Pandemic Diaries: The deaths

By Jamie Etheridge

As of Sunday morning, Kuwait has recorded 33 deaths from the coronavirus. The number is low, less than 1 percent of active cases. In some ways, this is great news for all of us here, because it means the government’s efforts to provide care for those who get sick is working.

At the same time, each of those 33 people who died left behind family and friends. They were grandmothers and grandfathers, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, moms and dads. They were individual people with lives filled with relationships, family and work. They were people we might share a meal with or talk to in a coffee shop. They had hopes and dreams and plans for the future.

Globally, there have now been 243,674 deaths worldwide attributed to the coronavirus (though some reports suggest this figure severely undercounts likely deaths, since many countries are not widely testing their populations and deaths at home, for instance, often aren’t tested).

The loss of each human being carries with it a follow-on series of losses. Society loses that person, their creativity and contribution, their ideas and kindnesses, their work and whatever good they might have contributed to the world. And also the ripples that person may have sent out – children they might have had, ideas they may have developed. Yes, if there were negatives, we lose those too, and some may see that as balance.

But balance matters little to those left behind to grieve the loss of their loved ones. To them, each person in the ‘death count’ is not a number, a faceless victim, but someone who loved and was loved, someone who mattered. In the newspaper business, we deal with death counts on a daily basis. We report the death toll from bombings and wars, from car accidents and natural disasters. We have no choice but to report the death counts as an integral part of the story. Rarely do we get the opportunity or the option to tell the individual stories of those who died.

In Kuwait, the ministry of health reports the death counts but is not sharing the names of victims in order to protect the privacy of the deceased and their families. This is as it should be. But death tolls are a daily part of the news cycle, and we report them because that is what we do. But behind each number, each new death count, is a person with a name, a face, a family. As the numbers climb, we all need to remember this.

etheridge@kuwaittimes.com