Epidemics and pandemics always lead to communities and specific groups of people being stigmatized. It happened during the Ebola and MERS outbreaks. Ever since COVID-19 started spreading globally and in India, there has been a surge in the number of people being bullied, harassed, and stereotyped. We need to fight two parallel battles now, one against COVID-19, the other against the stigma associated with it.
Not only are those infected by COVID-19 subjected to stigma, people who have potentially come into contact with the infection and isolated themselves at home or in a dedicated quarantine facility have also been victims of stigma. However, it is important to understand that being in quarantine is indispensable to contain the spread of the infection.
People working on the frontlines such as doctors, nurses, allied healthcare professionals, sanitary workers, and police are also being subjected to a lot of harassment. Many landlords asked them to evacuate their rented places.
Steps that can be taken to address stigma:
- Choose your words wisely – One should be mindful of the words they are using. Refer to the following table:
|Words/phrases to use||Words/phrases to avoid|
|Coronavirus, COVID-19||Wuhan virus, Chinese virus, Asian virus|
|Have COVID-19/ are being treated/are recovering||COVID-19 cases/victims/suspects/suspected|
|People acquiring or contracting the infection||Transmitting/infecting others/spreading the infection|
|Risk of COVID-19 based on research and recent government advisories||
COVID-19 is a plague or an apocalypse
- Only spread facts – These days a lot of misinformation is floating around and it can be misleading and can cause panic. Therefore, while sharing any information through word of mouth or social media, one must pause and reflect if the source of that news is authentic
3. Engaging with social influencers – One can take the help of a reputed doctor or a celebrity to give a message on how coronavirus can infect all and how we should empathize and support each other
4. Highlighting recovery and heroism – It is important to amplify the stories of people who have recovered or helped their loved ones recover from COVID-19. One should also express solidarity and appreciate the efforts of all the people working on the frontlines.
5. Virtuous journalism – Instead of spreading the news about the number of deaths in a particular region that can propagate fear and uncertainty, media houses and journalists should focus more on symptoms and preventive measures about COVID-19, as well as, on the latest updates on the development of vaccines.
During these uncertain times, each of one us can play our part by shunning stigma and discrimination around COVID-19, by being well-informed, by being a little kind and empathetic and sharing only evidence-based information. It is our moral responsibility to not only comply with all the precautions but also lend support to those in distress.
Here are a few precautionary measures which people undergoing Home Quarantine should follow.
In these times it is very much essential to follow all precautions and follow mandatory social distancing norms.
As a responsible citizen, it is necessary that we carry out our responsibility with compassion and break all stigma related to Covid-19.