Traditions are, indisputably, one of the most iconic characters of a culture, where the essential spirit of civilization lives. Generation after generation, they are passed down in society. Amidst the outbreak of COVID-19, the battle against this pandemic has been the focus of the world for the past year. But how do different cultural traditions affect the spread and development of the virus, and how do distinct traditions facilitate or hinder combat against viruses in a modern setting? This article will compare and contrast the Ebola and the COVID-19 pandemic to provide some insights.
The Ebola crisis exhibited strong regional association, thus the cultural influence on the outbreak is, compared to those of COVID-19, less diverse and complicated to analyze. During the epidemic from 2014-2016, The medical workers had a challenging time to dispose of the bodies. Many fiercely rejected the cremation of the dead ones, as that is in direct conflict with the traditional burial rituals that are believed to establish connections with the spiritual world and afterlife. The reliance on traditional healing is another significant obstacle in controlling the virus. With the high fatality rate, people viewed hospitals as the ill and ominous places that harness life. Thus, they seek traditional healers which, unfortunately, not only did not cure the patients but at many occasions facilitated the spreading by implementing therapies including physical, “magical” touches. Though there are many more, these examples are enough to stress how significant cultural influence can be in a pandemic, and render the virus more successful than it should be.
Traditions are the product of past history, and they cannot escape the fate of being obsolete one day. It is a pity to ditch cultural practices; however, for the wellness of people, changes are necessary to progress, and pandemics are one of the forms that the calls for changes may take.
COVID-19, by contrast, is a global pandemic, which means it is harder to identify how specific cultural traits contribute to its prevalence. To clarify, cultures in different regions do have influences on the transmission. In fact, the virus itself is believed to originate from the consumption of wild bats that carry the virus, which is a demonstration of the local cultural belief that these wild animals are great for health. But realizing the serious situation, traditions are more or less suspended to deal with the public health emergency: at many places, large gatherings are prohibited, and festivals are temporarily held off. Clearly, when people understand the presence of a crisis, they are aware of which to choose between life and temporary celebration.
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