By Harald Linkels
Philipsburg/The Bottom- The communication by the Dutch Representative in St. Maarten -and former Saban commissioner- Chris Johnson, that he too has contracted the feared Covid-19 virus can be considered both refreshing and important.
“I just wanted to update you all on a personal situation that has arisen. Recently I had a meeting at work with an individual who tested positive with Covid-19. Upon hearing the news I, along with my family and colleagues, took action. I contacted those I had been in contact with and also isolated myself further from my immediate family. On Wednesday evening July 29th I developed Covid-19 symptoms” according to Johnson’s statement. Johnson was tested through CPS and has indeed tested positive.
The fact that Johnson himself came out to communicate that he had been infected with the ‘Corona’-virus is an upfront and proactive way of communicating and shows courage and transparency. It also suppresses any kind of unnecessary and potentially damaging speculation or rumors.
Every now and then when dangerous new -and potentially deadly- viruses surface, it can lead to stigma on those who contract the disease. This was clearly seen in the beginning of the HIV/Aids epidemic back in the 1980’s. The ‘general public’ somehow tends to blame the victims, suggesting that they must have done something wrong to contract the virus, or failed to do something right to protect themselves from the disease.
In countries like Colombia and India, there have been incidents of citizens who contracted the virus and were subsequently chased out of their houses(!) by angry mobs who feared that the patients might also infect them. This kind of behavior is -apart from very ignorant- of course quite dangerous, not to mention heartless.
Victims of a disease that anyone can contract should, of course, never be shunned or labeled. They are just normal human beings and deserve to be treated with kindness and receive necessary care.
It is only by well-known people in our communities coming out and openly communicating that they have contracted the disease -like Johnson did- that we give the disease a face. There is no reason to be shy or secretive about it. The disease is real, and the plain fact is we all can catch it, just like Johnson did, together with about 66 other patients in St. Maarten right now.
When the same well-known victim recover and people see that, it reduces fear. The virus is here to stay, even if a vaccine does become available on the short term. Apart from having the necessary health care facilities we also need -and indeed very much so- to be mentally prepared to deal with the effects and the risks of the Covid-19 virus.