COVID-19: Signs of Solidarity During the 2019 Coronavirus Pandemic

Disease outbreaks are humble reminders of just how interconnected we are.

As we’ve seen with SARS, Ebola, and now COVID-19, what happens in one part of the world impacts all of us. Health is truly a global, not local issue. 

It can be overwhelming to consider how quickly a disease can spread among us. But given how interconnected we are, in a sense, COVID-19 is actually presenting us with an opportunity: we each have a critical role to play in stopping the spread of this virus. 

Perhaps Claire Mills, MSF’s Medical Director, said it best: 

“This pandemic requires solidarity, not only between countries but at all levels — based on mutual aid, cooperation, transparency, the sharing of resources, and, in the affected areas, towards the most vulnerable populations and towards caregivers.”  

What’s different about COVID-19?

We’ve experienced many disease outbreaks in the past. What makes COVID-19 so different?

Unlike Ebola, COVID-19 is transmitted through droplets in the air when someone coughs or sneezes, which makes it highly contagious. And unlike SARS, this coronavirus can be transmitted even by people who aren’t yet showing symptoms. This, combined with the fact that no vaccine is available, is causing COVID-19 to spread rapidly around the world.

Given the exponential nature of transmission, the number of cases can nearly double overnight. If public health interventions are not introduced quickly, the burden of these cases on our health systems will be too much to manage.

Put more simply, if nothing is done to stop the spread of this pandemic, there won’t be enough health workers and hospital beds available for patients. If that happens, health professionals would be left with no other option but to decide which patients to treat, which has already been happening in Italy. But we can change this narrative. There is a way for us to collectively flatten the curve of this outbreak. 

The Time to Work Together is Now

You’ve probably heard by now that young people such as children or Millennials aren’t at a high risk of experiencing severe symptoms for COVID-19. So what’s the big deal? Why make a fuss?

We need to consider that seniors and immunocompromised folks are particularly susceptible to experiencing severe symptoms. In other words, if a relatively healthy, young person were to contract the virus, although they would likely only experience mild symptoms, they could pass COVID-19 on to someone who’s at a higher risk of severe illness. That’s a big but exciting responsibility that a lot of us can play in curbing this pandemic and protecting the most vulnerable. Predictions show between 40-70% of the world’s population could become infected with COVID-19. However, many of these cases can be avoided if we act in solidarity, and if we do this now. 

To halt the spread, governments are introducing drastic measures including city- and country-wide lockdowns, border closings, school and recreation facility closures, and mandatory 14-day quarantines after international travel. Organizations are similarly shutting down sporting events and seasons and calling off parades.

Although these measures are drastic, if we follow them and other public health guidelines, the total number of people infected would decrease substantially.   

So What Can I Do? 

To avoid becoming infected with COVID-19 and spreading the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends:

  • Regularly washing your hands
  • Practicing good respiratory hygiene (i.e. coughing into your elbow)
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, face and mouth 
  • Practicing social distancing by maintaining at least 1 metre of distance between yourself and someone who’s coughing
  • Staying home if you’re unwell
  • Avoiding travel to COVID-19 hotspots
  • Self-isolating by staying home if you feel unwell
  • Seeking medical attention if you develop a fever, cough and have difficulty breathing

In addition to these, other practices are being recommended, such as not taking part in large gatherings or going out to restaurants. In some places, these extra measures are already being enforced.

Interventions like these are inconvenient, overwhelming and even anxiety-inducing. But as a powerful visual like this shows, measures such as social distancing can have big impacts during a pandemic. It can save lives. 

Acts of Solidarity During COVID-19 

Many people are coming together during COVID-19 to protect the health of themselves and their communities. Here are just some recent examples:

  • Medical students have launched volunteer services to support frontline healthcare workers  
  • The world has come together to donate to the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The fund is providing essential supplies to frontline health workers, bolstering disease detection, and accelerating the development of a vaccine
  • The Jack Ma Foundation has donated 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks & 1,000 medical protective suits to all 54 African countries. They are providing additional supplies to other countries such as the United States and Italy
  • People have volunteered to keep doors open at their local food banks
  • Individuals have offered to buy groceries for the elderly
  • Global Citizen and the WHO have coordinated virtual concerts to reduce stress and anxiety
  • Chefs have made free meals for the elderly and most vulnerable in their communities
  • Media outlets are making coronavirus updates publicly available
  • Politicians, celebrities and community members are taking part in WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros’ #SafeHandsChallenge 
  • Tech companies have banned ads for face masks on their platforms to prevent companies from exploiting this public health emergency
  • Countries are breaking down boundaries and working together to provide people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 with necessary sanitary measures and provisions
  • Across Italy, people have sung across balconies to keep their spirits up while self-isolating
  • Retailers have opened early to allow the elderly and most vulnerable to shop in their stores in seclusion to avoid cross-infection
  • Organizations are now offering free online exercise classes 
  • Many everyday citizens are following government guidelines and recommendations on social distancing

Pretty inspiring.

We Can Flatten the Curve

We’re in an unusual time right now. Things seem uncertain. But in many ways, COVID-19 is actually an opportunity for us to come together to halt the spread of this virus.

As Meghan O’Rourke points out:  “COVID-19 gives us an opportunity to frame our fears not in the context of panic or overwhelming anxiety, but as care. Our interconnectedness is part of the very meaning of life… [we need to shift our] thinking from an individual-first to a communitarian ethos.”  

It’s critical, now more than ever, to work together. It will, and already is, saving lives.


mars 19, 2020


Hayley Mundeva


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