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Leona O'Neill: Every single one of us needs to play our part in holding coronavirus back

As the new form of coronavirus continues to spread across the world, Covid-19-induced panic is beginning to take hold here in the north. However, focusing only on the negative will not help us get through this outbreak safely, as Leona O'Neill points out

There are currently less than 10 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the north

SO HERE we are in another week and the coronavirus is dominating our lives. It seems all we can do is sit helplessly as this illness sweeps across the world, into our country and into our communities.

There are now well over 100,000 cases and almost 4,000 deaths worldwide attributed to the virus. Here in Northern Ireland, our cases are still under 10, while in the south they are currently dealing with close to 20 patients. As I write this on Monday the UK as a whole is dealing with around 320 cases of the virus and has reported two deaths.

There are still so many unknowns. What is clear is that the statistics are going to get worse and the news more frightening as the virus spreads among us. Some scientists believe that the virus is more widespread than first thought and only those who suffer adverse reactions – besides those who have come back from 'red zones' – are seeking medical help.

That means, basically, that this virus is already in our community with people suffering only mildly from it and we should prepare for increased person-to-person spread.

I am asthmatic, as are my two children and my nephew. My sister has lung disease and my mother is currently being treated for cancer. We find ourselves in the 'at risk' category of the population and would greatly love not to come down with the coronavirus. So we are taking our own precautions. I'm trying to work from home as much as I can, we are avoiding crowded places for the time being and are religiously washing our hands. My mum is sticking close to home and letting others bring supplies to her. These are not health trust requirements, just things that we ourselves are doing to protect ourselves in the midst of all of this.

Working in the news, I am exposed to many horrible, frightening things and a coping mechanism I use is to look past the horror to the good. And it's something I tell my children and those around me who are very anxious about the current global health situation.

Just as when a bomb goes off and people focus on the perpetrators and the hate that went into the preparation for violence, I prefer to focus on those who rush to the aid of injured people, those showing care and compassion, those fixing the broken.

In this instance, we could all be doing a little less focusing on the negative, the rising levels of sickness, the wave of disease across the world, the panic buying, the scaremongering, the dire news of deaths, the terrifying statistics and instead change our focus towards the positive, if possible. All of this is consuming most of our daily lives, it's terrifying our children and our older and vulnerable people.

But there is some positive news we can focus on. The world's best scientists are working day and night to find a cure for coronavirus. There are numerous trials happening as we speak for medication that will help, many more research projects into future vaccines. Reporting that we have no cures, no chance of a vaccine for perhaps a year, that we are totally helpless in fighting – this only heightens fear.

The reality is that there are drugs being given to coronavirus patients right now in China and America. Scientists are hopeful that, if successful, they can be rolled out across the world.

The reality is that vaccines and medication created by clinicians to battle SARs and MERs may be able to help us now. The reality is that China, in dealing with this awful scenario, has given the rest of the world a head start in being able to fight it with everything we have got. Lessons learned from their experiences, and those of Italy, will help us now.

And every single one of us needs to play our part in holding coronavirus back. The longer we can keep this illness from our most vulnerable – giving our scientists the time and space to create a cure – the better chance they will have of beating this.

So, wash your hands religiously with warm water and soap. Stay at home if you have a cold or flu. Contact NHS 111 if you have been in some of the areas affected by the coronavirus and are showing signs of the virus. And stay calm.

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