2020 has seriously been a weird year so far! First it’s been bushfires, and now it’s this weird, novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)… Aside from political issues, the world is seriously falling apart (*coughs ‘also climate change’*)!
The institute I work at has recently been featured heavily on the news, as one of the labs within has become the first one outside of China to actually grow the virus! This is fantastic news, as they can provide live virus to study it’s infectivity, and test antivirals and vaccines to cure the infection (and maybe prevent further spread). I’m very proud to be able to work in such a fantastic place, although disclaimer- I have no relationship with the lab which grew the virus. They’re just in the same building.
I did read that they’ve transported the virus to the CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AHHL) in Geelong. A friend of mine works there, in that his Ph. D project (on influenza) takes him out there from time to time (hey Will). I’d jokingly suggested that he stay away from us from now on, but I’ve also got a medical doctor coming and going from my house who works at the Monash Medical Centre, where at least two patients are being treated (hey Dan). My housemate didn’t like the idea of autoclaving her boyfriend before he could enter our household. Dunno why…?
But while that’s somewhat on the giggly side, I do want to stress that the quarantining jokes are jokes. Because there have also been numerous reported incidents of racist comments being made against those of East Asian ethnicities. If an individual has recently returned from a heavily affected area, with lots of confirmed cases and the risk of having been infected is high, then it makes absolute sense to exercise precaution and quarantine them for the recommended 14 days. Stay home, rest up, keep an eye on people you’ve come into contact with, and if feeling unwell- call the GP or hospital and explain the situation before you rock up.
But- if you are just walking down the street and see someone of Asian decent- perhaps they may even be wearing a mask (I’ve encountered this all week), but you then feel negative towards them in any way… that’s not okay. Maybe they’re afraid of being infected, so they’re wearing a mask as a precaution- that’s a very common reason for wearing a surgical mask. Don’t tell them to ‘go back to China’. Don’t make any references to this outbreak as ‘yellow’ or make any additional poor puns. It is totally unnecessary and coming from a place of fear and ignorance. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable as the initial, reflex reaction. Just don’t act on it. You can override that primal fear, and choose not to make derogatory comments. It’s really not that hard.
For more information on the virus, I highly recommend sticking to official websites (for Victoria, the Better Health Channel, or anything that’s government related). Misinformation is rife, and is easily spread when people are scared.
If you really want to wear a mask while going about your day, apparently a P2 mask is better than the surgical masks, although it has to be skin tight with no gaps that allow in external air. We’re not at a stage yet when it’s necessary to wear masks, but the good news for me is that I have quite a few of those lying around from when there were tonnes of bushfire smoke. Hooray…? 😥