‘Ron Bailey, Reason Magazine’s science correspondent, explains its ultimate effect will be ‘like a particularly bad flu season, with a case-fatality rate somewhere between 0.2 and 0.5 percent.’
It does not help that numerous psychologists are telling us ‘don’t let coronavirus tip society into panic’. As a sociologist with a professional interest in how fear works I can confirm that nobody decides to panic.
People panic when the messages communicated to them incite them to be afraid of fear itself. Unfortunately, the message that we frequently encounter is one that makes me feel like I am in the middle of a very, very slow but very long Hollywood disaster movie.
In recent weeks the West European media has become obsessed with worst case scenarios. It is as if they are overcome by a disturbing malaise of disaster pornography and love exposing their listeners to speculative forecasts about the millions that could die if the coronavirus turns out more prevalent and more deadly than we now imagine.
Unfortunately the authorities in Italy have been watching too many Hollywood films . The measures that they have taken are likely to make a bad situation worse. Soon after the government announced that northern Italy faced a lockdown, thousands of Italians decided to get into their cars or get on a train to travel to the south of the country, thereby increasing the risk of spreading the infection. A friend told me on Saturday that the trains were packed full of students heading south. Presumably if you’re going to introduce such a measure you don’t give a 24 hour-notice prior to its implementation. This was an exercise in both stupidity and fear.