Until now, I still have no idea why people would stock up an excessive amount of toilet rolls in response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 or Covid-19. I would assume that most of us are prone to short-termism and procrastionation. This means that we are less concerned and less likely to take action with regards to subjects such as our health, career projection and investment. It seems dubious that we can plan so far ahead for one of the most mundane purchases, especially an item that takes up quite an amount of space at home. Have we grown to be more cautious as human beings with evolved meticulous forward-planning of this level?
I highly doubt so.
Unless you’re trying to be a shitty entrepreneur, I believe the phenomenon has more to do with the fear of missing out. As social animals, we have inbuilt instincts and the propensity to follow others. We use a herding heuristic and follow others on the belief that the majority has more chances to be right than wrong. In addition, when we follow the common decision, it is a short cut that saves us time and cognitive effort. Besides, what are the chances that most of us are wrong..right? Think about it. If you see a snaking long queue outside a cafe or a restaurant, the likelihood of the food / service / ambience being exceptional immediately skyrockets. However, we can always find a counterexample of how peer pressure works in a negative light. This is indicative of how blindly susceptible we can be to the influence of others.
Many of us are under the impression that medical centres are transient places. We go there expecting a quick consultation, a speedy dispensing of medicine and a fuss-free discharge. It is most ideal that we don’t set foot into one again, at least not for a long time. We don’t usually see doctors and nurses in fully clothed medical wear attending to the ill and dying. It is like the end of a war scene, a close resemblance of a sci-fi horror film. We have been exposed to these horrifying scenes repeatedly. Make no mistake, it is a reflection of the reality. However, there is a need to balance pandemic preparedness and panic. We are, by our very nature, risk-averse. We tend to be overly pessimistic. We always fall into the trap and succumb to temptation.
This is the reason why panic sells.
We are tempted to catastrophize. It is a form of entertainment, just like watching two UFC fighters throwing fists at one another. A totally unnecessary sport in all way, shape and form, yet we still celebrate its wins and losses. Moral panic is often fueled by information about the contagion that diverged significantly from the medical reality of the condition. Moral panic may be short lived, but it is widespread. The evidence points at the ridiculous chain messages on Whatsapp and Telegram, as though many of us are working part time as professional tracers. In order to stay healthy emotionally in the wake of an outbreak, we need to acquire accurate and timely information. More information does not necessarily help us plan better. We need credible information, not more information.
Let’s not lose objectivity and allow pandemic preparedness to become panic.
On the other hand, in order to stay healthy physically, we need to do a few simple things right. Let me emphasize. Not only do we need to do a few things (which we should already be doing), but we need to do it right. The haphazard nature of illnesses — who can predict when we are going to fall sick? — meant that we need to wash our hands regardless of what happens, because illnesses strike often without forewarning. The advice (which really shouldn’t be an advice and more of common sense) and solution against the coronavirus is to wash our hands.
We do it right by washing them regularly and thoroughly with an alcohol-based hand rub or with soap and water. We do it right by washing for 20 to 30 seconds as compared to a little rinse for a few seconds.
The difference is substantial and we can greatly reduce the risk of any infection. Next, given its rapid spread, it is ideal to practise social distancing to protect not only ourselves but also others. Do we really need to be so near to another human being? Covid-19 is a highly infectious dangerous disease, but it is not so dangerous that we should put our lives on hold. We all take risks every single day and are exposed to hundreds of potential threats. The goal is to live our lives while also doing what is necessary to reduce the likelihood of being seriously harmed and harming others. Let’s not be blinded by panic, shall we?