Saturday, April 18, 2020
We are facing an immense challenge around the world. Everyone must realize the danger and stay at home and practice strict hygiene. Thousands are dying; many of us will lose friends and relatives, and many people will die alone. We are people with rational intelligence. Everyone is important and equal in dignity and rights. We have to respect all people and give help and support so that we can save as many lives as possible.

During lockdown, together with family members, we can do practical tasks, forming bonds and showing others we care for them and love them. We can call our parents and tell them that we love them and thank them for giving us life and education and support so we can live a healthy meaningful life. Parents should call their children to say that they love them, too. In these challenging times, we all need to come closer in spirit while we practice social distancing.

Everyone staying at home during quarantine faces challenges. There will be additional stress and tension brought about by close confinement. Arguments will erupt, and in the worst cases this may result in violence and broken homes. However, on the other side of this it will give families a chance to reconnect. People will come together in their shared experience and be there for each other.

The other challenge of the lockdown is having children at home all day with their parents, which will be new to many families. This should be seen as a chance for parents to spend quality time with their children and get to know them better. There are many activities that can still be done during a lockdown: lessons, games, singing, chatting, playing music, cooking, watching movies or television.

Coronavirus challenges us to be compassionate and caring for suffering patients when sickness strikes. There is the physical pain of this dangerous flu, and then there is the emotional stress it brings. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the virus, from who is carrying it to who will get ill from it. We need to reach out to our friends, families and communities to let them know that we are here to support them. We stand together in the face of this pandemic.

The homeless are challenged above all. They are often without family or friends, adrift on the streets, sleeping in doorways and underbridges. If they are crowded into shelters, this puts them in greater danger of contracting the virus. Social services need to be supported to provide all possible help.

People living in slums are also extremely susceptible to the coronavirus. People living in slums are often the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, suffering from malnourishment and weak immune systems. Densely populated slums mean that social distancing is often an impossibility, and a lack of monitoring means that many deaths may go uncounted.

Meanwhile, doctors and other healthcare workers are fighting to stay free from infection. A lack of protective gear has meant that many have already died as they fought to save others. They have to decide who will live and die when there are only a few ventilators in the hospital for too many patients in desperate need of the breathing apparatus. These are heart-breaking decisions to be made. A suffering priest in Italy got a ventilator as a gift from the parishioners but he gave it to a younger patient and the good priest died. That is a self-sacrifice worthy of a saintly person.

Taiwan and South Korea were prepared and acted quickly to impose lockdown. They made millions of testing kits and tested everyone. They have had efficient epidemic control centres since the SARS. They have isolated those positive for the infection and trace all with whom they had been in contact with and quarantined them, too. It worked and the pandemic is now under control. They have shown the world how to do it. Will the world take the challenge and learn that prevention is infinitely better than cure?

[Fr. Shay Cullen - Comboni Missionaries]