The period just after the Second World War saw the churning out of comic books and movies celebrating Allied forces heroism in the war. Most of the comic books depicted British and American forces successes against German, Italian and Japanese troops in Europe, North Africa and South-East Asia.
Planted firmly in the imagination of the post-war generation was the idea that the war was essentially won on land, battlefields, beaches, jungles and deserts by soldiers and marines. The truth, however, is far different.
What took place in those arenas was the reclaiming and acquisition of territories. The real war took place secretively and behind closed doors in underground bunkers.
At one stage, England faced almost total obliteration from advancing German armies and that country’s airpower. The day was saved for England and for the Allies by the scientific community. Science was the tipping point in the war.
A group of scientists successfully broke the encrypted German communication codes. The breaking of the codes allowed British intelligence to know what the Germans were planning to do before they did it.
Some of the German operations were allowed to go ahead so as to not raise the suspicions of the Germans that their communication messages were compromised. But others were not. This scientifically-driven intelligence hacking was the tipping point in the course of the war.
The world is now engaged in another war. The enemy this time is invisible. It is deadlier than a missile. All of the affected countries have begun to deploy social distancing measures to reduce the spread of the virus.
Social distancing is vital to containing the spread of the virus. People should stay at home and only go out if absolutely necessary. They should comply with the advisories provided about washing hands, staying a safe distance from other persons and sanitizing things which they are likely to touch.
Containment will reduce the spread and save lives, but it will not win the war. This war is going to be won in the laboratories. It is going to be won by the scientists who are working on a vaccine and on treatments.
There is no cure for the coronavirus. But efforts are being accelerated to develop a vaccine. This is not likely to materialize in less than a year, because vaccines are subject to a series of clinical tests before they are authorized for public use. In the meantime, thousands more will die. The real battle therefore is against the clock.
As such, efforts are being ramped up for possible treatment options. Some of the latest developments should be of keen interest to our local doctors.
There is a drug, which is produced locally, which scientists are looking at. I will not mention the name of the drug, since Guyanese have a penchant for experimenting with both prescription and herbal medications, to their detriment.
Donald Trump had named thus drug as a possible “game-changer” in the treatment for the coronavirus. He based his assessment apparently on the results of a small study done in France. That study has come in for criticisms and some experts have warned against treatments which have not been subject to more extensive clinical tests.
A new study in China, using the same drug, on 62 persons has shown greater promise. The initial results indicate that the drug allows for faster recovery and protection from the coronavirus. But even this study has its critics.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States, however, has approved of this drug and another related one, for the treatment of critical coronavirus cases. Both of these medications can be manufactured in Guyana in large quantities.
No one expects that the drugs should be dispensed to mild cases. But if our doctors feel that they will do no harm in critical patients, would they be averse to its use on the very critical cases?
Social distancing will slow spread of the virus. But what will end the threat is science.
Scientists are working assiduously behind the scenes to develop a vaccine and treatment options. They hold the whole world’s expectations in their hands. Like they did during the Second World War, they will deliver, hopefully, sooner rather than later.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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