My sister and I are very close; both mischiefs and hold similar beliefs when it comes to most topics. Although when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, we couldn’t be further apart. In response to the pandemic I’ve been accused of being overly-pragmatic, calm and fatalistic, where I’ve found most people to be irrational, panic stricken & convinced their demise is imminent. Statistics published by various authorities have informed my view, while my sister (and most others) have relied upon mainstream media for their information. 

The misinformation spread through media has angered me, as people have blindly bought into the panic and terror. Working in human resources, it has meant much of my time has been spent communicating the requirement for improved hygiene practices; facts pertaining to the rate of infection; and counselling others to gain more realistic perspectives. Doing all I can to stop the panic and help people to behave responsibly, and not be in constant fear for their lives. 

Recently, with government restrictions relaxing in Victoria, I was able to visit my sister and her partner at their home. It was wonderful to be able to spend time together in person, and while speaking generally about COVID and the different actions our Governments could have taken to prevent the devastation to our economy, my sister began looking very agitated. 

My sister very much fears COVID-19 and is convinced there is a high likelihood of contracting the virus and once infected, death is almost guaranteed. I’ve attempted on numerous occasions to prove to her, with the use of statistics, that the risk to her health, with all of the preventative measures she’s taking, is virtually nil. She is very fit and healthy; doesn’t fall within any of the high risk categories; and practices robust hygiene measures, including social distancing. 

The agitation apparent on her face and in her demeanour was the precursor to an uncontrolled outburst that immediately ended the conversation. It concerned me greatly and I began wondering what the driving force was behind her fear. 

Later in the evening my sister & I excused ourselves and went upstairs to enjoy some “sister talk” privately.  Her earlier outburst was still weighing on my mind, and all I could imagine the cause to be is a possible fear of death. After a few minutes of chatting about other innocuous subjects, I lead the conversation to our family and the deaths we’d experienced. She engaged in the topic and hesitantly admitted she fears death. The way she said it, almost seemed like an admission of a shameful secret. It immediately transported my mind to sitting next to our Grandmother on her deathbed. The terror I saw in our Grandmother’s eyes as her life slowly left her, is an image that will always remain with me. I’ve never understood that terror and now I’m aware my sister harbors our Grandmother’s exact same fear of death. 

That knowledge saddens me, as mortality is inevitable and nothing to be feared. It also explains, what I perceive to be, an irrational fear of COVID-19; not just by my sister but by many others. 

I review the statistics and see that less than 0.03% of Australia’s population have been infected by COVID-19 and less than 0.0004% have died as a result of becoming infected.  While a cure doesn’t exist, the preventative measures have proven effective.  Then I consider annual infection and death rates caused by influenza in Australia; annual deaths attributed to road accidents; both of which have significantly higher fatality rates than COVID-19, and yet there’s no panic and imminent fear of death response from the population. Its’s confusing to me why people are so convinced that COVID-19 is going to kill them, when they have a far greater chance of contracting and dying from the flu or becoming a road fatality!!