UNFORTUNATELY, like with every previous local, regional or international epidemic that has developed into a global pandemic in the 20th and 21st Centuries, the current Coronovirus crisis is being treated like what it isn’t.
People everywhere are caught and stuck between various levels of overreaction – from saying they fear they could just fall and die in the streets if they only see a Chinese person, to feeling this may be the beginning of the end of the world.
The fact that this latest Coronavirus originated in China has led to a virtual politicization of a health crisis to falsely portray China as threatening world health with a new and unknown disease.
But this pure anti-China propaganda flies in the face of the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) has highly complimented China for how it has handled the crisis so far.
Fact is, this latest virus, while still being traced, is a new strain of the old seasonal cold and flu-like illnesses that kill thousands everywhere every year.
In the last four decades we have seen everything from Herpes and AIDS to Bird Flu and Swine Fever, from MERS and SARS to Chikungunya and Ebola – and the new virus is so new it didn’t even have a scientific name when it was officially exposed on the last day of 2019.
In each of these cases international, regional and national health agencies have engaged in overdrive efforts to quickly inform the public of the nature of the scare and what to do to avoid affection and/or affliction.
It’s arguably argued that over-reaction is better than no reaction, but different people react differently, like everywhere.
Caribbean responses started mainly with the usual treatment of the news as a very faraway problem affecting China, too distant from this part of the world to worry about.
Our normal sense of comedic interpretations and creative imaginations of all serious global events has also gone into high gear about Coronaviruis.
As with every other global pandemic and given the level of air traffic from China every minute of every day, this one has been most effective at its base and spread quickly to every other country people fly to from China.
But scores of millions of Chinese in most affected cities had been quarantined during the world’s largest mass movement of people, the Chinese Spring Festival, when hundreds of millions travel in and out of and across China.
But while the naysayers and others simply bent on mischief in the face of crisis remained focused on making it appear this was a case of China threatening world health, people worldwide were also able to see the reality of China pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into combating the crisis, building entire hospitals within days and effectively convincing the world’s maximum health authorities it is being both transparent and boldly excessive in its commitment of money and resources to stemming the spread of the disease beyond confined borders.
Neighbouring countries have closed their borders with China and some airlines have cancelled flights to China, even though the WHO has advised against such a move as it can also delay transfer of emergency aid and equipment.
Caribbean countries have been mainly cautious, their responses ranging from wait-and-see to urgent implementation of recommended measures, including preventing cruise ships from entering ports, even though some critics predict that some countries will not allow their dependence on tourism to be reduced by adherence to stated expectations or expected actions.
Truth is, short of AIDS, the Caribbean has basically escaped all the threats that have served several other purposes, including pharmaceutical giants investing in cures that cost too much to benefit the worst victims, with medicinal costs that vary according to geography instead of need.
Governmental health bodies are expected to shock nations into quickly understanding everything about every new disease or virus, but in all the shouting nobody makes the point that at the end of January 2020 – after a full month – the rate of global infection by this Coronavirus, compared to similar previous pandemics, is only two percent (2%), which is also much less than any other.
Interestingly, no one remembers that the Spanish Flu of 1918 took as many as 50 million lives across the world, but some see nothing wrong with falsely reporting that ‘people falling are dying like flies’ in China.
Fact is, up to writing this article, I had only a two-percent chance of being afflicted by the new Coronavirus, with 100% chance of getting the everyday Common Cold, which is just a much-better-known Coronavirus than its latest relative.
But try telling that to those who only see red and yellow when they see the China flag!