Sat, Feb 15, 2020 - Page 8 News List

Thinking positively as COVID-19 spreads

By Chen Chiao-chicy 陳喬琪

On the morning of Jan. 23, the day before Lunar New Year’s Eve, the Chinese government announced its intention to lock down public transportation in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, a critical transportation hub.

Three days later, media reports said that the US government was arranging a charter flight to evacuate US consulate staff and citizens from Wuhan. The next day, there were hardly any masks left in Taipei’s drugstores.

The reason shoppers rushed to buy masks surely had much to do with the SARS outbreak about 17 years ago, as the epidemic brought a rather “long nightmare” for the Taiwanese public.

The answer as to why the US government decided to evacuate its citizens so fast is the same: People have learned lessons from the SARS outbreak.

Fear is a natural emotional response for every person, including medical personnel, when facing the outbreak and spread of COVID-19, whose origin remains unclear.

Before an effective treatment is found, people will naturally feel anxious and upset about the infection. The psychological response here is quite normal.

The problem is: If the disease continues developing over a long period, it would present quite a burden on the public. Pressure varies from person to person and is related to an individual’s cognitive function, including their perspective and understanding of the epidemic.

Spending too much time watching news on TV or reading reports online might lead to overinterpreting the epidemic far beyond a person’s mental capacity. In that case, special attention should be paid to sleeping disorders or cognitive problems, emotional instability or physical discomfort arising from preoccupation with the outbreak.

After the SARS epidemic subsided, I conducted a study into the emotional responses of medical personnel and administrative staff who were working in hospitals during the outbreak.

It turned out that administrative staff who received less medical information than clinical personnel had fewer intense emotional responses compared with the medical staff.

The effective way to deal with pressure is to face its origin, adopt a proactive attitude toward challenges, and seek resources for support and assistance.

Soon after the COVID-19 outbreak, the government established the Central Epidemic Command Center. The center provides epidemic information and sends out around-the-clock health information to the public.

From a personal aspect, the public needs to calm down and cheer up with positive ideas and thinking, adjusting their cognitive perspective to an affirmative attitude.

An inspiring instance can be found in the online petition launched by young surgeon Wu Hsin-tai (吳欣岱) in support of the government holding fast to the bottom line of disease prevention by prioritizing Taiwanese in urgent need of medical attention on the passenger lists of charter flights from Wuhan.

The petition quickly garnered more than 140,000 signatures among medical personnel within a few days. This sets an example of taking proactive measures toward challenges.

Medical personnel serve as a strong backup support for the government in disease-prevention efforts, allowing the nation’s medical system to maintain its normal functions during the outbreak.

Their contributions not only safeguard public health, but also set an inspiring example.

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