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In recent weeks, we have seen the significant impact of the coronavirus on financial markets and vulnerable industries such as tourism, hospitality and travel, followed by retail among others. As a result, many people have been left with no jobs.
Behind these statistics lie the human costs of the pandemic, from the deaths of friends and family to the physical effects of infection and the mental trauma and fear faced by almost everyone. Not knowing how this pandemic will play out affects our economic, physical and mental well-being against a backdrop of a world that, for many, is increasingly anxious, unhappy and lonely.
Fear of the unknown can often lead to feelings of panic, for example when people feel they are being denied life-saving protection or treatment or that they may run out of necessities, which can lead to panic buying. Psychological stress is often related to a sense of a lack of control in the face of uncertainty.
The downside of self-isolation or social lockdown are symptoms of traumatic stress, confusion and anger, all of which are exacerbated by fear of infection, having limited access to supplies of necessities, inadequate information or the experience of economic loss or stigma. This stress and anxiety can lead to increased alcohol consumption, as well as an increase in domestic and family violence.
Social distancing and the closure of schools and childcare to combat the spread of coronavirus create additional pressures on working parents, especially as traditional sources of childcare are typically grandparents, many of whom will be in the most vulnerable groups.
Health measures must be the first priority for governments, business and society. It is important for businesses to show solidarity and work together to protect staff, local communities and customers, as well as keeping supply chains, manufacturing and logistics working.
Messages about what businesses are doing for their employees and in their communities is also important. Some companies are helping schoolchildren from vulnerable families who can no longer get a school meal; others are providing public health messages about effective handwashing. Even CEOs can show they are working from home and self-isolating, while still being effective in their leadership.