by Lottie Ennis
When I watched Contagion during the first England lockdown, I was shocked at the similarities between the film and the real life ongoing pandemic. Contagion features a mystery illness which spreads around the world causing absolute chaos. The illness in Contagion is spread through respiratory droplets and fomites as is Covid- 19 and also brings the world to a halt. The virus in Contagion is much deadlier than Covid-19, with a mortality rate of 25-30% and about 26 million people die from the film’s virus worldwide. However, even though at the moment the worldwide death toll for Covid-19 is predicted at about 1.67 million worldwide with a mortality rate of about 1%, which is less than in the film, the devastation it has caused seems quite similar to the devastation shown in the film. The unpredictability of Covid-19 which seems to affect older people more severely, but also leaves some young healthy people seriously ill or dead is terrifying, as well as its lethality to BAME people specifically.
The spread of misinformation in the film is also eerily similar to some of the misinformation spreading at the moment. In Contagion, a conspiracy theorist posts claims about a miracle cure online, causing violence as people desperately try to find it. Similarly, Donald Trump called the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine ‘game changers’ despite these medicines only really being used for lupus and malaria. A man living in Phoenix, Arizona died after taking this medication due to these false claims. Furthermore, false and misleading claims about the vaccine may end up slowing down the process, meaning more people die when they do not have to due to a lack of vaccine take-up. Not only is there a lot of misinformation about the vaccine, conspiracy theories about 5G and the relation to Covid-19 have gained popularity with a lot of people believing they are connected. Not only do the people in the film have to tackle the virus and misinformation, there is also a lot of violence and panic-buying as people stock up on essentials. Similarly, in this post Covid-19 era we are living in today, there was a lot of panic -buying around the world and I’m sure the empty aisles we saw during the first UK lockdown will stay with us for a long time.
Although the virus featured in Contagion is much deadlier than Covid-19, some scenes in the film have been repeated in real life. Like in the UK where the NHS Nightingale hospitals were set up to host thousands of Covid-19 patients, Contagion features similar style hospitals with row after row of beds to house the sick. Despite these extra hospitals, in reality a lot of people have died from Covid-19 and occasionally there has been video footage of the poor storage of dead bodies as countries are struggling to house the corpses. In Contagion there are similar problems as the film’s virus is so contagious it kills people very quickly. Contagion was carefully researched before filming as the creators wanted to make it as accurate as possible, however it is clear that even with the less contagious and less deadly real-life virus, that a similar level of chaos happens.
2020 really does seem like a dystopian film but hopefully with the use of a vaccine, social-distancing and a much less deadly virus, we will come off better than those in Contagion.