The coronavirus and state of emergency have turned the world upside down. In this state of exception, everyone is wondering if we’ll ever be able to return to normal. How will our collective experience of the virus shape the future? Will future generations speak of ‘BC’ (before coronavirus) and ‘AC’ (after coronavirus)?

Looking ahead, perhaps the greatest threat is not the virus itself, but the fear it has generated. Of course, everyone is worried about the possibility of catching the dreaded virus, but fear of infection has been playing strange tricks on a lot of people’s thinking.

As a welcome antidote to the torrent of alarmist media hype that is threatening to become the new normal, the Japanese Red Cross Society has released an animated video warning of the dangers of excessive fearfulness. It has English language subtitles and is well worth watching.

As the video makes clear, it’s only natural to be concerned about a dangerous new virus, and to do all you can not to catch it. The coronavirus can be avoided by regular hand washing, social distancing and so on. But the fear it generates can spread like an infection too - and may prove to be even more harmful.

Fear and blame go hand in hand. There have been reports of discrimination against infected people and the medical staff looking after them. Shop staff have also faced prejudice. Blaming people who have contracted the virus for their condition is especially dangerous because if people think they will face prejudice, they will be less likely to come forward and seek treatment.

Like the virus, fear thrives on carelessness, so you should take care not to let it take over. There’s a lot of misinformation, idle speculation and fear-mongering out there, so make sure that the sites you turn to for your news are trustworthy. When online news sources tell you that ‘we’re not being told the whole truth’ or ‘someone has to take the blame’ for the virus, think about the consequences. Blaming one another corrodes the ties that bind societies together. Perpetuating suspicion and mistrust will only make the isolation that we currently have to live in permanent.

Don’t spend all your time immersed in following grim updates on the virus’ progress. Spend some time away from news sites. Turn off your computer and smartphone from time to time. Call a friend. Have a laugh. Eat properly and get a good night’s sleep.

Suspicion, mistrust, confusion and isolation don’t help when it comes to planning anything. If we’re to re-emerge as rational, cooperative creatures who make decisions based on hard facts and verifiable evidence, we should resist fear like the plague (pardon the pun). If we don’t, the world ‘AC’ may turn out to be more frightening than the coronavirus itself.

By - George Lloyd.