Coronavirus: should we keep calm and carry on? | Letters

Readers are pragmatic in the face of growing panic over the spread of Covid-19

Simon Jenkins gives a list of “scares” that have not reached the predicted body count (Let them wash your hands, but not your brain, Journal, 7 March). He does not discuss HIV/Aids and the 1918 flu epidemic, which had devastating consequences. All the medical experts he speaks to are “calm”. Yet the World Health Organization is demanding immediate dramatic action. It cites the actual experience of China moving from 40 cases on 1 January to 3,000 a day in February. Its government was only able to limit this spread by the imposition of a quite astonishing level of social control, including closing all schools and universities, the strict quarantining of whole populations and the use of mass surveillance to track those infected. As the WHO says, this is not a drill and the “carry on as normal” approach is inviting catastrophe.
Prof Greg Philo
Glasgow University

• Re Simon Jenkins’ article, both awareness and balance are possible. Every day, newspapers and websites are filled with pictures of people wearing unnecessary face masks on our city streets (The essential guide: What do we know? How should we react?, 7 March). If even some of these images were replaced by pictures of people washing their hands, as the World Health Organization recommends, the message about hand hygiene might reach more people around the world. This message is both simple and life-saving, and it bears infinite repeating.
Prof Brendan Kelly
Trinity College Dublin

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