Image by Charo Gutierrez

COVID-19, or Coronavirus as many know it by, is a deeply disturbing illness that should have us all concerned. Except, we should be concerned in ways other than what you probably think.

The way that we, as a global society, have responded to the virus has brought about all of our worst qualities. In short, COVID-19 is showing us who we are.

When the virus first become public, waves of racism were directed toward those of Asian descent. People verbally abused others and stopped going to Chinese restaurants, as if doing so would somehow prevent a person from contracting COVID-19.

There is also the stockpile of resources dilemma. Grocery stores are running out of essential products such as toilet paper because a wave of fear has gone through populations leaving many scrambling to find even a few rolls. Stores have reported incidents of physical altercations over toilet paper and opportunists are selling single rolls at sky-high prices. Many people originally tried to subdue the panic in their own communities by saying, “You won’t die,” “People our age will be fine,” “It’s just another flu,” “More people die from the flu each year.”

Global governments have done little to educate their country’s people about what is going on and trying to calm nerves. There are also accusations that governments didn’t heed the advice of experts and health professionals quickly enough. Countries all over the world are now in a state of distress as they try and figure out how their economies will cope with the disruptions that will be caused by containment precautions.

So other than showing that the world goes into a state of hysteria and confusion when a threat such as COVID-19 presents itself, it also shows how ill-prepared we are as a global community to combat a global pandemic.

The most concerning part about COVID-19 from a practical perspective is how quickly it has spread. Due to globalization, the world is incredibly connected not just through travel but through global supply chains. Countries economies rely on each other heavily for resources and for GDP contributions. Case in point, experts have said nations will feel the economic strain of not having Chinese citizens doing business and spending money within their borders. There doesn’t seem to be any backup plan for governments on how to deal with a shock to their system such as this.

The advice that many health officials and governments are giving to people is that they should stay home from work if they are feeling ill and self-isolate for two weeks. While that is a smart piece of advice and a wise thing to do, capitalism makes incredibly difficult for individuals to do this. Lots of people don’t have benefit plans that allow them to take paid sick leave. And people can’t afford to not be paid for two weeks. With the high cost of living and the pitiful minimum wage, not many have sufficient savings to fall back on, especially if they are providing for more people than just themselves.

Healthcare is obviously on the minds of many. Not all countries have great healthcare coverage and people are worrying about if they will be able to afford to care for themselves if they get sick. In the US, for instance, the COVID-19 tests and hospitalization, if needed, are expensive. Healthcare facilities are also be run ragged with staff being overworked, undersupplied and dealing with a terrified population that doesn’t understand what’s going on or what to do.

The worst part of COVID-19 from a humanitarian point of view is the individualistic and selfish attitudes of a shocking amount of people. As mentioned before, there has been increased racism, resource hoarding and a blasé attitude toward the health of others. The only way communities are going to get through this pandemic is if we look out for one another. We shouldn’t be spewing hatred at people, we should be sharing essentials and we should be trying to keep ourselves healthy so that we don’t infect others because you are still capable of passing the virus even if you don’t become seriously ill.

Also, Global North countries have the best chance of defending themselves against COVID-19. Global South countries are the ones that will face the worst challenges as many don’t have the economic resources or governmental stability to properly respond to a pandemic of this magnitude. Of course, it will be the citizens of those countries that will face the worst repercussions of the virus, both in a health and economic sense. This is another reason why we should be focusing on containing the spread and not being dismissive of what others will experience as a result of COVID-19.

Experts have said a global pandemic was only a matter of time. That a global health threat that massively effects our way of life was and is inevitable.

COVID-19 has exposed the holes within our infrastructures and our humanity. This is what people should be freaking out about.