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At the dawn of a new day, humanity wakes up, stretching its limbs and rubbing the awful nightmare off its eyes. Plague, war, famine had tortured millions over the millennium, remnants of the history still torturing countless souls. However, over the years, with the advancement of technology and medical sciences as well as the combined efforts of the international community, hardly any percentage of the human population dies at the hands of war or hunger. Satisfied, humanity slept every night, consoling itself that the worst of it all was over, new diseases could be cured faster than they could spread, any further challenge would be met with lesser causalities.

Rising up, humanity goes on to open the window of its abode, willing to start a new day. However, little did it know that it would be opening its window for a new challenge. A challenge it thought it had overcome.

The inception of 2020 was with the biggest problem of the year. Coronavirus (COVID 19), after Ebola and H1N1 created havoc in the human society across the globe. However, unlike the rest of the pathogens we had come across, its cure is yet to be found.  Apart from the surmounting global deaths and the shift of the epicentre to U.S.A. and nations ordering social distancing, the deaths and the number of people being affected are rising at a steady rate bringing with it countless more challenges.

Bullwick Effect – Panic Buying

The roads have an eerie silence and the public places abandoned, people get out of their ‘safe houses’ only when it becomes absolutely essential, buying commodities in bulk leaving even the bottom shelves empty, hoarding supplies to last for days to prevent going out again into the pandemonium.

On the other hand, some have out rightly rejected advent of this ‘disease’ a flu that can be treated with a few ‘superstitious’ remedies. Going out, extolling the doctors, policemen and the workers during the ‘Lockdown’ and breaking the ‘Social Distancing’ guidelines is a dominant example of the seriousness with which the issue is being dealt.

However, people around the globe have started seeing the demand side scarcity. Under this phenomenon the retailer does not stop the supply of the product but the scarcity arises due to factors like high demand for the product, thus leading to stock depletion.

After the Tohoku Earthquake in Japan with led to the most horrifying tsunami and also contributed to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Masahiro Hori and Koichiro Iwamoto, in their article “The Run on the Daily Foods and Goods After the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake”, (December, 2014) noted that Panic Buyers in Tokyo scooped up anything on the shelves without apparent rhyme or reason.

The same condition has started to rise in various nations like Italy wherein the death toll has been increasing at an accelerating rate. If quarantine is not implemented in a strict sense by the people themselves, then India would not be far behind.

Behavioural Patterns

What would happen if everyone is afraid of one another. The fear of communicating the disease taking over the nation. Whether communities would be resilient or crumble in the face of adversity depends on who the people blame for this crisis. Nature or the fellow humans?

With the advent of the stage three of this pandemic , it is possible, that the behavioural patterns might be the same as when noted during the time of the Spanish flu. It was found by Hayagreeva Rao and Henrich R. Greve that the disaster led to weakened cooperation, increased suspicion and distrust among communities which led to a long term reduction in organization building. The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed around 20 million people around the globe. People, tired of seeing the numerous number of deaths in the newspapers, began to fear one another.

With 59,929 deaths across the globe (data updated till April 4, 2020, 12:00 pm IST) , the patterns is repeating itself. Although the death rate is comparatively lower, the fear instilled in the minds of the people is chronic and has the capability of stagnating the global economy for years to come.

Misreporting and Mass Hysteria

One false news can cause mass hysteria in a panicked society. Misinformation on social media was bad before the rising pandemic, but it has only gotten worse in the last few months. In this new era of social distancing, virtual media is the only source of the daily dosage of information. Headline is what the people see before formulating their opinion. Misleading messages on WhatsApp and other social media platforms are accepted as the truth without any effort for verification, creating panic in the serene society.

False reporting of cases, fake vaccine news and the non-existent WHO reports stating high temperature being effective in killing the virus, creates mass hysteria in the naive population. In the light of the same Social media companies and traditional news outlets are working to reduce misinformation about COVID-19. Twitter has announced that it would require the users to remove the posts related to COVID19 that are denied recommendations from global/public health authorities.

Mental Health

Government Officials and Public health leaders worldwide have been working around the clock battling the new coronavirus. Meanwhile another pandemic requires their attention – anxiety, depression, grief and fear that spreads across communities as the death toll rises and schools, businesses and public places close to prevent COVID 19 infections.

“It is not only the illness that becomes the pandemic, but the same can be inferred about fear, mourning and despair”.

Researcher Ronald W. Manderscheid, a professor at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has researched adult behaviour in the face of crisis. In his paper he has observed that:

“While one-third adults function normally, the others become immobilized or hyperactive and hypervigilant. One of the lessons of managing all crisis – wars, pandemics, terror attacks, natural disasters is that our ability to respond will be predicted upon our ability to keep large populations in good mental health and to mitigate panic while we all ride out to the storm.”

Isolation impacts people in various manners. Some get closer to each other while others develop conflicts. Divorce rates have been shooting up in China, boredom and social isolation has been having a negative impact on the functioning of millions of lives. Those who have been quarantined have it worse.

It is said that testing times do not last long if one has the courage and perseverance to overcome the same. The outbreak of COVID19 is certainly one of the greatest challenges that any generation has or will face in the future. Therefore, now it is up to us to decide whether we want to use this time to bond with our love ones and channelize our resources in tackling the crisis or succumbing to the fear and letting our fate rest in the hands of others.

Authored By: Naysa Yadav,Third Year Student,
Symbiosis International University

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