Prevention is key but panic and fear are irrational feelings that only lead to impulse-driven decisions.
The coronavirus epidemic follows different paths. On the one hand, the WHO (World Health Organization) has confirmed the decline in its rate of expansion in China, on the other hand the appearance of cases in five new countries has fueled the concern.
When writing these lines, the death toll is close to 2,700 and the number of infected to 80,000 worldwide. The WHO now talks for the first time about the possibility of the disease becoming a “pandemic” in the future - a technical term that refers to protocols, not to some kind of apocalyptic catastrophe.
It is important to emphasise that, despite the collective and global hysteria that the coronavirus has generated, there are still corners of the world where epidemics such as measles or polio kill more people than the virus discovered in Wuhan (China). And yet they have gone unnoticed.
For example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in addition to the tenth Ebola epidemic (with a mortality rate of around 40-50%), suffers from the worst measles outbreak in the last ten years and the largest one currently active worldwide, with 310,000 cases diagnosed and 6,000 deaths in 2019, mostly children, according to the WHO and Doctors Without Borders figures.
These diseases can be cured with a simple vaccine, but it seems that the major media and the political systems are not concerned enough.
Another example. The coronavirus outbreak has coincided with the epidemiological highs of influenza in the Northern hemisphere. The most common types of influenza leave more deaths globally than the coronavirus (it remains to be seen how both epidemics behave in the coming weeks).
In Spain, more than 6,300 people died in 2019 due to complications from the common flu infection. Since the beginning of the current flu season, mortality among severe hospitalised cases is 13%, with 79% of cases concentrated in those over 64, according to the National Flu Surveillance System.
The mortality in severe coronavirus cases is similar to the flu. WHO has pointed out that approximately 10% of those who develop severe pneumonia due to coronavirus die, and less than one in five cases is severe.
This in no way detracts from the epidemic-pandemic of the coronavirus, nor the necessary control measures to stop it, but I hope it helps to focus the scenario in which we move.
Undoubtedly, prevention is key, that is, rational action to eliminate a risk. But very often panic or fear are irrational feelings that only lead to impulse-driven decisions.
That is why I think that the work of most media outlets has been irresponsible. When media magnify certain issues and ignroes or silence others. Additionally, politicians often act to please public opinion, wanting to avoid media pressure, even at the cost of generating fear or chaos. Why was Barcelona's Mobile World Congress suspended, while a similar fair was held those same days in the Netherlands?
Believers, as the Word of God advises, should seek the truth in everything, and not get carried away by the trends that come and go.
We live in Western societies where we believe that we are in control of life and death, over health and disease, over pleasure and the future. We think we can guarantee hapiness and inner peace.
But any unexpected news frighten us, because it demonstrates our ultimate reality: we are naked kings, drifting ships.
We try to hide our fears behind the screens of our mobile phones, inside our safe houses. A panic that we numb with drugs and legal and illegal addictions, fictional Netflix worlds, and gambling.
A panic that is intrinsic to a human nature that is far from God. That is why every time Jesus meets his disciples in tragic or difficult situations (a storm, after his crucifixion) he says the same words: “Peace to you”.
Even before dying (John 14:27), with this wonderful statement: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.
If we are with Jesus, we will have real peace. Not as the world gives it.
Despite the world, the coronavirus, the difficulties, the diseases, and even death... Eternal life is available be for those of us who believe in Him, He is the true river of peace. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Pedro Tarquis is a retired medical doctor in Madrid (Spain) and serves as Director General of Evangelical Focus.