When a virus comes out and is defined as possibly “deadly”, everyone worries about not getting sick. They worry about not having any symptoms connected to it for fear of being infected.
However there are more ways that a virus, well known world wide, can affect you!
I didn’t stop and think about this before today.
During the first alerts about the virus, we were in the Philippines. Tons of Chinese people were traveling around the country. They were staying in some of the same hotels as us, due to the Chinese New Year. We didn’t worry much then.
Once the news about it started spreading out more, we were in Thailand. Cases started coming out daily worldwide. A lady was found dead close to the area where we were staying. People were walking around with masks, but to be honest, it wasn’t only for fear of coronavirus. Burning season was approaching and the air gets really bad. Did we worry about the Coronavirus during this time? Honestly not much. We thought it was something that would pass in a month or so. The type of information that social media and the news were trying to make bigger than what it really was.
We didn’t really change any of our travel plans at that time. Plus we were very comfortable with the fact that we were going to be in Bhutan for 22 days. We were confident that after that time things would have calmed down.
Things have actually escalated since then! We learned about countries shutting down, like Italy and Japan. People raiding grocery stores in fear that food was not going to be available any more. Reactions of hate to people that were assumed infected from those that feared to be infected. Daily news about total number of deaths, infected and quarantined. We still felt safe and not affected. However we started getting more concerned for the people we love that are in the countries suffering the most.
Today we got the news of the first case of Coronavirus here in Bhutan. It is a 76 year old American traveling with his wife who has been touring India and Bhutan in the past month. He started showing symptoms a few days after arriving in Bhutan and is now in isolation at the hospital. In just a few hours from when the news broke out, everything shifted. That is when we realized that we were being affected too.
No worries, we are not sick, we were never in contact with this person. However the news of this illness affected the Bhutanese people towards the tourists visiting their country. No surprise they shut down all the places the tourist went to. From one moment to the other we were not seen as welcome anymore, but rather as a threat to the health of the population. The tourists brought this feared virus in their home and now we are not welcome anymore.
We were refused a meeting that we had planned for weeks due to the virus. Schools, institutions, museum and who knows what else are now closed for 2 weeks and so is the chance to come to visit Bhutan.
On facebook the Department of health is recommending everyone to stay at home and avoid any social gatherings, wash their hands and so on. It is also asking people to avoid going to the hospitals unless they are really sick, due to the fact that everyone ran to get checked right away. Masks were sold out in every possible store. The same festival that we attended yesterday, today divided the area in 2 sections: one for locals and one for the tourists. They were not welcome to mingle like previous day.
How is the virus affecting us?
I am not even going to talk about the medical aspect of it, there are plenty other professionals giving their opinions, thoughts and advises about it. What interests me is the social and economical aspect of it.
We are going to leave Bhutan in a few days, but this country will have to face great damage from this virus. Hopefully not due to infection but mostly due to the lack of tourism. This would be the beginning of their season, festivals are going to take place and people travel from all over the world to be here and explore this beautiful country. Now the doors to Bhutan are closed, to protect the 700,000 habitants from any risk of contamination. How will they overcome this? How will they trust tourists or better, when will they trust them to not bring any risks to their people?
I am analyzing this for a small country like Bhutan, but Italy and Japan are facing the same drama and they have to deal with many more infected!
How does it affect us? Also if we are not sick, we have travel plans to modify. We had a flight through China in May and we decided to cancel for fear of getting quarantined once we arrive in Australia. We are now debating everyday whether we should postpone our trip to Japan as well. Two of our connections fly through Singapore and Taiwan, both countries were on the bad list just a short time ago. We fear that if we only sneeze someone is going to freak out around us and assume that we are spreading the virus, while it was simply dust in our nose. We are concerned about how different countries react to what is going on and how this is going to affect our stay there. We had a taste today!
Isn’t it awful that we have come to this? We walk around in fear. We read so much about everything and everyone on social media that. This makes us loose track of what is the truth, what is a conjecture and what is simply made up. We loose our freedom to travel, to trust the world around us, to trust the people around us. We fear death, we fear starvation, we fear not knowing what this may bring. We fear that what we have seen in so many “end of the world” and “zombie” movies will happen in reality.
Doesn’t it feel that also if you aren’t sick, you are in some way sick too, because what is happening worldwide is affecting you one way or another? I’m deeply sad for this moment of mistrust and darkness.
Although the summer and heat should kill this virus, right now the bad news we receive daily seems to want to keep this sense of uncertainty alive for as long as possible. So when a small country like Bhutan shuts down everything after finding only one case, you realize that news and social media have worked really well in creating a state of terror all around us!