AP)

People should know that even though death rates are low, recovery from COVID-19 is no easy feat, as some side effects may be fatal. According to Dr. Christopher Kellner, professor of neurosurgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, some ‘mild’ COVID-19 cases that did not require hospitalization resulted in blood clots and severe strokes, even for young patients.

Health institutions have failed to alert the public to the fact that the pandemic, although not fatal in most cases, it is still highly dangerous. “It may infect the lungs and blood, and affect the kidneys, liver and brain. Some of those who recovered from it suffered serious symptoms relating to the kidneys, brain and heart, while some cases developed serious diabetes and blood pressure complications they had not experienced before,” according to a report published by The Guardian. Last summer, most of us held on to the hope that a COVID-19 treatment or vaccine would be produced. However, winter has passed and with it spring then summer, and soon fall will be gone too. The world today is a harsh reality, and until this miraculous vaccine surfaces, the pandemic might continue to spread. The question we should be posing right now is: Whether the vaccine is produced in the next month, year or couple of years, what can be done until then?

We cannot deny that it is not possible for governments to maintain lockdowns for long, especially with the increasing prospects of a worldwide economic collapse. We also cannot deny that whenever governments eased lockdown measures, cases have surged. The only solution, though not ideal, is the return to normal life, while sparing no effort in raising public awareness and informing people of all the alarming scientific facts relating to this disease. It is important to note that the disease does not pose a threat to just one group. It is also worth highlighting that even though the virus only kills 3 percent of those infected, those who recover may not be in the best shape. There is a forum consisting of 5,600 individuals who were infected with COVID-19 and had not been hospitalized. According to an internal survey, the majority of them, under the age of 50, said that they suffer from symptoms including facial paralysis, seizures, hearing and vision loss, headaches, memory loss, diarrhea, weight loss, and more – not to mention those who were hospitalized and suffered much worse outcomes. The important thing right now is to intensify our collective efforts to contain the virus through social distancing and disinfection, instead of forcing people into lockdowns.

People wearing protective face masks walk in a busy street in Paris. (File photo: Reuters)
People wearing protective face masks walk in a busy street in Paris. (File photo: Reuters)

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Asharq Al-Awsat.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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