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Five Ways To Respond To Coronavirus

DR. TED LANKESTER from our network has decades of experience in global health. As the Coronavirus outbreak develops, he's been sharing some ways to stay informed, to respond positively, and to worry less.

During this ongoing outbreak of Coronavirus, Covid-19, a big problem we face is fake news. There are some incorrect and sometimes dangerous ideas on social media. And so I urge you to read our Communication Co-ordinator Jake's ideas about how to tell true news from fake news, based on his experience at the BBC. But I’d also like to share with you a few lines on Coronavirus and how to cope with it, along with some helpful science-based websites. Each of our countries is in a different stage of the epidemic. The epidemic rises to a peak and then slows down- the time scale for this differs between countries. China has probably passed its peak and the number of cases and deaths has fallen dramatically. Here in Europe we are moving towards a surge and are taking drastic action. For many countries it’s hard to know when the peak will occur and how many cases will be involved. So in practice, I would like to highlight 5 things:

1. Follow the official advice from your government. This includes measures they are putting in place such as details about closures of schools, sports events and mass gatherings, and information about closing borders and other travel restrictions. Each country will have its own specific advice and you need to follow this. Sometimes it’s hard to find and it’s likely to change quite frequently. 2. Reduce your risk of getting infected by Coronavirus (adapted by latest advice from the UK’s National Health Service):

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds

  • Always wash your hands when you get home or into work and before eating

  • Use hand sanitiser (at least 60% alcohol) if available and washing with soap is not easy

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze

  • Put used tissues ideally in a bin or dispose immediately and wash your hands afterwards

  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

3. Understand Coronavirus in the context of other serious health issues in our world. Of course, Covid-19 is serious and spreading. We don’t know enough about it. And we don’t yet have a vaccine. At the time of writing (13th March) according to the latest WHO information, there have been 132,758 confirmed cases and 4,955 confirmed deaths. The numbers are rapidly increasing and the number of actual cases is considerably more. But by comparison, according to the World Health Organisation, Flu causes up to 650,000 deaths from lung illnesses each year, TB kills 1.5 million per year, and Malaria kills 445,000 people per year.

4. Take action to avoid fear. There are two epidemics going on. One is Corona and the other is fear. Let’s make sure we stick to truth as Jake explains and let’s take action to avoid fear and panic. Let’s remember the low risk of death for the vast majority of us and concentrate on positive ways we can protect ourselves, and ways we can help each other. 5. We should love one another whatever the situation. For those of us who are Christians, we believe that God is Lord of the whole earth. He knows the situation and He will accompany us in our worries. In the Bible, the book of First Corinthians Chapter 13 includes a famous passage about love. It acts as a reminder that God loves us and that we should also love one another whatever the situation.

Finally if you have questions that you can’t find an answer to on the websites or from reliable sources within your country, please email me at and I will do my best to come up with a helpful answer. Further reading: practical advice from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); relevant information from the WHO Regional Africa Office; Comprehensive advice from WHO; useful advice from the UK National Health Service.


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