Other countries and authoritative bodies have announced where they stand with regards to the coronavirus development, through concrete actions. Even as those seek to soothe and satisfy, they succeed in raising alarms at the same time.
People across the globe are worried, and with good cause. The official word here from Guyanese health stewards is that they are ready.
That should be comforting to worried Guyanese. We are not talking about hypochondriacs or those prone to overreaction at the whisper of some brewing trouble. Guyanese are worried because there is a rational fear as to the power and sweep of this disease from the distance that takes no prisoners. Worried Guyanese have been given calming assurances by Ministry of Public Health seniors that we are prepared, and that Guyana is ready.
With the respect due to such confidence-inducing pronouncements we, at this paper, ask for some specifics that should not be too difficult to deliver. Others have done so and in sturdy responses to what is a spiraling threat.
Country after country, some near to the starting point of the disease, and others some distance away from it, have reduced flights to and from the Chinese mainland, and airline unions are calling for more drastic reductions.
In efforts to get in front of this escalating threat, the US State Department took the bull by the horns to suspend flights to and from China. Also, travelers are subject to intense scrutiny, with quarantines following.
It might be viewed as overreaction, but the postures are better safe than sorry. As the Wall Street Journal of January 30 reported, “The World Health Organization declared that coronavirus is a global public health emergency.”
Anytime “global” and “emergency” are uttered in the same sentence by such a prestigious health agency, then it is time to reach for whatever defenses are at hand. It confirms reasonable fears that this is a very serious problem.
Meanwhile, the New York Times on January 31, pointed out that this disease and its spread is looked upon and responded to by American authorities with the grimness that it deserves. The corroborating caption was, “US issues ‘Red Alert’ after infections skyrocket.”
That alert is now at Level 4, which is the highest possible tier. It seems that from all around, the news and protective actions taken are within the context of the understanding that a crisis looms and only all out defensive action will suffice.
The object is to “limit” the spread of the disease, which now instills great dread.
All manner of misgivings are present here. The mood, sentiment, and outlook of what could pertain here may best be gleaned from an analysis by James Gallagher, the health and science correspondent for the BBC.
He asks the question of the moment: “What happens if this virus finds its way into a country that cannot cope?” By this, we here at this publication must be realistic and honest, if only to ask, whether Guyana would accurately belong to such a harrowing in the contemplation, category.
As Mr. Gallagher emphasized, “Many low- and middle-income countries simply lack the tools to spot or contain it.”
Our oil money is still to come, so we would qualify currently as a low-income society. The bottom-line fear is “that it could spread uncontrollably.” In view of the slow state of development at our public medical institutions, the caliber of its personnel, and the resources at the disposal, this could be an uphill fight should the virus finds its way here. These truths and realities must be faced with the frankness that the situation demands and deserves, anything less would be self-defeating.
The hope is that no such occurrence comes to pass and that this country is not subject to such a challenge.
There is the sobering reminder that, more and more, Guyana is a wide open society, with visitors from all points, and with fairly sizable contingents from China (and places in between with reported cases) going back and forth. A slip could lead to a slide of the worst proportions.
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