Taking the risk with Covid-19

By Modesto P. Sa-onoy

I watched on television deserted streets of once busy streets of northern Italy. This was the same scene last month in Shanghai and several other cities in China. Northern Italy and several provinces in China had been locked down and citizens come out to buy food and necessities in rotation. Such a life was not seen even during World War II unless the bombs and artillery fires rained on the city.

The lockdown has made prisoners of the citizens but there is really no choice. Now Metro Manila schools are closed for a week and one mayor suggested that the Department of Education just pass all the students rather than make them come back after a week. That sounds logical because perhaps next week the situation will get worse.

The World Health Organization has now admitted that the continuing spread of the virus has reached the level of a pandemic. Almost every country in the world has reported the presence of the virus.

Thank God and the advances in medicine and health care and the fast responses of the governments to prevent the spread of the disease, the world has been  spared the deaths of the Spanish flu level that ironically, hit the world in 1918, a little over a hundred years ago.

That pandemic infected three out of the entire human population and over 17 million people died in the process. Some estimates run up to over 100 million people. The reason for this wide variation in the estimate is faulty reporting and recording and the governments do not have time to record the casualties. Some photographs show the mass burial of hundreds in a common grave.

Data shown last week on television says that the Spanish flu killed more Americans than all the wars that the United States had fought – from the revolution to the world wars and up the Vietnam and Afghanistan war.

The disease was not really from Spain but because the world was at war, deaths from the disease were censored to prevent the enemy from knowing. However, during World War I Spain as not involved so that information about the pandemic was reported from that country. Thus, Spain got the dishonor as if it was the origin of the flu.

The world has learned the cause of the spread of the coronavirus so that the immediate reaction is to prevent human contact. Entire provinces are locked down, transports are limited and every person that moves from one place to another undergoes a check and placed under quarantine.

Reports say that the Department of the Interior and Local Government directed the City of Bacolod to rescind its order last month banning the docking of ships from Hong Kong, Macau and the Special Administrative Region of China. The city directive was precautionary but DILG must have a soft heart for the Chinese that Bacolod was told to rescind its order. Of course, Bacolod relented and so the city is exposed to the virus.

We suggest that DILG personnel be tasked to deal with these Chinese vessels so that they can show to the world they have complete trust that the Chinese do not carry the virus, if not in the personnel, in the cabins of the ship.

Note for instance the report yesterday: The battle to halt the coronavirus brought sweeping new restrictions Monday, with Italy expanding a travel ban to the entire country, Israel ordering all visitors quarantined just weeks before Passover and Easter, and Spain closing all schools in and around its capital.

Are we better than these countries or is the DILG placing us at risk to please the Chinese whose businesses are adversely affected by the ban to enter our port? Here we have the DILG citing an order issued last month.

The situation last month has changed. In fact, President Rodrigo Duterte declared only last week a state of public health emergency due to the local transmission of the 2019 coronavirus disease.

The situation relative to the spread of this disease is changing by the day and the best antidote is to anticipate its spread and block it before it grows. The millions of deaths from the Spanish flu was due to secrecy and the denial mode of the government.

Instead of blindly complying Mayor Leonardia should seek reconsideration of DILG’s directive.