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The Covid-19 outbreak: How you can escape the Anxiety

The current news cycle is overwhelming!
With concerns over the spreading outbreak of coronavirus and the corresponding havoc it is wreaking on the global economy, containment measures, some controversial, are flying all over the place: from the declaration of states of emergency, through the postponement and cancellation of major sporting events, to the imposition of travel restrictions. My observation of reactions across traditional and social media platforms indicates that these concerns go beyond the virus itself. The social impacts – collective trauma and moral quandaries - are more apparent. But I observed much more. And I hope talking about these will help you and your loved ones escape the anxiety.

It is time to pay attention. Since the outbreak in January, the coronavirus has spread to more than 100 countries and killed thousands of people, with numbers far surpassing the SARS pandemic. Almost 150 of these cases and 4 related deaths, are now confirmed in 15 African countries. Accompanying the confirmation of new cases in these and other countries has been anxiety revolving around how to contain the spread of the virus. And justifiably so. This morning, when Kenya’s Ministry of Health confirmed the first case in the country, I began to panic because finally, covid-19 was here!

But should we panic when majority of the confirmed infections are categorized as mild; or when it is clear the bulk of the people infected do recover? The disease deaths per day currently stand at 62 and those most affected are aged 60+ and/or had preexisting conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, abnormally high blood pressure and cancer. Instead of panicking, I think it’s better to be careful and take protective measures. But one of the recommended measures – using an alcohol base hand sanitizer - got me thinking.

Unless you’re a doctor, hand sanitizer might seem like it came out of nowhere. For most of my life, soap was as good as it got! Then I began to get familiar with a clear gel - at the doctor’s office, in the checkout line at a pharmacy, in the lobby of office spaces or a hotel washroom, until it eventually found its way into my backpack. Then, all of a sudden, with the outbreak of Covid-19, and the WHO and CDC recommending an alcohol base hand sanitizer as a must-have pandemic assessory, it’s so in demand that I doubt stores can keep it in stock. In fact, one of my colleagues told me this morning that she went to buy some, and was told the recommended one costs about $90; and I doubt it even measured up to 100ml! People are also trading tips on how to make them at home, insisting they have what it takes to give it that antimicrobial kick!

Well, the weekend is upon us! And in Nairobi, we are not thinking about hand sanitizer more than we are about alcohol, social gatherings – parties, drunk-driving and sexual activities…in the main. And this is despite the WHO in its Friday 14 March press conference updated the public on the coronavirus pandemic, recommending social distancing or limiting non-essential gatherings as one of the containment measures we all should practice. But it looks like the question of what constitutes a “non-essential gathering” remains unclear in this context. Night clubs are still open and people are out there dancing, coughing and sneezing! After all, young people, are more likely to recover than the elderly, right? Besides, aren’t we hearing that amid the gloom is positive news with China and South Korea now reporting more recovery than confirmed cases?

When Monday presents it ugly face, we will surely be thinking Friday was just 5 minutes ago, right? And instead of suiting up to go to work, how many of us plan on tabling arguments for working remotely? Raise your hands! Yes, our employers are familiar with research showing that employees who have the opportunity to work from home or another remote location are happier and more productive. Yet that argument would hardly hold water before now. As the coronavirus outbreak has shown us, more people are working from places other than HQ and we now have the perfect excuse to work from home. But will you make the most of remote work? I did so this week, and while I can tell you how it is easy for me to work well remotely, I can also tell you that, if you lack self-discipline, working remotely won’t fix that. What I have found useful working from home is that I do not have to live in apocalypse mode. Some music in the background does the trick for me and by COB, I would have ended up doing just enough.

Regrettably, the outbreak has brought out one of the ugliest sides of our society. I watched several days ago, a video clip of two Chinese nationals at the receiving end of coronavirus-related racism from a group of young people in Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi. Facing the first global pandemic in the era of social media and live streaming can be emotionally exhausting. So instead of attacking others, this is the time for solidarity. While it may be tempting to constantly stay updated about where the next outbreak is, and who has been infected, know this can be all-consuming.

Also know it is okay to put your phone away and just do something for yourself. You can play pool with chopsticks and cherry tomatoes, or record cover songs even if your voice is crooked, or take part in the #giantstrawchallenge even if you already know you will choke, or engage in several failed cooking experiments until you get that recipe right. Oh! And if you haven’t watched Love is Blind, Toy Boy or anything with language, violence, sex, nudity and substance scenes combined, this would be the time to start.

Whatever you do, don’t let fear get the best of you.

Take care,

By Hubert Kinkoh

This article was equally published by the Star and is available here: https://www.the-star.co.ke/opinion/columnists/2020-03-18-how-to-escape-coronavirus-anxiety/
The Covid-19 outbreak: How you can escape the Anxiety The Covid-19 outbreak: How you can escape the Anxiety Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on March 18, 2020 Rating: 5

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