Disclaimer: Dr Sakul Kundra is an assistant professor in history at the College of Humanities and Education of the Fiji National University. The views expressed are his own and not of this newspaper or his employer. For comments or suggestions, email. dr.sakulkundra@gmail.com

Do you feel the panic, apprehension and anxiety about the future of humans in a war against the global pandemic COVID-19? The entire world, including the Pacific Islands, is under the threat of this virus, many confirmed cases and fatalities. Even then, we do not lose the will to fight back against this catastrophe. Since the confirmation of virus cases in Pacific, the social media was flooded with messages of its origin, course, impact, legacy; many Pacific Islanders have adopted proactive measures of lockdown in order to break the transmission and prevent the islanders. Islanders are aware of the fragile health system and vulnerability of their health system, so it becomes even more threatening, as many islands do not have virus-checking machines and health mechanism.

Spreading of the virus in the Pacific Islands have led many to overcrowding of supermarkets and pharmacies across the islands. This has led to the stockpiling due to expectation of the forthcoming announcement of lockdown, that is a symptom of panic shopping. Copying mechanism of human behaviour without rational base creates anxiety. It becomes incredibly challenging for the authorities to maintain peace when fear began to grip the mind of people. Although, globally, authorities have acted responsibly to punish the ones lying about the outbreak and whistleblowers (Tepperman, foreignpolicy.com). This article elucidates various aspects related to fear due to this pandemic.

Triggering Panic

The sense of fear and anxiety has already triggered in the air.  The fear has swept across the world faster than a bushfire and the riffle effect of the fear gone virus. The rational thinking of many can be questioned, as a spread of rumours of all sorts commenced. This terror is more dangerous than the virus itself. It is overestimating of the risk and panic that have hammered the human mind during this situation of fear. This led to the flooding of catastrophic theories in social media. Although people acted proactively to bring their children back from schools in Lautoka (FT, March 2020). Circulating of the photos of the confirmed case in Fiji became viral with enormous comments and shares. Although official authorities try to calm the public about the mis- or disinformation regarding the virus.

Psychological Dimension

Psychologist Larry Beer said, “There’s a fear of mortality, a fear of the unknown; and we still don’t really understand how this whole thing is going to evolve.” (Glaser, wwwmt.com). Further, it stated the virus has led to rising of threat that is affecting people’s mental health, especially the ones living with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, and post-traumatic stress disorders” (Ibid). This fear of disease can lead to social stigma towards people, place or things that are associated with COVID-19 (https://www.cdc.gov/). Scholars have researched over human brain mechanism of social regulations of emotions and many explained power of fear contagion (Debiec, fastcompany.com). People have experience wide range of thoughts, feels and reactions such as “feeling stressed or overwhelmed; anxiety, worry, or fear; sadness, tearfulness, and/or loss of interest in usually enjoyable activities; physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, stomach upset, low energy, or other uncomfortable sensations; frustration, irritability, or anger; feeling helpless; difficulty concentrating or sleeping; Isolating or withdrawing from others, and/or fear of going to public spaces” (https://services.unimelb.edu.au/)

The repercussion of anxiety

These during the infection disease outbreak can include “fear and worry about own health and the health of your loved ones; changes in sleep or eating patterns; difficulty sleeping or concentrating; worsening of chronic health problems; increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs” (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus). As the crisis unfolds and expands the fear may spread among all masses.

Combat Your Fear

It is advisable to share only “trustworthy information on social media, be wary of videos or pictures that purport to show what’s really going on’; avoid speculation; make less noise; take a deep breath” (Yates, CBC news); avoid stigmatizing patients, be positive, demonstrate rational reaction, take precautions, stay connected, obey government guidelines; show unity and responsibility. Other suggest to ways to decrease stress by practising exercise, sleeping adequately, mindfulness, deep breathing, prayers and meditation, at-home hobbies, taking a limited amount of information and avoid talking about the situation unnecessarily, focus on control and preventive measures to reduce anxiety (https://www.conehealth.com/).

Five facts of this virus need to be kept in mind “diseases can make anyone sick regardless of their race or ethnicity; For most people, the immediate risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low; Someone who has completed quarantine or has been released from isolation does not pose a risk of infection to other people; There are simple things you can do to help keep yourself and others healthy; You can help stop COVID-19 by knowing the signs and symptoms” (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/share-facts-h.pdf

). Fiji being fortunate than other nations who have encounter hundreds and thousands of cases, need to be patient and united during the time of crisis. The late joiner in COVID-19 does not mean to be complacent, but this is an hour to be proactive with rationality and brotherhood.

Prevention is better than cure that needs to be implemented with rational decision making. In this moment of fear, one need to demonstrate patience, unity, brotherhood and supporting our fellow citizens. One needs to stand up against “fear of the unknown” and use preventive measures to combat this pandemic.