CORONAVIRUS: Superstar Mohanlal calls for magical clapping

Italians came out clapping to support desperate healthworkers a week ago

Malayalam Superstar Mohanlal expressed frustration at the high number of people who are refusing to heed government’s instructions on combating Coronavirus, and compared community clapping to magic that can destroy bacteria and viruses.

“It won’t do to just say that we are not used to [such restrictions],” Mohanlal said in an interview with Malayalam channel Manorama News.

“We have to get used to them. We are facing a big crisis as a country, and it is our duty as a patriotic citizen to stand with the efforts to overcome it.

“I am sad to say that many people don’t see this with due seriousness. [Their stand seems to be] that it won’t affect me. We must realize that it is not about ourselves, and we can spread this to a large number of people, for whom it can be a huge disaster.

“We must take precautions, as the prime minister and the chief minister have advised. Even otherwise, we must do this on our own,” he said, moving on to the “voluntary curfew” that is in effect in India today.

“The [planned] clapping at 5 pm is a tremendous process. The noise [that it will make] is like an incantation. There is a chance that it will kill a lot of bacteria and virus,” he said.

He also reminded Malayalis to be sensitive to the needs of those around them. “We have seen many setbacks in recent times, including the floods and the Nipah outbreak. But this is even more serious than that. We must help each other in whatever way we can,” he added.

CONTROVERSY

While Mohanlal’s core message was welcomed by everyone, many Malayalis on social media have expressed frustration that he would repeat a rumor being spread on social media that the clapping of the hands would destroy viruses and bacteria.

Nearly everyone active on social media in Kerala has received a message in the last 24 hours that claims that making a collective noise at 5 pm today will destroy the pathogen around them. Some even claimed that 5 PM is an auspicious occasion to make such a noise due to a peculiar planetary arrangement that will be in place at that time.

The messages started circulating after Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged fellow citizens to ‘make some noise’ at 5 PM today to demonstrate their appreciation for health workers.

Modi’s message was based on similar, spontaneous demonstrations of appreciations by people in countries like Italy.

In countries such as Italy, health workers have been working almost non-stop for several days, driving many to total exhaustion.

Sleep deprived and wearied, many health workers have themselves fallen victim to the virus, with several doctors and others workers their lives.

Hospitals in countries like Italy have been stretched to the breaking point, with most out of space to accommodate patients. Several Malayali health workers working in Italy have sent out messages describing a situation in which there is space ‘not even in the corridors’ of the hospitals.

“I can never forget the look that they give me when I take the oxygen masks from them,” rued an Italy-based Malayali nurse in a widely shared message. “I know it is wrong, but there’s no other option,” she says, describing how Italian authorities are being forced to let go of ‘hopeless’ cases and divert resources to patients that have a higher chances of recovering.

SPONTANEOUS DEMONSTRATIONS

A week ago, Italy saw many many quarantined residents come on to their balconies and clap in a spontaneously organized show of solidarity with their health workers, holding banners of ‘AndrĂ  tutto bene’ (Everything will be fine).

The trend has since spread to neighboring countries such as France and Spain — which too have seen similar levels of chaos at their hospitals. Some people are trying to organize such an effort in the US too.

However, the healthcare system in India is yet to feel the full impact of Coronavirus, as the total cases reported so far in a country of 1.3 billion people is around 300.

In this context, Modi’s suggestion to come out clapping for showing appreciation for those who are engaged in fighting the virus has been widely misinterpreted as some form of therapy or cure for the virus.

Such social media messages often contain the claim that today’s voluntary curfew — also suggested by Modi — will be successful in killing all the viruses in the community.

These rumors have raised concerns among some of those working in this sector.

“Please do not spread the rumor that a 12-hour lockdown is enough to kill off all the Coronavirus in the vicinity and that it would be perfectly safe to step out after that… India is a country particularly prone to blind belief and superstition… even if some people believe such rumors and act on them, it can be a setback to our efforts,” appealed Dr Jinesh PS in a widely circulated Facebook note.