Everything feels uncertain at the moment. But panic is not the antidote to COVID-19.

Right now, everything feels uncertain. It’s normal to fear the unknown and the unprecedented.

At the time of reporting, COVID-19 has arrived on the soil of over 150 countries. Nearly 8,000 are dead worldwide and more than 190,000 are infected.

By all reports, it’s expected to worsen significantly.

Countries like Italy, France, Denmark, and Spain are in lockdown. Australia’s had over 400 confirmed coronavirus cases and five deaths. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday morning that we should plan for “a difficult six months”.

We’re in the midst of a rapidly developing pandemic for an illness which we so far have no cure for.

No one knows what the world will look like in six months. The drastic measures implemented by governments globally would have been unimaginable just months ago.

On one level the reaction of the Australian public has seemed reasonable: blind panic.

Watch: Mamamia’s Claire Murphy breaks down your most asked questions about COVID-19. Post continues below. 

Video by Mamamia

We’ve stripped our supermarkets bare of toilet paper and sanitiser. We’ve witnessed physical arguments take place in the pasta aisles of Woolworths. Staff members have been abused. We’ve seen people bark at others on public transport for not covering their nose when they sneeze.

The overwhelming advice, though, from all levels and areas of expertise, is simple: don’t panic. It’s not helpful to panic.

“The next few months are critical for us,” Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, explains to Mamamia.

“Panic doesn’t help. We’re in a country that has incredible resources, an incredible healthcare system, incredible laboratory capacity and a sensible democratic government. So people should not be panicking, but our lives will be different for the next few months.

“At the moment, our response has been extremely good,” Professor Lewin says. “We’re testing very extensively, and we have a health system that can identify and isolate people.”

As Professor Lewin points out, we have extreme measures in place that are designed for a long-term response to this crisis.

In Australia, the government has secured additional supplies for extensive testing. They have implemented a travel ban on unessential international travel indefinitely and have quarantined all people arriving from overseas. They have put a ban on non-essential outdoor events with over 500 people and non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 people or more. They have extensively encouraged social distancing of 1.5 metres between people.


We know these extreme measures can work in mitigating the spread of coronavirus, and thus ensure the number of new cases remains at a manageable level for our healthcare system.

“Aggressive testing worked really well in Singapore and social distancing worked really well in China,” Professor Lewin says.

Listen: Has lockdown helped stop the spread of COVID-19 in China? Post continues below. 

We know the Australian Government is preparing for the worst-case scenario, as was demonstrated on Tuesday with the report that 150,000 Australians could die from COVID-19.

It sounds shockingly ominous. But Professor Lewin says thinking of the worst-case scenario is exactly what the government should be doing. It’s not panicking; it’s taking precautionary steps to prevent a tragedy of an incomprehensible scale.

“The most important thing is to be prepared. And whenever you’re preparing, you have to think of the worst-case scenario and then do everything you can to prevent that. And that’s where we are now.

“The Australian Government and all of our hospitals, and all of our GPs and all of our health services have plans in place to make sure they’re prepared, and when you put a plan in place, you have to plan for the worst-case scenario and be realistic.

“We’ll make every effort for it to not happen, but it is part of the plan.”

We know medical professionals are working around the clock to find a cure.

“The two things that we are looking at are better treatment – to stop people having bad outcomes or dying – and better ways to prevent the spread.

“China has been evaluating a number of treatments, in what we call randomised studies. I think we’ll know about new treatments in the next few weeks or months, because they have already completed those studies. They just haven’t been reported. The vaccine is different, because we still need to find a vaccine that works, manufacture it and then deliver it. And that can take 12 to 18 months.”

We know we have little to worry about when it comes to food chain supplies in Australia.

We know we’re lucky to live in Australia. In a vast land with sunshine, we are in a better position than most to self-isolate.

Above all, though, we know we are facing an unprecedented crisis that will no doubt bring unimaginable challenges. But the antidote to coronavirus is not – and never will be – to panic.

Keep calm and carry on. Metaphorically. Not physically. Stay inside. With Dettol.

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