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  • Writer's pictureAustin Aloysius Tay

Perspective Taking in the wake of a virus outbreak

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

Just as all of us are hoping that 2020 will be a good year, we are hit by the news of a 2019 novel coronavirus first discovered in Wuhan, the epic centre of the outbreak. The outbreak has now gone beyond Wuhan, and many countries are not spared from spreading the virus. It has to be said that those found carrying the virus had been or were from Wuhan.  Individuals who have not been to Wuhan have also contracted the virus because of close contact with those infected. For example,  human-to-human transmissions include the driver in Japan who drove a group of tourists from Wuhan, four cases of locally transmitted in Singapore and those who attended a conference in Singapore were found to have tested positive for the virus.  There are also two reported deaths, one in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong.

Since the outbreak,  people have been and continue to be worried about contracting the virus. Reports and scenes of people lining up to get surgical masks and hand sanitisers, especially in countries outside of Wuhan, are common and these have also resulted in countries struggling to meet the demands of their citizens wanting to get surgical masks for protection.

This is where I think perspective is essential. Human beings are social animals. We emulate or do things to feel or to be, part of a group.  The influence of a group can be powerful as it can shift an individual’s behaviour and decision-making. For example, when individuals hear a shortage of surgical masks, they will collectively line up at pharmacies or shops hoping to get a box of surgical masks. Even though, to date, there is no communicable virus spreading. Still, because everyone is lining up, an individual will consider his or her action or behaviour rational. This is where the problem lies. As more and more people start to think that their actions are justifiable, they have stopped to think rationally. Consult legitimate sources of information and advice on the issues and not to be overwhelmed by information that is exaggerated and hearsay.

I want to stress that I am not saying that people should not be worried about this new strand of virus. I am saying that one needs to take this situation in the right context. Being overly worried about what you cannot control will only increase your anxieties and fear. Instead, focus on what you can control, such as your health and personal hygiene.  See below infographics from WHO that are self-explanatory.

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