The rest of the world is unsettled and on edge, when the latest reports are absorbed. Yet, the sense here is that this coronavirus threat is over there, way over there and, therefore, we may not be as concerned or as committed as we ought to be, whether at the official level or that of the individual.
If this is indeed the case, then it should be distanced from quickly, and all the stops pulled out to prepare and protect against this troubling health scare, which instils growing dread in more than a few places.
The World Health Organization is concerned, and deeply so. According to an article in Bloomberg dated February 10th, “WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus voiced concern over the spread from people with no travel history to China, saying “we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg.”
There are two alarms in that stark warning from the head of the WHO. First, there is that phrase of “no travel history to China.” The hard question and sharp concern that must be faced head-on is this: if there is no travel history and no physical connection, then are there other places unconnected by any route (land, air, sea) to China, which could be the source of this ballooning problem? Because if it is so, then what is the world really facing at this time and what could be done to identify and contain it before things get out of hand? More pointedly, we do ask: can this virus be contained?
Let’s be clear here: we at this paper have no interest in spiking anxieties, since we already have enough of them to spare. But we have a duty to convey awareness and, hopefully, increase the level of local interest and precautionary measures that should be put in place in a sensible and practical manner.
We have no less an authority than WHO Director General Ghebreyesus, who was prompted to state publicly that what is known about coronavirus, in terms of numbers and sources, is “the tip of the iceberg.” The WHO leader is not supposed to be a sensationalist or an alarmist, and he is far from either. But this health issue has the grim results that attest to its frighteningly unknown nature.
From the New York Times edition of February 10th, there is reporting of 97 coronavirus-related deaths in a single day in China, which is a number to give the shakes. Also, that the reported cases of the virus on a cruise ship in Japan have almost doubled to number over 130 such victims.
In addition, over in distant Europe, and according to a BBC story on February 10th, “The UK government has declared coronavirus a “serious and imminent threat” to public health, and announced new powers to fight its spread.” This is only after a mere four reported cases of the sickness in the UK. The British are not the kind of people to panic easily, if at all, but its health stewards are taking urgent and preemptive steps to get in front of the fight against what is feared can spread out of control rapidly, and with dire implications.
Among the steps that can be implemented are “People can now be forcibly quarantined or sent into isolation and will not be free to leave under the new measures.” This is tough thinking and still tougher acting, should circumstances so necessitate. It may not be too farfetched of a recommendation, which this paper makes, that Guyanese health officials be ready to institute earlier than later. At the very least, it has to be on the table of options considered.
This is not the time to panic or to shrink, but we must also be concerned enough not to be casual or careless, but especially vigilant. This applies equally to citizens and coordinators and captains in the health sector. It is better to be safe than sorry, and this means that it is better that the most discretion be exercised. It is time to take awareness and preparedness to another level, be those at our ports of entry, in our schools and communities, or in the crowded places of our daily commerce.
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