Coronavirus and ‘Contagion’-the parallels

Facemasks worn as a precaution against the virus

COVID-19 is here and here to stay, at least for a couple of months it would seem and we are in unchartered territory. The WHO have classified the disease as a ‘pandemic’ and the word “unprecedented” is being constantly used by health officials, politicians and the media. It’s a weird, surreal experience and to me, it feels like being an actual actor in some sort of futuristic disaster movie. Only it isn’t futuristic at all. It’s very much a present day situation. Last night I watched the film “Contagion” (just to give myself a really good scare!) and the parallels between that 2011 film and the present day are uncanny and a little bit terrifying. In the film, Gwyneth Paltrow (who plays only a minor role at the start), a high flying marketing executive returns from Hong Kong to the US and quickly succumbs to a strange respiratory illness that she appears to have picked up somewhere on her travels. As the film progresses, we learn that the virus (much like Covid 19) originated in a live food market in Hong Kong and was transferred from bat droppings into pigs and thereby into the food chain.

In the film, the virus spreads quickly and is airborne and efforts to contain it globally at first prove futile. Entire countries go into lockdown, much as is happening at present around the world and people are quarantined within their homes. Airports are eerily empty. Looting of shops and supermarkets occurs as law and order breaks down and we see fights break out in supermarkets over essential goods.

* As an aside, thankfully, the situation is not so dire in Ireland that this has happened but as soon as people were being advised by Simon Harris, the Minister for Health, to stay at home and maintain social distancing, it seemed the first reaction of a lot of people was to head straight to the supermarket and stockpile basic supplies, in preparation for Armageddon!

To go back to the film, there’s a race around the clock to come up with a vaccine. The brave doctors and scientists working at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the WHO fighting to prevent the spread of the disease are played by Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Laurence Fishbourne. Jude Law plays the role of an internet blogger and journalist claiming to have found a cure with something called “Forsythia” but this proves to be ineffective and fraudulent.

Eventually, (spoiler alert!) a vaccine is produced and humanity is saved (yay for Hollywood!) but not before numerous characters have died in the grips of a seizure and foaming at the mouth. (hopefully death from Coronavirus isn’t quite as disturbing a scene though am sure it’s no less dramatic!).

All in all, it’s a good watch and seems particularly prescient at the moment. As a form of “exposure therapy” it’s also pretty good in terms of allaying anxieties about how bad things can really get. When you watch something like this, you’re somewhat reassured by the fact that we’re not *quite*as bad as that yet….. Yet……

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