Let’s consider a moment from the Middle Ages.
Of course, people in the Middle Ages didn’t think they were living in “the Middle Ages.” That term was invented during the Renaissance to denote the era between Late Antiquity (after the fall of the Roman Empire) and the writers’ own era.
“Dangers were held to lurk at every turn. Devils would settle on the food that monks were about to eat, and would take possession of the bodies of incautious feeders who omitted to make the sign of the Cross before each mouthful.”
Then, as now, pervasive fear was a very effective way to control people. If you terrify people and then promise them safety, they’ll do whatever you tell them, no matter how unscientific or nonsensical. Even highly intelligent people are vulnerable, because fear hampers their ability to use their intelligence.
Subsitute “viruses” for “Devils” and “face burqas” for “the sign of the Cross” and it’s pretty much the same now as it was back then.