Opinion: Coronavirus is bringing the worst out in people

OPINION: It doesn't take much for the thin veneer of decency to slip for many people. Given the whiff of a potential threat to mankind and humanity goes flying out of the window as our dark inner selves emerge. 

Coronavirus, which is rapidly spreading across the globe, has infected more than just the victims who have come in contact with it. 

It turns out flu-like symptoms and self-isolation aren't the only consequences of the virus. It can also turn you into a racist thug, an online bully or even worse a hoarder of toilet paper. 

There is a saying society is three meals away from revolution, meaning we can skip breakfast and lunch but if there is no dinner on the table we revolt. 

We are only one virus outbreak though from turning into a bunch of inhuman thugs. 

Panic buying 

Who would have thought toilet paper would become such a hot commodity, but fights are breaking out in supermarket aisles as people scramble for the last pack of Kleenex. 

One man in Australia was even tasered

It became so bad here Judith Collins weighed in calling for calm. 

"I'm not into panicking myself... I would remind everybody that New Zealand actually produces toilet paper and there's no reason to get all excited because there's a whole place down in Kawerau that just does that. Like, pushing it all out," the National MP said. 

Opinion: Coronavirus is bringing the worst out in people
Photo credit: Supplied

Friday nights are usually a good night to go shopping in Auckland. Once the rush to stock up on beer and wine for the weekend is over the aisles are usually clear. 

Except on the night of February 28 when it was announced coronavirus had made its way to Auckland. 

Shelves were stripped bare as people stocked up for what seemed like an impending armageddon. 

I understand if you are going to self-isolate you are going to need loo roll,  but I don't understand why you need to stock up if you aren't going to leave the house - do none of these people know about online shopping?  


You only have to Google coronavirus and racism or hate crime to see pages of stories from around the world on people being attacked because they look Chinese, or Iranian or wherever the latest outbreak is. 

Some of the attacks are truly sickening, young people beaten up for no other reason than their race. 

This is humanity at its very worst, taking out the anger and frustration a fear of the virus has caused on someone smaller and weaker. 

Jonathan Mok, a Singaporean student in London was brutally attacked as he walked down Oxford St last week. He posted pictures of his battered face on Facebook. 

Opinion: Coronavirus is bringing the worst out in people
Photo credit: Facebook Jonathan Mok

Mok said he thought coronavirus was just an excuse for the attack by the group of four thugs. 

"Racists constantly find excuses to expound their hatred - and in this current backdrop of the coronavirus, they've found yet another excuse," Mok said in the post.

The virus, unlike those people who attacked Wok, doesn't discriminate so why should we. 

Online bullying 

It's a shame that when New Zealand's first case of coronavirus was announced some people jumped on social media to bully the family who were affected. 

The abuse online was so bad it prompted the Auckland Regional Public Health Service to issue a statement calling for it to stop. 

"As a public health service, we are worried that such attacks will lead people to hide any illness that might be COVID-19, and not seek medical attention," the statement said. 

Over in the UK a schoolboy who had no contact with a family member diagnosed with coronavirus was bullied online. 

The school he was at closed as a precaution and the pupils were sent home. Some of who chose to spend the time harassing the boy online. 

Online bullying is a disease of modern times and can be far more harmful than the virus people were complaining about being spread. 

The New Zealand family, and in fact any family, dealing with a coronavirus diagnosis has enough to worry about without being subjected to online hate. 

Big business 

The world's economy is going to take a hit thanks to coronavirus, how big that hit will be is yet to be seen. But already travel firms and airlines are suffering. 

In an attempt to combat this many firms are offering discount fares and holidays, it is a cheap time to travel if you don't mind the risk. But is this really a responsible reaction? 

Air New Zealand recently announced cut-price fares, presumably to try and drum up trade. 

But in a time of a possible pandemic, where self-isolation is key to reducing the effect of that pandemic, is encouraging people to fly more really a good idea.  

Our national carrier is not alone, cruise companies - floating Petrie dishes for any aspiring virus - are also offering cut-price holidays. 

One of the reasons experts are so concerned with the COVID-19 is they don't know much about it, there is no cure at the moment. 

Until they know more we should all stay put and try and contain it, not offer up cheap seats on aeroplanes. 

Mark Longley is Newshub digital's managing editor