The COVID-19 pandemic is a new global catastrophe that is beyond the scientific postulations of the epidemiological model, philosophical insights and sociological imaginations. Who could possibly have thought that staying healthy would become a greater priority than making money? Well, here comes the new normal.The term we ought to use is physical distance, not social. Socially, we are trying to get closer than ever. We are on endless WhatsApp chats, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook connections. We have video conferences with family, friends, relatives, cousins and colleagues; playing games on multiple apps. Man is a social animal. We need human interaction to feel normal. We need to talk, read, reach out and connect to others in some way or the other.Physical distancing is important, we do not have to shake hands or hug, but when our smiles are hidden behind the masks let us try to make eye contact, let us wave out to each other, let us wish good evening from balconies. Reach out to people around you to let them know you still want to remain connected. These days we have become afraid of each other, we are frightened that someone might be carrying the virus and infect us.Stigma is stated as a simplified, standardised image of the disgrace of certain people that are commonly held where stigmatised people present a threat to effective group functioning. The accelerating spread of COVID-19 and its upshots has led people to fear, panic, concern, and anxiety, and thus, it constitutes stigma as the socio-psychological disease. Among various significant factors, feelings of existential insecurity and strong aloofness with diffused fear, expectations about the responsibility for the infected and labelling behavior with a psychiatric diagnosis are the prime reasons for growing social stigma upon coronavirus patients. The social stigma in terms of discrimination, harassments, and hatred is at rife in social communities because it is hard to determine who is carrying the virus and who is not. Moreover, a disproportionate fear, rising over a lack of information, an abundance of misinformation and an absence of trust on the health system triggered the rise of social stigmaWe all need to remove the stigma of COVID-19. The only thing we need to feel is empathy. The fact is herd immunity will develop when 70-90 per cent of us have been exposed to the infection. We are all going to get exposed, we will respond to it depending on the status of our immune response. Many of us will remain asymptomatic; some may develop a mild infection, some with high viral load exposure or underlying disease will develop pneumonia and may need hospital admission. Some of these will need ventilatory support even.Please remember if today someone else has come positive, tomorrow it might be you or someone in your family. What goes around, comes around. Treat anyone you know who is positive with love, empathy and compassion. Reach out with words of encouragement and prayers. Let them know you are their friend even in the worst of times.Let’s remember to remain physically distant but close to each other’s hearts. Remove the stigma of being COVID-19 positive. We might be next, make no mistake.By Sheikh Aabid
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