COVID-19, much like the recently concluded Regional and General Elections in Guyana, has caught me off guard and seems as though there is no end in sight, at least for the foreseeable future.

Just about two weeks ago, Guyana recorded its first confirmed case of the novel Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which turned out to be fatal. In the days after that, due to the incredibly charged political climate we are all confronted by right now, the matter easily became politicised and ignorance prevailed. Soon after, we saw that this ignorance had damning consequences, and the number of the currently untreatable COVID-19 cases spread.

Being the responsible adult I am, I told myself that for my column this week, I’ll try to provide concise information on the new disease amidst the clutter of misinformation and fake news.

The epicentre of the outbreak was in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China- months ago. Since then, this disease has spread across the globe, claiming many lives. In Guyana, we have every reason to be cautious.

That aside though, I’m sure what we’re all concerned about is the implications on our health. Now, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the reported illnesses of the ‘coronavirus’ have ranged from very mild (including no symptoms at all) to severe, including illnesses resulting in death. It has been reported that most COVID-19 cases are mild, with an approximate figure of about 16 percent of serious illnesses. Yes, older people and persons (of all ages!) with severe chronic medical conditions, such as heart and lung disease or diabetes, have a higher susceptibility.

In my personal opinion, the first and most important thing that we should all be doing right now is to stop panicking. And then, wash your hands with soap for 20-30 seconds (I usually sing whatever song comes to mind, but the ABCs are always a safe alternative).

Social distancing is another good way of protecting yourself. Particularly if somebody is sneezing or coughing near to you, make sure to keep safe from them lest we become exposed to small water droplets, infected with the virus (better safe than sorry). If it wasn’t a good idea before, please practise good respiratory hygiene- that is, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Also, stop touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

And though it is not part of our nature as Guyanese, how about if we try social distancing- you know, keeping your distance from people so that you safeguard against the spread of the disease.

That said, let me take some time to address what else is important here. No doubt, the pandemic has brought with it an enormous social and economic burden. I know I feel the real ramifications of this.

As I write this article in my bedroom, of the Hall of Residence where I am staying, located at the University of the West Indies campus in Trinidad, it was just announced that I have just over 24 hours to get into Guyana before the two-week travel ban kicks in. That is not happening, so I’ll just sit tight in my single room (my roommate already went home) and wait.

On the other hand, I have already spent much of the past few days waiting to hear if my final examinations will be cancelled, so that I would know when to leave the UWI (because they “strongly advised” that all non-nationals go back home). Trust that when I say I have no real idea about what is going on, I genuinely mean that I have no real idea about what is happening.

My confusion is no different from what many others are feeling. The panic-shopping crisis has unfolded and face masks are the new thing. This semester, I’m doing macroeconomics and I have a better appreciation for the ramifications COVID-19 will have on the global economy, including the seemingly inevitable global recession. These aren’t things that bode well for our petroleum sector, which has only just begun. And when the global economy is impacted, our economies will, in turn, be impacted.

I say this not to create panic, even though I’m wary that this is anxiety-inducing. I saw this all to say that we should prepare ourselves for a shift in the way we live our lives for the next year or so. COVID-19 isn’t a political matter, it is a health concern that has damning consequences in the socio-economic spheres. Let’s not be ignorant and politicise matters unnecessarily. Instead, let’s take the time to keep well-informed (information is readily available, and credible sources such as reputable news outlets at PAHO/WHO are always great) and safe and sound.