There is no need to Panic over the Coronavirus
In this age of social media it is easy for false information to spread and cause panic. In the case of the current coronavirus from China there is no reason to be concerned because the authorities are taking measures to control the spread of the virus. So far it has not been spread from one human being to another in any country other than China.
There have been signs of social panic in Australia. People have demanded that Chinese Australian children be kept away from school even if they have not been to Wuhan, where the infection began, and have shown no symptoms of the illness. In some cases there have even been calls for schools to be closed.
There have been five cases of the infection identified in Australia so far. Doctors say they have only mild cases of the illness. They all came from Wuhan and they are being kept in hospital partly so virologists can study the disease.
The Chief medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, has said there is no need to be concerned.
"The main message that we're trying to give still to the Australian public is that there is no cause for concern," he said.
"There is no human-to-human transmission of this virus [in Australia] and it is important to know because we had media ask about masks today.
"There is no need for the Australian public to wear masks.
"The only people who should wear masks in relation to this … virus are those who are unwell.
"Those who came back from China in the last two weeks and who have developed flu-like symptoms, they need to call ahead to their GP or emergency department and tell of their travel history and get tested.
"We're testing a large number of people across the country every day.
"The majority of them are negative as we always expected it to be, but we do expect that it is likely we might find some more positives over the next few days, but we are extremely well prepared."
One of the reasons that China is less prepared than Australia to deal with outbreak is that there is no national publicly funded health service in that country. Doctors and hospitals often demand cash up front before they will treat anyone. This means that there are likely to be deaths among the vulnerable cohort (older men with pre-existing chronic illness) who cannot afford treatment.
There is also an element of panic in the reaction of the stock markets to the infection in Wuhan. Businesses are anxious that production will be lost in China and that demand for food products will be diminished because people will not go to restaurants. However the Chinese authorities’ draconian action in effectively quarantining the city of Wuhan will probably isolate the disease to Hubei province in China. In addition people who left Wuhan and went to cities like Shanghai are under close surveillance and will be isolated if they show signs of illness.
People may stay away from crowded places, like restaurants, but they will still need to eat and a lot of Australian food and wine exports go to supermarkets so there is no need for farmers to panic yet.