Billions of good deeds to defeat an epidemic

From pay cuts in Singapore to school closures in Japan, people are sacrificing for the safety of others. Such selflessness is a curative in itself.

A volunteer takes a package of face masks for a resident at a distribution drive in Singapore.

To honor the sacrifice of its front-line workers battling the coronavirus, Singapore’s government decided today to give them a special bonus. From cleaners to security guards to nurses, they will all receive a one month salary bonus.

Yet that was not enough. To pay for this financial gratitude, the government decided all political office holders, from members of Parliament to the president, should take a one month pay cut. “We are all in this together,” said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. That sense of shared duty extended to many companies in the Asian nation-state of nearly 6 million people. In response to the effects of the virus on the economy, firms announced pay freezes or salary reductions.

Singapore has earned praise for the ways it has curbed the outbreak on its densely populated island. Harvard University says it sets the “gold standard.” Now it is setting a model by highlighting the collective need for selfless sharing in the task of ending the epidemic.

Across the dozens of countries coping with the virus, billions of people are either acting selflessly or quietly accepting burdens imposed by government, such as quarantines or travel restrictions. Japan, for example, has closed schools for a month. China told some 150 million people to stay in their homes. In many places, holiday events have been canceled. In Italy, Venice shut down its Carnival festival.

“This could be a long fight that will require shared sacrifice,” tweeted Scott Gottlieb, who was President Donald Trump’s first director of the Food and Drug Administration.

Many leaders are also praising health workers. “We must feel the duty to thank those who are operating with effort, sacrifice, abnegation to counter the danger of coronavirus,” said Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

While the focus has been on the spread of the virus and fears of it, the world is also witnessing a bursting of good deeds. Across the globe, people are sacrificing personal freedoms or daily activities for the safety of their neighbors, even for the world. Such acts are a form of love that, on their own, send a message of healing to those struck by the virus or those deathly afraid of it. We are, indeed, all in this together.

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