Pashto singer Nilo. - A file photo

Iftikhar Khan

PESHAWAR: Coronavirus patients all over the world either go into self isolation at their homes or go to quarantine centres, but in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, some cases have been seen where people are hiding their disease to avoid the social stigma or show irresponsible behaviour regarding the disease.

The first such case surfaced in Swat few days ago where the test of famous Pashto singer Nilo was reported to be positive, but she uploaded a video on the social media insisting that she is healthy and not infected by the virus. In another video, she said the district administration has just told her that her test was positive, but was not showing test results to her.

On April 28, a female journalist Samina made a video in Police Services Hospital Peshawar and accused the hospital staff of maltreatment and verbally abusing her.

However, the hospital administration in a clarification stated that Samina was diagnosed with coronavirus and she was advised to adopt self-isolation or admit to hospital, but she came to hospital with her family members without adopting any precautions after which she was admonished. The hospital administration said the woman journalist was not self-isolating due to fear of social stigma and endangering others.

Does COVID-19 bring social stigma?

Dr Zafar Khan, a lecturer at the Sociology Department of the University of Peshawar, said anyone can contract the virus in this busy world, which doesn’t mean that the infected persons must be treated with disdain. However, he said, some factors and collective social behaviour has made diseases like coronavirus and AIDS a cause of social stigma, which should not happen.

Dr Zafar said there is no reason why an infected person should feel deserted and healthy persons must also realise their responsibility to help the infected persons and assure that nothing has changed.

He said the virus was termed as Chinese virus initially to create an impression that it is spread in the world by China due to which the Chinese citizens faced embarrassment everywhere in the world.

Dr Zafar said patients are getting annoyed with the way they are projected on the media, their whole area is sealed and the way they are taken to quarantines or hospitals. He said the social contract of our society is very strong, therefore the principle of social distancing is very hard to adopt. He said an ailing person needs more attention and affection, but unfortunately it is not possible in case of COVID-19 patients.

The sociologist said women are more likely to be affected mentally from the disease as they are more emotionally attached to their family and they cannot tolerate being separated from their loved ones. He said people also fear that if they died of the virus, people may not attend their funeral and won’t come for offering Fateha. He said media instead of demonising the disease must focus more on prevention measures and helping the patients to overcome the disease. He said mental strength is needed to increase resistance against the disease.