The panic that often occurs during a health crisis or in the aftermath of a natural disaster can – and has – led to spasms of irrational violence. Lack of truthful public information can lead to conspiracy theories, which become lethal when politicians or the media deliberately stir them up.
But science, not prayers, will be needed to contain a disease that threatens the globe. Building big walls or pushing people into concentration camps, apart from being inhumane, are not effective remedies. And using the crisis to incite hatred could have deadly consequences. What is needed is expertise, international cooperation, and words from our political leaders that seek to calm fears. Unfortunately, in too many parts of the world, we are seeing the exact opposite.