What was previously described in Japan as the year of the Tokyo Olympics is quickly becoming defined as the year of the Coronavirus!
The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a contagious respiratory illness that is spreading across the globe. As of the writing of this post, more than 95,000 people have been infected, and for thousands, it has been lethal. Although estimates differ regarding just how deadly the virus can be, some hover around 3.4 to 4%, which is higher than influenza and the common cold.
The spread of the Coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, and currently there have been 329 confirmed cases in Japan (not including passengers on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, of which 705 were found to be infected). In addition, many people question whether there are really many more cases in Japan and elsewhere, as limited virus testing may mask the true scale of infection.
As a result, flights have also been reduced coming and going from some countries, including China, Israel, and Italy. Meanwhile, residents of Japan question whether the 2020 Olympics will be canceled or postponed, a decision that could be made in May.
Some point out that there are many deaths every year from influenza. It is true that the flu is harmful, but this does not invalidate the harmfulness of the Coronavirus, or that it can cause permanent lung damage.
In addition, the deadliness of the virus is higher depending on the area and the stage of outbreak (the WHO reported that the initial case fatality rate in China from January 1-10th was 17.3%, though this later decreased).
However, while the virus is certainly dangerous, many countries including Japan are making efforts to contain the virus as efficiently as possible.
This is my first experience with a global outbreak since living overseas.. Even in our rural area, the social panic caused by COVID-19 is visible!
At grocery and drug stores in our prefecture, shelves of toilet paper, tissues, and kitchen paper are bare.
See the photo to the left and at the top of this post of nearly empty aisles of paper products, which were taken at a grocery store in Hyogo.
A misleading internet rumor stating that masks and toilet paper are made from the same materials, and that paper products are only produced in China (both false), caused people to panic and stock up on everything from toilet paper to feminine products.
When we went to refill our supply as usual, we were shocked to find that the shelves were completely empty!
After checking several other stores, my mother in law was eventually able to find some toilet paper at a very rural shop, but many families may have to find creative alternatives.
In addition to the toilet paper frenzy, the majority of public-funded events in Japan have been canceled or scaled down, and people are avoiding large crowds. Concerts and community lunches have also been canceled, including some Bible studies and lunch fellowships at churches.
Most elementary, junior, and high schools in Japan are closed until April, while two-income and single-parent families struggle to find childcare.
In addition, the Japanese government is encouraging companies to require some employees to telework, especially on the island of Hokkaido that has seen the largest number of Coronavirus cases.
With all of the panic circulating, it is easy to fall into either becoming paranoid, or alternatively to minimize the danger of this latest virus.
Recently my social media newsfeeds are filled with posts about the Coronavirus, and a common theme is that we should not be anxious (Phil. 4:6-7).
It is true that during this season of global anxiety, we should not be driven by worry, fear, or panic.
However, some seem to interpret going without anxiety as foregoing all caution.
This is a huge error!
The idea that we do not have to take measures to protect ourselves is both harmful and dangerous. Protecting ourselves is not a sign of fear or anxiety, it is wisdom.
As a Christian, I believe that it does not show a lack of faith to protect ourselves. Moreover, there are people who are weak, immunocompromised, or immunosuppressed who should protect themselves.
Pictured: my husband when he was younger, wearing a mask.
We might not know who these people are! They may be elderly, but they might also be young and look healthy. Autoimmune and chronic health issues are not always visible. Even if you are personally not at a high risk of illness, someone you know might be (this does not apply just to the Coronavirus).
A few years ago I experienced a severe case of pneumonia. My right eye was permanently damaged, and my hearing was temporarily damaged as well. At that time I remember people offered to pray for my recovery, which I deeply appreciated.. but, I also became aware how preventable illness can be if people take steps to avoid its spread.
While we should never be paranoid, we can reduce others’ risks of getting ill by thoughtfulness made into preventative action.
In addition to offering prayers, offering to stay home from work when you are ill shows love to others. In addition to saying don’t be anxious, washing your hands shows love. In addition to saying do not worry, realizing that God provides us with wisdom, discernment, and ways to protect ourselves and others is helpful.
Let us not worry, but rather be wise. ♥️
How do you feel about the Coronavirus?
Please leave a comment below.
Photo credits: (c) theharunafamily.com, and photo of Masashi by his friend Sugimori.