At a time when Coronavirus dominates the headlines, Manchester’s Councillor Bev Craig calls for unity and warns that fear - and the stigma it creates - spreads faster than disease.
Like many of you a lot of my weekend was spent watching the news - where masks and Hazmat suits have become the face of Coronavirus.
But, unlike most masks, these are not for disguise or any act of concealment - they are simply a barrier to germs.
This is nothing new. Just cycle around Manchester and you can often see people wearing them. What’s new is the fear that’s now associated with Coronavirus - and the unknown.
But, I’d like to start with what we do know. We know that while Coronavirus is a serious issue, there is still a low risk of getting the virus. In fact, to put it in perspective, flu is a much bigger viral epidemic across the world - and yet some people still don’t go for their flu vaccine.
We also know that when we need it most, our NHS steps up with a swift and solid response. This is why you will hear about isolation facilities in our hospitals as they follow protocols - which may sound intimidating, but are simply a barrier to germs, just like a mask.
We also know that we can all play a role in staying safe. Good hand hygiene matters - as does making sure you sneeze or cough into a tissue and then put it in the bin.
In addition, anyone who develops symptoms within 14 days of returning from mainland China should stay at home (self isolate) and call 111.
And, all travellers from Wuhan and Hubei Province should stay at home for 14 days - even if they do not have symptoms, to be on the safe side. If symptoms do develop they should ring 111.
These steps will all help. But, perhaps most importantly, I - and all of us who live in Manchester - know how this city celebrates diversity and pulls together in the face of any adversity.
Now, more than ever, is the time to remember that tolerance and respect for all our cultures. This is Manchester. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours, and ask how we can help.
That’s how we know Manchester can make a difference. Because fear is contagious - and panic will always spread quicker than any virus. There will never be an antidote to broken trust, racial divides and people left in isolation. Kindness is a tonic that this city will always prescribe.
Councillor Bev Craig is Executive Member of Adult, Health and Wellbeing at Manchester City Council.
If you have any concerns or questions about Coronavirus, please log on to gov.uk/coronavirus.