Upon becoming president in the height of the global depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Those words seem apt as I watch the reaction both here and abroad to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Urgent, tremulous reporting, breaking news flashing up on my phone, people queuing for masks, sanitisers, fighting over toilet paper.
There are people getting sick, dying even, but at levels that are dwarfed by annual flu impacts across the world. Why the reaction? Is it because it came from animals? Is it because it came from China? Is it because we can’t see how widespread it yet could become?
We are advised to self-isolate if needed. The problem is that we can’t isolate ourselves, not in the true sense of the word. Yes we can stay at home to avoid infection or to recover, but our world, be it economically or socially via the internet, is as interconnected as ever in our history. So what happens in one part of the world ripples to our shores.
This is why it is such a challenge. New Zealand can’t self-isolate from the world, our standard of living depends on it. Our economy is already in free fall, our health and border checking system stretched – with more elasticity demanded.
I listen to the health specialists who calmly, rationally step through risks and how to lessen them. But their evidence-based comments seem to be overwhelmed by a social media generated tsunami of fear.
How to make sense of this for our young teenage children whose Instagram-fed minds see sickness and fear lurking around the corner?
My only answer: demonstrate calmness. So if all us parents seem to be coping and unfazed, that might, just might help others to see it the same way.