The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Coronavirus - The child and the centenarian

Wednesday, 20 May 2020, 08:16 Last update: about 9 days ago

Last week, The Malta Independent portal published two foreign news stories of human interest, both related to the Coronavirus which, hate it as much as we do, continues to dominate our lives.

One story was about a woman in Spain, aged 113, who recovered from the disease, and was quoted as saying by the Associated Press as “feeling fine” in spite of her ordeal.


We have been hearing so much about the need to protect vulnerable people, and that persons over 65 and others with chronic conditions are at the highest risk if they contract the dreaded illness. This woman survived the virus in spite of her venerable age.

It was a positive story, one that should serve to spur courage in all of us as we face this unprecedented and uncertain situation.

The second story was the complete opposite. It was about a French boy, aged nine, who died in France with symptoms of a rare inflammatory condition which doctors are linking to Coronavirus. The child died of brain damage relating to cardiac arrest with a form of Kawasaki disease, according to the Associated Press.

It was a sad story, the worst nightmare for any parent. It is impossible to imagine what a mother and father can go through when they lose a child.

If it had been the other way round – the survival of a nine-year-old and the death of a 113-year-old – there would have been no story to report. But both stories, in their own different ways, captured the media’s attention for obvious reasons.

The two stories are clear examples of how illnesses can affect people differently. Logic would tell you that a child has a better chance of surviving a disease than a woman who has lived well beyond a century. But there is no logic with health issues, including with this Coronavirus pandemic that is wreaking havoc across the world and is far from being brought under control.

There is another aspect we would link to bring up regarding these two stories.

Statistics from our website show us that the story about the woman was read by less than one-sixth of the people who read the story about the boy. As we said, it is very unusual for a nine-year-old boy to die, so we were expecting the story to do well in terms of numbers; but isn’t it also extremely rare – perhaps rarer? – for a person to live up to 113 and, added to this, survives a deadly disease like Coronavirus. We were certainly expecting more people to show an interest in this unique survival story.

The numbers regarding the above two stories are further confirmation that people are more drawn to tragedy than miracles; they want to know more about disasters than successes. In this case, they were intrigued more about a boy who died than a centenarian who overcome a disease that has hit nearly five million people and killed more than 300,000 of them in a space of four to five months.

It has always been like this – bad news attracts more attention. But it is clear that, the more time passes, the more cynical the world becomes. 


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