This opinion piece appeared in The Daily Examiner on Thursday, 12 March 2020
“Facts not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts.”
With these seven simple words, Dr Abdu Sharkawy, concluded a recent Facebook post about the coronavirus. Dr Sarkawy is a Canadian medical doctor and an infectious diseases specialist. His post went viral, which is an interesting metaphor given our content.
After all the scientific and medical details in his post, those three simple axioms stand out for me: Facts not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts.
We certainly need to pay attention to the facts and resist the tendency for fear to override both common sense and scientific knowledge. The empty shelves in the supermarket aisles reveal how easily fear can trigger irrational responses.
We are fortunate to have an excellent public health system. Let’s give the advice coming from the federal and state health officers at least as much credence as the advice we accepted so readily from our emergency services during the recent bushfire crisis.
Facts not fear.
The best practical advice is to leave the toilet paper on the supermarket shelves and to focus on personal hygiene, especially cleaning our hands. Often. And thoroughly. Yes, it really is that simple. Clean our hands. Cough into our elbows. Avoid shaking hands. Stay indoors if we feel unwell. Do not put others at risk even if that means some inconvenience for us.
But perhaps the most important lesson of all is to keep our hearts open to one another.
As a compassionate community we affirm our shared humanity, and we renew our commitment to be there for one another.
A year ago we determined not to allow an act of violence in Christchurch to tear us apart. Since then we have stuck together as fires ripped the heart from our forests and threatened so many small communities. The same resilience is needed as we stare down this virus which threatens our compassion for one another.
Dr Greg Jenks is the Dean of Grafton. Like many Anglican and Catholic churches across the North Coast, Grafton Cathedral has made changes to its worship arrangements to reduce the risk of the COVID-19 virus being spread.