Visit any news site and all you read about is coronavirus. Open BoardingArea and there’s a stream of coronavirus posts in a variety of languages. I tried to avoid the subject altogether, but now I feel compelled to write about it.
The first reason is because I was living in Shanghai last fall (see TPOL in Shanghai) and have no sense of what life is like there at the present. Like natural disasters in Puerto Rico, it is difficult to know what is true and what is exaggerated (see “Puerto Rico Rocked by Earthquake”: Enough Dramatic Headlines). I hesitate to reach out to my friends living there for the same reason I didn’t want people asking me if I had electricity here. I am not a victim and distant acquaintances’ sudden, “Are you fine?” inquiries were not heartfelt.
The second reason is because I believe that coronavirus is a threat that should be taken seriously. My (former) friend used to criticize me about not traveling to countries where there was an alleged terrorist threat. My counter was that traveling to a place publicized as dangerous is not fun because the streets will be empty (see Would You Travel During the Rainy Season?). Seeing pictures of employees wearing masks in the Apple store in Shanghai or reading about the anxiety of residents in Milan is enough to convince me to stay away for the time being.
Finally, justified or not, I have a fear of what could happen if I, as a foreigner, am infected with the virus while I’m abroad. Would I have the same access to healthcare as I do if I were in the US? How could I contact my friends and family to inform them of my situation? Would I be quarantined and left alone wondering what happens next? Those concerns may be far-fetched, but the paranoia or discrimination that has come from this epidemic is already apparent (see Bloomberg’s article Virus Panic Devastates Chinatowns From New York to Sydney).
It seems like it is only a matter of time before this epidemic becomes a pandemic and hits the international community hard. Politics and blame must be put aside before coronavirus becomes more catastrophic than it already is. Until then, I am going to limit my travel as much as possible.