COVID-19 update

Sense and insensitivity

posted February 05, 2020 at 12:30 am
by  Lito Banayo
"This is certainly not the time for reckless blame-throwing."



We commend actress and comedienne Pokwang, whose real name is Marietta Subong, for her good sense in slamming the anti-Chinese sentiment being fanned through social media following the emergence of the novel coronavirus in the country.

In an open letter posted on her Instagram account, the actress, addressing the Chinese, stated: “We apologize for the harsh words and the rejection we have made you feel.”

“The Philippines and its people are scared not because of you, but because we are a poor country that will suffer if ever it occurs in our land…most Filipinos do not have money even to afford to eat three square meals a day.”

“We pray for the healing of everyone in your country (especially) the children and for the benefit of everybody,” the open letter #Pray for Wuhan #Pray for China #Pray for the Philippines called.

This is certainly not the time for reckless blame-throwing, worse so, racist comments. Good sense must prevail over insensitivity towards the feelings of others.

We are a community of nations, a brotherhood of men and women who should be helping each other out in times of need.  If China has caught an ailment, by all means let us help in stopping the contagion.

In this respect, both the World Health Organization and our Department of Health, along with agencies under it and in close coordination with the Bureau of Immigration and local governments are doing their part to inform the public in taking necessary precautions which include quarantine measures, travel advisories and tracking down of possibly infected persons.

Thus far, there is yet no community transmission in the Philippines.  The identified victims are foreigners who came to the country as tourists.  Many of those quarantined and under observation have been tested negative of the new strain of virus.  The WHO regional director has assured us that a cure will soon be found, that there is no reason to panic.

More so, the government of the country where the novel coronavirus started has taken adept and immediate, even draconian measures to stop the spread of the malady. The Chinese government has been quite transparent about the virus which started in Wuhan and has spread to other provinces.  And scientists, pathologists and medical research laboratories all over the world are helping out in developing cures for the latest viral strain.

As we write, news about a cocktail of medicines used for HIV and flu were given to a Chinese patient in Thailand, and it is reported that recovery has been quick.  Let us hope this is true.  Australia is also helping in studying the 2019 nCoV strain so as to develop a cure.

* * *

In times like this, one could pine for the days when there was no such thing as social media, where news both true and fake, spreads, or is made to spread quicker than the contagion itself. 

There are elements in our society who have used the misfortune of China as a means to fan bigotry, racism, hatred.  Not only is this unfortunate; it is to be condemned.

There are those who claim that government or the president himself, has acted too late in closing our borders to the Chinese from the mainland and its Hong Kong and Macau special regions.  This is patently borne out of political reasons, malice even.

We are terribly afraid of the new virus because as Pokwang rightly stated, many of us in the country are poor and are deathly afraid of getting sick. Medication here is terribly expensive and unaffordable, and the few public hospitals that we have cannot cope with widespread contagion.

The Department of Health, on the other hand, has been quick to isolate victims and those that they may have infected; even the WHO attests to this.

In short, let us not panic.  Let us take preventive measures and remain vigilant.  Let us cooperate with the authorities.  Let us not throw blame.  And let us pray as well.

* * *

Here in Taiwan, it is noteworthy that stringent measures have been taken to prevent the spread of the 2019 nCov disease.

As early as Jan. 15, Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control identified severe pneumonia with novel pathogens as a fifth category communicable disease.  Thereafter, on Jan. 20, government established the Central Epidemic Command Center in charge of coordinating inter-agency efforts to prevent the spread of the nCoV infection.

The day after, a travel advisory was issued to avoid unnecessary travel to Wuhan and the day after, flights to Wuhan were suspended while flights to other parts of the mainland were reduced.  Later, all Chinese citizens from Hubei province were banned from entering, while Taiwanese who had been to the province were identified and effectively quarantined.

* * *

At the same time, CECC integrated agency resources and reinforced quarantine measures at airports and ports, continuously notifying the public of developments with a view to minimizing panic.

On Jan. 26, Taiwan restricted entry of Chinese citizens and urged healthcare facilities to reinforce reporting of suspected cases, with the public abiding by preventive measures.  On Jan. 27, all entry permit applications of Chinese citizens for tourism purpose were suspended.  The following day, a travel advisory on unnecessary travel to all parts of China was issued.

Last Saturday, Taiwan imposed a 14-day self-quarantine rule on those who had a travel history to Guangdong and banned Chinese nationals living in the province from entering.

These and subsequent notices are widely disseminated so that public is informed, and the people are reasonably assured.  Still, there has been panic buying of disinfectants and face masks, and just like in the Philippines, there have been shortages of such.

Prospectively, the effects on both our domestic economy and worldwide of this unfortunate contagion will be profound.

The Chinese economy, already on slowdown path, will retreat further.  Losing $400 billion in stock value the first day the exchanges opened after the Lunar New Year is a shocker, and the trend is expected to continue.

Our tourism numbers will take a major hit, but in the mainland, the effect will be tremendous.  Supply chains will be disrupted, affecting almost every economy in the world.

And yet the feng shui predictions say that the Year of the Metal Rat will be a new and “good” beginning for the decade.

Oh well, so much  for predictions.

Topics: Lito Banayo , Pokwang , Marietta Subong , novel coronavirus , 2019-nCoV , Chinese , China , World Health Organization , Department of Health
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