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World on Edge: The Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic Affects 2020 Film Releases

The Coronavirus, officially Covid-19, has wreaked havoc over the last few weeks and months as it's become the watchword on almost everyone's mind. Washing your hands, maintaining good hygiene and distancing yourself from possible infection, authorities have tried to clamp down on the spread of the pandemic.

Reflected in pop culture through films like Outbreak and Contagion, on TV shows like Young Sheldon and depicted with eerie similarities in the Dean Koontz novel, The Eyes of Darkness, the pandemic panic has turned breaking news into a situation of filmic proportions. While many have made jokes, memes and amusing news stories about gangs of monkeys, zombies and impending apocalypse, possibly in an effort to cope with the turn of disastrous events, the virus is deadly serious.

Taking drastic measures, some countries have closed their borders completely in an effort to curtail the spread of the virus. Containment areas have been set up in hospitals to quarantine people affected by the virus, which has flu-like symptoms but a much higher rate of mortality. Influenza has a mortality rate of 0.4% while the Coronavirus has been measured at roughly 4%, 10 times higher, affecting those with a compromised immune system or the elderly more detrimentally.

The pandemic has claimed many lives over the last few weeks as its spread to all corners of the earth. People coming back from affected areas have brought with them the contagion, making its spread inevitable. Governments and medical agencies are working together in order to try and educate the public, promote hygienic practices and limit social events where it could be transmitted more sporadically. Testing people coming off international flights, there is an effort to stop the virus which has recently led to Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson testing positive, after contracting it during the making of a film about Elvis being filmed in Australia.

Every couple of years we have a new strain of disease whether it be bird flu, swine flu, ebola or another contagion making headlines, which sends waves of panic, fear and uncertainty. Social media has made it easier to spread news of potential pandemics much easier, but has also brought about wildfire misinformation at the same time. Many industries have been affected by the Coronavirus, which has limited international travel, cancelled conferences and drastically affected people planning holidays, honeymoons, weddings or business overseas.

While you can understand how the hospitality trade has been adversely affected, many businesses have had to rethink their offering and even investigate their potential liability around the spread of, or infection of potential clients and customers. The film industry has been hit hard as international shoots have been halted and major film releases have had their dates delayed or postponed indefinitely. At this point, the new Bond film No Time to Die has been delayed until November, Peter Rabbit 2 has been delayed to August, A Quiet Place Part II has been delayed indefinitely and the new Fast and Furious sequel has been pushed back to next year. One wonders just how many other big releases over the next month or two will follow suite.

It seems that studios are not willing to gamble with the uncertainty of the next few weeks, which could see a rise in infection rates. Moreover, having people encouraged to go to cinemas where they could possibly get infected just seems irresponsible. As we know with film, it's a business centred around the bottom line which is selling tickets and this could be compromised by more stringent measures around cancelled social events. In Qatar, a 30-day shutdown has been instigated, which has been leveled at places of public gathering such as cinemas and theatres. Over the next few days and weeks, this shutdown could be forced upon other governments in countries in an attempt to keep the virus from spreading. So it's a wise decision for studios to delay their film releases until they have more information. While some countries have been hit worse than others, it does seem that an escalation of response is becoming overwhelmingly necessary and given the number of deaths relating to the virus is the next unavoidable step.

It's true that the fear-mongering by the media shouldn't lead people to the point of delirium around stockpiling things such as toilet paper in Australia, however the virus is serious and agencies should do whatever they can to limit its spread and save thousands of lives in the process. Many have used this opportunity to highlight some of the other major issues that go by seemingly unnoticed as murder rates, starvation and even flu deaths ratchet up radical numbers, but hopefully it will encourage people to be more conscientious about their hygiene subverting the spread of other seasonal less dangerous infections and diseases.

After reportedly losing R4.3 billion in sales in China alone, the Corona beer brand has taken a massive knock in the first two months of 2020. While they may be hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel, it's taking on much more personal and intimate significance for the many people who have lost loved ones. One thing's for certain, the world is on edge... waiting for a cure, quarantine or miracle to subvert the pandemic panic.