Media outlets are now open to the idea that the coronavirus (COVID-19) could very well reach pandemic status, having infected over 110,000 individuals on every continent except Antarctica. According to the CDC, the virus has become a Level-3 concern, where citizens are asked to avoid all nonessential travel.
Needless to say, the vast majority of medical professionals are taking the viral outbreak very seriously. But there are a number of social and religious groups that have decided, for lack of a better phrase, to test fate.
Recently there was a Smurf gathering (yes, a Smurf Gathering) in Landerneau, France, where over 3,500 individuals dressed up as Smurfs in an effort to break the world record for most Smurfs in one location. But this was not the only purpose of the gathering. It was a deliberate push-back against medical professionals' advice amid the coronavirus outbreak, with one attendee saying, “We’re going to Smurferize the coronavirus.” France is currently ranked fifth in the world in coronavirus outbreaks with over 1,200 cases and 21 deaths.
I have no problem with a group of people wanting to get together to make light of the coronavirus—it’s their choice if they want to endanger themselves. But when over 3,500 of these individuals returning home to their respective families, friends, and co-workers, that should be cause for concern. And it is perhaps not completely out of line to ask the French government to address the issue. The lives of the elderly and vulnerable are at stake.
The same can be said of “Iranians tempting fate by licking the doors and a burial mound at the Fatima Masumeh Shrine in Qom,” a location which happens to be at the heart of the Islamic Republic’s coronavirus outbreak. In response to the outbreak which has climbed over 2,500, the Iranian government furloughed an estimated 70,000 prisoners to avoid the spread of the virus. This is inconsistent with citizens getting together to lick a gate for religious purposes, believing themselves to be invincible.
A message from the Greek Orthodox Church stated that "Jesus Christ isn't a carrier of microbes."
Members of the faith are encouraged to "drink from the same spoon" and "kiss the same images of Saints." Even if this is what the faithful believe, they are nevertheless putting citizens at risk of contracting a serious virus that could have otherwise been prevented.
The advice of medical professionals has been deliberately neglected, making simple hand washing and hygiene more ineffective. If those in our communities will continue to do the opposite of what medical professionals say, we are all going to be put at a major risk. And there will most certainly be those who don’t have a successful recovery.
Even if a national government attempts to mitigate the potential spread of the virus by suggesting its citizens not gather in large groups, there is still the responsibility of individuals to implement that suggestion. I am not someone panic-buying toilet paper, but I am open to the possibility that the vulnerable are put at risk by the neglect of those who are not taking this as seriously as they should.
Efforts have been made by various governments to stop the spread of the virus. For example, the Palestinian Authority has declared a 30-day state of emergency, shutting down “all schools, colleges, and kindergartens.” Romania has also shut down all their schools in response to 17 Romanians contracting the virus while visiting Italy—a country that is under “total lockdown” as the number of citizens infected has surged to just over 9,000.
The general consensus is that the virus is going to infect many more before it gets better. And with the US only having access to 75,000 test kits, even though there were supposed to be 1 million kits made available, the ability to monitor and diagnose those with the virus is limited. It is essential that each one of us is aware that there are those in our communities who may not make a safe recovery should they contract the disease. Take the necessary precautions—use proper hygiene and stay away from large groups.
This moment is an international exercise in selflessness.