The Prolepsis Institute on coronavirus

12 February 2020

The coronavirus crisis will not only determine readiness and the efficiency of healthcare systems in all countries of the world.

It will not only test border controls in various countries.

It will not only test the abilities of health practitioners worldwide.

It will not only set into question the capacity to promptly produce vaccines and effective treatments in time.

It will not only endanger the survival of the human race. It will raise the issue of social cohesion when the survival of the human race is at stake. The civility and the values of societies and nations will be tested.

Racist tendencies and disputes between nations and cultures have already begun. Is it possible, however, that racist attacks do not only now victimize him who is different, but mostly, him who is sick?

In recent (but also past) human history we have had various instances of racism based on health and the spreading of a disease. It is worth remembering the stance and the solutions which were adopted even within families as well as the stigma which followed leprosy, tuberculosis and more recently, AIDS.

The possibility of a pan epidemic of coronavirus will test the human values of altruism and of self-sacrifice. In the past, these values could be found in historical figures such as  Raoul Follerau, Henry Dunant, Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa. Lack of these values caused the horror of the Holocaust in Europe, the sanatoriums, the Kaiadas Cave and Spinalonga Island in Greece.

As a result, we are not in danger solely from viruses and diseases, from negative effects on our financial systems and from drops in the stock market. We are not in danger solely from individual, city-wide, country-wide or continent-wide quarantines. We are mostly in danger from the fear and panic which will impede us from remaining calm.

We are in danger of considering the maintenance of our health of the utmost importance, higher than the humanity we should to show our sick fellow-human.

We are in much more danger from an indifference towards our values.

We are in danger of a kind of racism, not towards the disease, but towards the patient!

Athena Linos

Professor of the Medical School of the University of Athens

President of the Prolepsis Institute