Last week, we had the first COVID-19 diagnosis in South Africa, and everyone immediately dashed to their panic stations. People flocked to pharmacies to buy all of the masks, hand sanitizers, and hand soap they could find. Stores are now sold out of these items across the country, and this is after we sent 800,000 masks to Italy.
The reaction has been hysteria and panic buying. I saw one online store selling a box of 50 masks for R2,000 ($128) when they were available for just R75 ($5) the previous week. Even dust masks have sold out! We have a national shortage of masks for healthcare professionals, hospitals, and the immunocompromised who need them on a daily basis, never mind when the threat of COVID-19 hits.
Many news articles have tried to calm everyone down, but they’ve proven ineffective, as we are constantly bombarded with images of people around the world taking extreme measures to protect themselves from the virus — including someone who appears to have placed a large water bottle over their head.
I have seen pictures of people with their shopping carts piled high with alcohol cleansers, alcohol swabs, and sanitizers. There aren’t enough of these products to go around, so those who really need them — particularly low-income households and immunocompromised families — have no options.
A friend’s son has Pompe disease. She is worried because her son is due for his next infusion but she can’t find masks, gloves, or sanitizer anywhere. They need these supplies to safely infuse due to the high risk of port-a-cath infections. The World Health Organization has said that normal surgical masks are ineffective at preventing COVID-19 when used alone. They must also be combined with hand hygiene. The WHO also recommends that masks be used only by healthcare professionals and people who were exposed to the virus or are symptomatic.
While a calm attitude is good for society during crisis, I was upset by a column I read arguing that people shouldn’t panic because “[c]oronavirus is somewhat (slightly) accelerating the death of people who are near death; if you keep healthy the odds strongly suggest you will be just fine.”
That’s great for those who are healthy, but what about those of us who are immunocompromised with a rare condition such as myasthenia gravis? Or patients who have recently undergone a round of chemotherapy? Is it OK for them to get COVID-19 simply because they are closer to death? How could someone think this comment could pass as morally acceptable?
Please, if you are healthy and strong, help to ensure that preventive supplies are available for those of us who are harmed most by sickness. COVID-19 can kill many of us. Saying that the virus simply “accelerates” death for the chronically ill and elderly isn’t exactly comforting.
Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
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