COVID 19 or the coronavirus is now in this country. According to latest figures issued by the Ministry of Health the number of patients testing positive for the disease has now risen to 18, with five of this number being returnees from Italy.
The sudden rise in the number of detections, the rumour mills triggered by scare stories on social media, has led to panic buying and even several altercations in super markets with frightened customers attempting to grab what they feel are essential items to ride out the coronavirus storm. The Government has in the meantime announced many preventive measures to ensure the safety and security of citizens, with quarantine centres being set up in different parts of the country and a number of hospitals readied to meet epidemic-sized outbreaks if that unfortunate situation dawns upon us.
However to combat the spread of the disease described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a global pandemic, we the citizens need to co-operate with the health authorities to prevent its spread. The ugly scenes of people, including certain religious leaders protesting the declaring of a quarantine centre in that village was an extremely selfish act -quite the opposite to what one would expect from religious leaders who are supposedly spreading the message of love and caring.
Worldwide there are now 156,766 confirmed cases of the virus in more than 50 countries and it has resulted in 6036 deaths. There is however a silver lining to every dark cloud and according to John Hopkins University, over 70,200 people who have already recovered from the virus that is now rampaging worldwide.
The epicentre of of the pandemic has now shifted from China. Europe is now the epicentre of the pandemic, the World Health Organisation Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced .There were fears that Covid-19 could infect two-thirds of the world’s population if its spread is not controlled.
Again the ‘Guardian’ reports Covid-19 is much less deadlier than other similar zoonotic viruses (animals can sometimes carry harmful germs that can spread to people and cause illness – these are known as zoonotic diseases that have transferred from animals to humans).
Presently the death rate of Covid-19 is estimated to be 1% - 2%, whereas SARS had one of more than 10%. However, the virus appears much more infectious than SARS, and consequently has already resulted in a higher number of deaths worldwide. This is where the challenge comes: Slowing its spread depends on taking disruptive action, particularly in light of the fact that not all carriers will experience easily identifiable symptoms.
After the virus took hold in Hubei province, the Chinese government took drastic measures to stop its spread across the rest of China, imposing strict quarantine measures, shutting down whole cities and transport networks. In Hubei province - where the virus was first identified - residents were forbidden from leaving their apartments without prior permission and many community officials bought and delivered food and medicines for citizens under quarantine.
Today in Italy the whole country is in lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus or COVID-19 as it is officially termed. China, a country of almost two billion people has successfully brought the virus under control. The need of the hour is therefore to take responsible action to prevent the spread of the disease.
Our own health authorities have been literally begging each and every person in the country to avoid large gatherings, cancel functions and avoid events, which bring thousands of people to particular places at a given time. The Chinese people followed the advice of their health authorities or perhaps they were forced to follow their directives and have apparently successfully brought the spread of coronavirus under control. From around 60,000 - 70,000, a few weeks ago to around eleven these past few days.
In our country we saw local head of the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, once again showing responsibility and give leadership when he decreed that the Catholic Church would not hold Holy Mass in their churches for the next two weeks, to avoid numbers of people congregating at a particular place to avoid the spread of the virus. What was particularly sad and galling however, was to witness certain leading schools ignore health warnings and go ahead with their ‘big match’ celebrations, despite the danger they were exposing to the country and to the people.
One expects ‘institutions of learning and knowledge’ to set an example to the country and the young people who are going to be the leaders of tomorrow by setting a better example.