One of the biggest fallacies during times of disaster or uncertainty is that “it won’t happen to me.”
And so it is too with the current Covid-19 pandemic.
While many people have become more cautious with some even practising self-isolation, there are quite a number for whom life goes on as usual. They just couldn’t care less because “it won’t happen to them.”
Yesterday afternoon, I saw seven adults with four young children, including a newborn, at a half-filled restaurant in the mall. And they were walking around leisurely in a carefree manner while waiting for their food.
These are different times. These are dangerous times. We cannot afford to be apathetic towards what’s going on around us.
If we have that artificial feeling of safety – that disasters only happen to others – then untold trouble awaits.
And when that trouble hits home, it might be too late to do anything about it.
On the other extreme, it would be silly to panic and stocking up a lifetime’s supply of toilet paper.
Staying calm and being level-headed is the way to go. Take whatever precautions and make decisions after getting the facts and understanding the situation.
That said, it has been a distressing week for my family. My daughter Amirah is in her first year at a university in Ottawa, Canada.
It all started when that city recorded its first case of Covid-19. Then there was another case shortly after.
In fact, Canada, with 257 cases at the time of writing, has had one of the fewest cases in the world. There have been no deaths.
My guess is that given the severity of the situation in other countries like Italy, South Korea, Iran and now, even the US, the Canadian authorities decided not to take things for granted. They acted fast by taking extreme preventive measures.
As usual, people got panicky and in Ottawa, there was news of supermarket shelves being emptied at breakneck speed.
My daughter called a few days ago and said her university and most others were cancelling classes. Lessons and exams would be conducted online. Students residing on campus, including Amirah, were advised to leave. Go home.
Ottawa became almost a ghost city overnight.
This morning, Amirah called me again. This time, she couldn’t hide her distress anymore. Her usual calm demeanour was not there. She broke down and said it all looked frightening and she was confused. She didn’t know what to do.
She said even the university was quiet as many students were leaving while others were in self-isolation just like her. It looked spooky, she said.
Of course, even a couple of days earlier, she had the option of returning to Malaysia and take the lessons and exam online. But she had a few weeks ago booked her flight for end of April.
Moreover, she was afraid she might get infected while in flight and then infect us here at home.
An immediate decision had to be made. We discussed it quickly over the phone and agreed that the best thing would be to cancel the earlier booking and take the earliest flight out. Nothing else matters now except her safety.
In between all that, my sister who works in Kuala Lumpur, had to undergo the Covid-19 test as she had come into contact with a colleague who tested positive. That was a 48-hour nerve-wracking wait for the result. Thankfully, my sister tested negative.
As for Amirah, she will now leave Canada at 11am on Tuesday (11pm Malaysian time). She is expected to arrive at KLIA at 12.05am on Thursday. Until then, I won’t have peace of mind. But remain calm I must.
Back to those who remain nonchalant – the disease might not hit you directly, but you may be affected in other ways, especially if you take things too easy.
Things can go wrong at any time, just like what I experienced.
Better safe than sorry, but stay calm and don’t panic.
Let’s hope this calamity subsides and is over soon for the good of everyone.