Fighting blindfolded


    WE can never go back to life before COVID.

    First, because the virus will never be gone from the Earth, at least not for the immediate future. It will, I suspect, live on in pockets of population centers around the globe, mutating as it gets transmitted from human to human, hopefully encountering some form of “herd immunity” as it goes along.

    But we can never go back to life BC because we will now be more fearful of, and hopefully better prepared for, a future virus outbreak. Because this one will not be the last, for sure.

    And the next one, if we don’t watch out, could wipe out all of humankind.

    There’s a Discovery Channel special on the outbreak that I’ve watched over and over again, taking notes along the way. From the special, I’ve gotten this as the timeline: It was on December 8 that the first case was reported in Wuhan. On December 31, China alerts the WHO. On January 9, the first death caused by the virus occurs in Wuhan and about three days later Chinese scientists identify the virus.

    Up to this point no one has any idea how virulent it was. It was on January 20 that Dr Zhong Nanshan, China’s expert epidemiologist, announces that the virus can be transmitted from human to human; five days before that, the first case outside of China was reported, in Bangkok, Thailand. On January 23-24, China begins shutting down Wuhan and Hubei province, and by January 31 the WHO declares a global health emergency.

    The whole world wasn’t prepared for a virus as transmissible as this one. What makes it scarier is that it may be that there are asymptomatic carriers of the virus among us who could be infecting others far more vulnerable to the disease.

    Because we do not have the means to test people, we are fighting this virus blindfolded.

    The record will show that different countries reacted to the news from China in different ways. Some reacted aggressively (Singapore and South Korea, for example) while others were dismissive. How governments reacted – or did not react – is the reason why more people are infected and/or dead in some countries than in others.

    I’ve reviewed my Facebook posts. As early as January 28 I was asking if claims that the Philippines has zero cases was accurate given that Thailand was already counting double digits. My curiosity stemmed from the fact that both our countries are favorite destinations for mainland Chinese travelers.

    A day later I again asked on Facebook if the DOH won’t just admit that it didn’t have the capability to test for the virus.

    Those posts were 60 days ago. Two full months. We began our first community quarantine on March 14. By then, a month-and-a-half had been lost.

    How many lives have we lost as a result?

    So now we all have to ride this out by staying home and giving our doctors and scientists a chance to catch up. But with what? If not for private-sector donations, what equipment do our health care workers have to use? And then they get insulted with offers by the DoH of P500/day for doctors? To risk their lives for us after government bungled the response?

    Think about this: As of today more people have died from COVID-19 than from either the Maguindanao massacre or the Mamasapano tragedy. And the number will still grow.

    It’s too late to be angry now. Maybe there will be time for that again later. In the meantime, it’s time to adjust to the new normal. And to plan how to clean up this one big mess when all these are over.


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