THE best way to understand what’s happening, and to act appropriately, is that we are in the midst, or just approaching the zenith, of a deadly, invisible superstorm that is engulfing the globe.
It has roared through China, and has advanced into Europe. It is not clear whether Asia, especially Southeast Asia, including us, is the next target, or whether the superstorm has exhausted itself, with some thinking — or hoping — that it would dissipate like influenza toward summer.
We as families have absolutely no choice but to stay home and avoid any other social contact. If we haven’t yet been infected with the virus, then we don’t push our luck and go out to be infected. If we are infected, then it’s practically a crime if we still go out and spread the virus. If we don’t know whether we’re infected or not, then reason tells us not to put our fate and that of others to chance.
It’s really as simple as that. We wait for the storm to pass, for the virus to die a natural death.
Of course it’s not that as simple as that for the government, which is the only real power on earth with the authority and resources to intervene for the welfare of its citizens. There is no perfect playbook for dealing with the kind of crisis the coronavirus disease 2019, or Covid-19, has brought upon us. And its virulence has been horrific, astounding the best minds on earth.
This administration’s attempt on Monday to lock down metropolitan Manila created horrendous crowds at the borders — a perfect situation for super-carriers to spread around the virus. Similar was the mistake of the Las Piñas government to distribute food to its citizens at its city hall, which of course made them gather there. These are lessons government must learn. The traffic seems to be easing as Filipinos have realized that government is serious in sealing off the metropolis, and don’t bother testing its will.
That bird-brained communist front pretending to be a research group astoundingly didn’t appreciate the Marxist theory they embrace, complaining that the Luzon-wide quarantine will hit the poor hardest, as they can’t work.
Haven’t they heard that this is a class society? Whether it is massive flooding, a “Yolanda”-scale typhoon, a volcano eruption, it will be the poorest that will be hit hard, with the poor forced to live in their homes, while the rich can hunker down in hotels, if ever their mansions are destroyed.
The poor in a class society will be the first and the worst hit by calamities and even a government intervention to confront those disasters. A responsible government is one bold enough to undertake policies that would have a necessary initial adverse effect on the poorest — such as closing down schools, work places public transport, and even sealing off the rich but crowded metropolis from the other less urban, poorer but probably less infected regions.
Government and we citizens must find ways to feed the poorest during this calamity, for instance, by distributing rice and the most basic viands house to house, undertaken through the barangay or by the middle class and of course the rich to give their employees finances to buy food during this crisis. The Catholic Church and its main rival the Iglesia ni Cristo must also distribute food within their parishes or lokals. What on earth are they doing with their riches?
As bird-brained is the effort of an egomaniac, who has written nothing good about the Philippines, who claimed we have been unable to respond effectively to the Covid-19 crisis, and that the “Philippines ignored neighbors’ lessons on how to tackle coronavirus,” such as banning immediately the Chinese entry into the country. A half-Iranian writer writes in a Japanese business news outlet to spread lies and shame us before the world.
It is so sad that even as this crisis grips the entire planet, this writer with a little, but completely anti-China mind, blames Duterte’s independent foreign policy as subservience to China. Such a stance isn’t surprising though, since this writer is on the payroll of virulently anti-China former Foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, paid through his ADR-Stratbase Institute where the half-Iranian is a “resident fellow” — read: paid a regular fee.
This half-Iranian should get the facts. Our Covid-19 status is better than those of our neighbors of similar size in population. Indonesia has had a total of 227 cases, with total new cases in the past 10 days (March 9 to March 18) of 172. For Thailand the comparable figures are 212 and 135, Malaysia 790 and 580. (See accompanying table.)
This half-Iranian admires Singapore and Taiwan for their handling of the Covid-19 crisis, ignoring the fact that these are island states with small populations of 6 million and 24 million (as against our 105 million), and therefore easier for their governments to lock down and tighten health-monitoring of their citizens.
The data more importantly makes me optimistic that we will ride out this storm. Two-and-half-months since Covid-19 broke out (using end 2019 as starting point), we have only 202 cases, while those in Italy, Spain and the United States have been virtually out of control, numbering in the tens of thousands. While the number of new cases daily in these European countries have been in the thousands in the past 10 days, we’ve only had 181.
There are reasons to theorize that we are over the hump. Schools, voluntarily or by orders of government, had been shut down starting January 27, more than a month ago. Until now, schools in the US have not been closed while those in Europe only in mid-February.
The early closures could have been crucial. There had been elation that the virus didn’t seem to be seriously infecting children, and there wasn’t a single case of death of one to three-year olds due to Covid-19.
But there has arisen a frightening theory: children may be the innocent carriers of Covid-19, and yet have not been sick of it nor even been displaying symptoms. Schools may have become the pools nourishing the virus and transferring it from one family to another. Catching Covid-19 in school, the toddlers then very innocently bring to their homes the deadly virus. They are kissed profusely, which transfers the virus to all the family members, especially to the most vulnerable, the grandparents.
One thesis that has been proposed to explain the astounding spread of the virus in Italy and Spain is that these are countries where grandparents normally live with their children’s families. They therefore have been prone to catching the virus brought home by their grandchildren.
My optimism is also due to the fact that we share this relatively low incidence of Covid-19 cases with countries with which we have qualities in common. An immunity developed over millennia among Southeast Asians, who mostly have Chinese DNA mixed with the indigenous population? A coconut-based diet, confirming the longstanding claims that coconut oil has anti-bacterial, anti-viral properties? A warm climate close to the sea, the sun frying the virus dead?
I certainly hope I’m right.