The Corner

Health Care

Advice from a European Doctor

If you’ve been to a grocery store in Manhattan in the last 24 hours, you know that many are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak with full-blown hysteria. But for most of us, this is not an existential threat. We aren’t amid a zombie apocalypse. We are merely taking precautions for the sake of our fellow citizens and relatives for whom this disease will require medical attention, which may be in short supply as the number of cases continues to spread. We are also self-isolating for the sake of healthcare workers who are likely to become overwhelmed, overworked and sick (and so unable to help).

Here’s what one senior European doctor recently advised:

My personal as well as professional view: we all have a duty to stay put, except for very special reasons, like, you go to work because you work in healthcare, or you have to save a life and bring someone to hospital, or go out to shop for food so you can survive. But when we get to this stage of a pandemic, it’s really important not to spread the bug. The only thing that helps is social restriction. Ideally, the government should issue that instruction and provide a financial fallback—compensate business owners, ease the financial load on everyone as much as possible and reduce the incentive of risking your life or the lives of others just to make ends meet. But if your government or company is slow on the uptake, don’t be that person. Take responsibility. For all but essential movement, restrict yourself.

So keep calm, the doctors are saying — and keep to yourself.