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Common sense the only way to tackle coronavirus crisis


World share markets crashed in the worst week since 2008... the wipeout has so far cost $6trn. Stock picture

World share markets crashed in the worst week since 2008... the wipeout has so far cost $6trn. Stock picture

World share markets crashed in the worst week since 2008... the wipeout has so far cost $6trn. Stock picture

In terms of dealing with a pandemic, or a "potential pandemic", one thing at least is quite clear: The need to maintain clear and consistent messaging.

A balance between calm and total candour must be respected. The initial Chinese reaction of "say nothing", was roundly condemned. For its part, the World Health Organisation is pulling no punches: "The scenario of the coronavirus reaching multiple countries, if not all countries around the world, is something we have been looking at and warning against since quite a while."

Meanwhile, world share markets crashed again, winding up their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis. The wipeout has so far cost $6trn (€5.4trn).

It may be true no one knows how severe the outbreak will become. And it is equally apparent complacency could be worse than panic. Therefore a practical common-sense approach is the best way to move forward, taking all reasonable precautions.

With this in mind, Switzerland joined countries banning big events to try to curb the epidemic, forcing cancellation of next week's Geneva international car show.

Even amid the anxiety there are some hopeful signs. China has just reported 327 new cases, the lowest since January 23.

However grounds for believing travel or economic activity will quickly return to normal are scant. As the number of international cases rises, governments are still struggling to encourage responsibility without being alarmist. But the situation is not helped by mixed messages coming out of Washington.

This week, President Donald Trump radiated optimism, saying: "We've had tremendous success, tremendous success beyond what many people would have thought."

"The risk to the American people remains very low," he added from the White House podium.

By contrast, Nancy Messonnier of the US Centers for Disease Control said: "Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in the United States. It's not a question of if this will happen but when, and how many people will have severe illnesses," she added. "Disruptions to everyday life may be severe."

It is only human to react to a danger like the coronavirus with both reason and emotion. The job for governments is to feed the reason, not the dread.

In the meantime, spare a thought for Corona Willekes (57) and 44 other women with the name from the Netherlands. Ms Willekes told RTL Nieuws: "I've always had a lovely reaction to my name. But now I'm thinking about changing it, possibly to the French version Caronne.

"It's a real shame. My name's been rather ruined. Suddenly I don't like it any more."

While it is easy to become anxious given the uncertainty, there may be some solace in the soothing words of Norman Cousins, taken from his 'Anatomy of an Illness': "Each patient carries his own doctor inside him."

Certainly beats resorting to "Dr Google".

Irish Independent