The human race is currently going through its most critical period of the century. The existence and development of human civilization are being challenged by SARS-Cov-2, commonly as Covid-19. Since the report of the first case of Covid-19 on 31 December 2019, the infection is transmitting at a very rapid rate across the globe.
Studies have shown that such kinds of pandemics had created mass hysteria in history. Such unexpected hasty spread of the coronavirus has emerged a wave of fear and anxiety among people all over the world that lead to the formation of the term “coronaphobia”. Infections like Covid-19 for which the transmission route and treatment procedures are unclear tend to create panic, agitation, and discrimination.
Does Covid-19 fuel racism?
People from different regions including other cities of China blamed the citizens of Wuhan for the outbreak of SARS-Cov-2 and used the term like ‘Wuhan virus’ and ‘China virus’. In every country, the Chinese were being targeted, bullied, and attacked for the spread of infection. Along with the life-threatening complications, Covid-19 also became a parameter to fuel racism.
Several media personnel defamed Asians at various social media and web platforms in which government leaders took part directly or indirectly. Chinese immigrants in different countries were threatened and faced xenophobic behavior from the people.
Anti-Asian, Anti-Chinese movements became to upsurge in different continents of the world. People boycotted, technological devices, apps and various products belonging to China.
Has COVID-positive become a stigma?
Several diseases including HIV, Depression, etc. are stigmatized in the community. Covid-19 has also become a part of this category. Due to this stigma, patients tend to seek medical attention late and even hide important medical history-making prognosis difficult. Not seeking medical care on time can lead to uncontrolled transmission in the community. People see COVID-positive patients as a shame and threat that eventually leads to the sense of being guilty in patients.
The psychological impact of Quarantine
Coronavirus spread at a very rapid rate through person to person contact be it in the form of droplets, fecal-oral route, and transmission through fomites or direct contact with sick. Considering its mode of transmission, the government of almost all countries implemented lockdown to quarantine people to their homes to lower the rate of viral transmission.
The mental effect of being isolated was observed to be more than physical suffering. The lockdowns on mass scale inflicted havoc on the mental health of people. Lockdown leads to the fear of shortage of basic daily supplies, financial crisis, fear of being alone, and fear of being infected in people. Many cases of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) have been reported in people who were isolated.
Impact on children
People also faced psychological stress post quarantine in the form of social rejection, discrimination, insecurity about life and health, suspicion and the list goes on. Children positive for Covid-19 faced another type of mental disturbance by staying alone without their parents and family. Not being able to go to schools and enforcement to stay indoors, for a couple of months lead to negligence in the children. They require special attention and care from their loved ones to come out of this so-called “coronaphobia”.
Impact on Old age population
The older population of the world was at a higher risk of being seriously infected. The high risk of infection is attributed to weak immunity and the presence of an underlying medical condition that can make any infection a life-threatening disease.
Impact on refugees, daily wagers and prisoners
Refugees, daily wagers, maids, and international migrant workers that usually have a poor quality of life were greatly affected during the Covid-19 pandemic. They faced social discrimination, unemployment, stigmatization, and exclusion from the upper class. These daily wagers usually suffer from general mental disorders that were negatively affected by the loss of livelihood, high risk of infection, and unaffordability to maintain hygienic conditions. During the havoc wreaked upon by coronavirus pandemic, the world faced the biggest lockdown of human civilization. These conditions made it impossible for the refugees, international migrant workers, and daily wagers to make both ends meet.
Psychological impact on the healers
Past studies have shown that the nurses dealing with the patients of SARS in 2003 during its outbreak were reported to suffer more from depression and anxiety as compared to staff dealing patients other than SARS.
Accordingly, during an outbreak of such an extent like Covid-19, a large number of health care providers and front line workers suffer from depressive disorders. Not being able to save your patients, finding a treatment, feeling of being a source of infection for family and friends, moreover, numbers of patients increasing than the resources, all these factors had a destructive effect on the mental health of front line workers. Many cases of such traumatic stress have been reported in China during the coronavirus pandemic.
In developing countries like Pakistan, where the number of health care providing institutes is already over-burdened, the pandemic proved to be a catastrophe. Doctors and Para-medics who were not being able to provide patients with the optimal protection and treatment suffered agitation and acute anxiety. The situation was worsened by limited treatment units, staff and equipment, insufficient isolation centers, inadequate PPE for front line workers, and importantly the crashing economy of the country.
The year 2020, can also be considered as a year of increasing mental illnesses along with Covid-19 pandemic. It is very important for a country to psychologically and socially prepare its nation for a pandemic. Targeting and bullying specific communities and holding them responsible for an outbreak should be condemned and considered punishable by the government. Steps should be taken to eliminate stigmatization associated with the disease. Media platforms should show a sense of responsibility by spreading awareness about the transmission, symptoms, and severity of the disease. The government should take serious measures against any devaluation by media. However, this pandemic has shown how a tiny virus can prove out to be heavier than mankind.