I vaguely was aware of Ebola…SARS….MERS…Zika. But I never paid much attention to these viruses because I wasn’t affected by them.
Now, as long as I live, I never ever will forget the Coronavirus. The daily emails, articles in the press, and incessant conversations about this virus are mind-boggling. People are walking around public spaces wearing masks or simply are staying home to avoid potential exposure.
Is this mass hysteria warranted? Or, as some editorials suggest, is this just the way some people naturally react to fears? Maybe the answer is yes to both questions.
I work in tourism. Specifically, my company brings individuals, families, and groups to Israel. For the last two weeks, monitoring things from my office in Tel Aviv, the Ministry of Health has issued updates almost daily about the groups of people who are banned from entering the country if their passports indicate they traveled to or are citizens of specific infected countries. These include: China, Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, and South Korea. Yesterday Italy was added to the list. All that said, there currently is no outbreak in Israel.
For a small country like Israel, the in-bound tourism industry is big business. If people cannot or will not (because they are afraid to travel) enter the country, the lost revenue and profits will be staggering. Many employees who work at hotels, bus companies, conference venues, tour companies, etc. will be sent on furloughs, have their hours or salaries reduced, or may be laid off altogether. But, the bigger challenge is that Israelis are afraid to travel outside of Israel. They are staying put until the Coronavirus is no longer a threat. As such, this level of paranoia may bankrupt El Al Airlines and put all outbound travel companies at risk as well. The virus literally is killing more businesses than people.
Other countries are struggling with these issues as well. My husband was to attend the Mobile World Congress (a high tech conference) — with forty thousand others — in Barcelona this week. Due to the current environment, it was cancelled!! The Chinese were prohibited from attending and one by one major companies (e.g. Amazon and Nokia) pulled out. The number of cancelled flights, hotel rooms, etc. are unbelievable.
Interestingly, I found myself at Ben Gurion International airport yesterday. I confess that I was a bit nervous upon seeing so many people wearing masks. It never occurred to me, however, to get one. I may be in denial…or stupid…but I’m just not worried. It’s a flu.
I supported El Al and flew to Geneva. After a few days of skiing the French Alps, I’ll head to Atlanta for a couple of weeks. Then, after a wedding in New York, I’ll fly back to Israel. I understand that people will do what they feel they must. But, I have no intention of changing my travel plans.
I am not fearful. I will not get sick. And if I do, oh well….