Good neighborliness


    NOT so long ago the current Health Secretary, Francisco Duque III, very publicly stated that he was against the idea of banning the entry of Chinese visitors because it would have serious diplomatic and political repercussions.

    I read that as him saying it was fine to risk having some Filipinos come down with the Wuhan coronavirus because we could not risk offending China. (How else will you put it?)

    And I read that as sending China this clear message: “we are with you here.”

    The cynical ones will even add “even at the expense of our own people.”

    Then the shit hit the fan. A woman from Wuhan flew into the Philippines from Hong Kong, partied in Cebu and toured Dumaguete before flying to Manila where she fell ill and was confined. The findings? She was afflicted with the Wuhan coronavirus. She had passed the airport screening for fever – which apparently is unable to detect those with the visit but are still asymptomatic!

    Thankfully, she has been (slowly) recovering at San Lazaro.

    I first feared that she had been to Cebu to join the Sinulog, but she arrived on Jan. 21, two days too late. So the Sinulog crowds were spared of her “infectious” presence. But how many did she come into contact with? We don’t know, but something else we know now.

    The man she was with throughout her journey has now become the first casualty of the Wuhan coronavirus outside of China, giving the Philippines the right to claim fraternal solidarity with our big neighbor.

    But his case is worse than the shit hitting the fan – because he had first tested negative for the virus.

    Now he is dead.

    The Singapore-based news agency Channel News Asia reports that in China fatalities are being cremated immediately, with burials being banned. That’s how firmly China is addressing this issue trying to contain “community spreading”. In contrast, a month after the disease was first reported in China and more than a week after China imposed a lockdown on travel in and out of Wuhan, our current health secretary was more concerned about offending Beijing than allowing the entry of “carriers.”

    Like the now-deceased man who first tested negative.

    As if to make up for lost time, the current health secretary advised the President of the Philippines to announce last Jan. 31 that all travel to Wuhan were being banned. Jeesas. China closed off Wuhan on Jan. 25 – or was that 21? So what was there to ban?

    And in one more act of good neighborliness the chairman of the Senate committee on health, Christopher Go, objected to singling out the Chinese, saying it was unfair since many other countries were also reporting cases. Which is true. At the outset Australia had 3, Singapore 2, Canada 2, America 2, Japan 2, Korea 2 and China 5,000.
    So why unfairly single out China?

    You see, no one practices good neighborliness better that Filipinos. Good neighborliness that even trumps logic.