As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, stories of stigma surrounding patients and those who have recovered are also becoming common. A session aimed at ‘Destigmatising COVID-19’ on Monday saw government representatives, doctors and recovered patients speak about the need for creating awareness about the myths surrounding the disease, and how these are an impediment to beating it.

C.N. Manjunath, Director, Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and nodal officer for labs and testing in the State’s COVID-19 task force, said fear was a bigger disease than COVID-19 today. “COVID-19 is being seen as a death sentence. Society is practising untouchability on those who have are infected. There is panic about burying patients who have died because of the virus too. This is unscientific and inhuman,” he said, referring to complaints of patients being stigmatised by neighbours.

He also said there are three ‘vaccines’ available now before the actual vaccine is found: masks, physical distancing and kindness and humanity. “In Jayadeva hospitals too, we have had staff, including doctors, get infected and recover. One of our doctors calls himself an ex-COVID-19 patient. Family and friends need to motivate the patients and the patients need to keep themselves motivated too,” he added.

Fear surrounding the virus is also preventing people with symptoms from getting tested, Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar said. All of humanity is affected by the virus, and the fatality rates are much lower than several other diseases, he added.

The session also had recovered patients come forth with their experience, many of whom encouraged others to follow suit, which could also lead to motivation to donate plasma. Bhagavan Srinivasan, one of the recovered patients, said he was the first to be admitted in ICU in Victoria Hospital for COVID-19. “Anyone can get it any time, but a positive attitude will help you through. What we need is immunity against negativity,” he said.

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