AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - February 3, 2020 - 12:00am

Chinese New Year celebrations were rudely interrupted with the outbreak of the deadly Novel Coronavirus. The New Year did not start as we expected it to become. It became a disastrous experience with the attack of the virus not only in China but also the whole world. Chinese fortunetellers say that the Rat is the first sign from the 12 animals cycle. So, year 2020 is considered a year of new beginnings and renewals. The Metal Rat will deliver new experiences with favorable outcomes.

China being a very large country and powerful one at that has always made the world feel that she is the “mighty” one. The all-powerful ruler, Xi Jinping has three positions: (1) general secretary of the Communist Party’s Central Committee; (2) head of China’s ruling organization; (3) chairman of the Party’s Central Military Commission. He has consolidated his power by ending the presidential term limit. During the 19th Communist Party National Congress, he also broke convention by preventing the designation of his successor. Truly he has ignored Communist Party norms. He wants absolute power and no one can stop him.But critics have openly stated that his actions have caused the country’s party-system to weaken.By centralizing power, China is appearing to become “weak as well as hostile and dangerous” to borrow the words of Gordon G. Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China.

So talk about “renewals” and “new beginnings” – will this revelation of the Novel Coronavirus change how Xi Jinping looks at things? Will it soften his heart and make him more human?Will God intervene and save the world not only from this dangerous virus but also from an apparently dangerous leader?

Doesn’t this just remind us of an Armageddon? Yes, the place where the last battle between good and evil will be fought before the Day of Judgment. Abangan!

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When the virus became known in December, why didn’t authorities put a stop to it? Why did they seem to have hidden it? Wasn’t it already becoming a pandemic? Cities in China even before last week knew that it was a deadly virus but they were silent about it. Yes, there seemed to be a complete blackout on the matter. The Chinese government was playing very, very low key on it. Whether they wanted to cover it up or didn’t want the people to panic, they should have spoken to warn everyone. In fact, in early January, there was an unusual number of people in Hong Kong already wearing face masks. Tourists continued to enter the island and officials never gave them warnings. In Wuhan province alone, hospitals kept mum about the problem. Reports say that long before the lockdown of the province, thousands have already left. How true? Sanamagan!

Everyone is closely watching Wuhan city, the epicenter of the virus. People in different countries are actually checking on daily flight arrivals tracing passengers who may have originated from Wuhan. There is a stigma set on Wuhan but data also shows that indeed, people infected are those who have come from the province. The province should strongly enforce the lockdown. There should be a strict enforcement of travel ban whether it be on trains, planes or automobiles. Sanitation and hygiene, disinfecting and a stop to eating wild animals must be their priority not only in Wuhan but around the world for that matter.

There is truth in the saying, “cleanliness is next to godliness.”We must make sure our body is clean. Grooming and bathing is essential. Washing of hands and mouth and cleaning of ears and nails is vital. Wearing clean clothes is a part of keeping us healthy. Keeping our environment clean and hygienic is crucial.

Our wet markets are very dirty. Restaurants and their kitchens must always prescribe the highest sanitary conditions. We should make sure that the food that enters our body is clean. Experimenting on eating wild animals could be fatal as we have already noted. Most of all, don’t forget that being clean is a sign of spiritual purity or goodness.

Wuhan, the center of the outbreak has built two new hospitals with beds for a total of 2,300 people. The quarantine hospital was built using prefabricated elements and opens this week, 10 days after construction began. According to reports its design is based on the Xiaotangshan Hospital that was built within a week in Beijing during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

Over the weekend, China’s National Health Commission reported that the death toll has hit 304 and 14,000 patients are confirmed to have been infected by the virus.Most of the latest fatalities are from Hubei province where the city of Wuhan is located. Numbers continue to increase. As of February 1, 2020, the following confirmed cases have been reported in other countries: ASIA – Thailand (19), Japan (15), Singapore (16), Taiwan (10), Malaysia (8), Republic of Korea (12), United Arab Emirates (4), Vietnam (5), Cambodia (1), Nepal (1), India (1), and Sri Lanka (1). EUROPE – Germany (7), France (6), Italy (2), United Kingdom (2), Russia (2), Finland (1), Spain (1), and Sweden (1). AMERICA – US (7) and Canada (4). OCEANIA – Australia (10).

Last week, the Philippines confirmed its first case of novel coronavirus. She is a 38-year old woman who traveled to the Philippines from Wuhan, China via Hong Kong. She is among the 29 people being monitored by the Department of Health (DOH): Metro Manila – 18, Central Visayas – 4, Western Visayas – 3, MIMAROPA -1, Eastern Visayas – 1, Northern Mindanao – 1, and Davao – 1. In a breaking news yesterday, the Department of Health announced the country’s first death of a patient who tested positive for novel coronavirus, the first death reported outside China.

If the President does not seriously confront this problem and carefully act on this immediate concern, we can end up with a health disaster at hand. He should impose non-negotiable rules on airlines so that they are required to follow. Other countries like the United States, Australia and Vietnam have already taken extreme measures in denying entry of passengers from China. Noncitizens cannot enter their countries while citizens are quarantined. Vietnam in particular, barred almost all flights from and to mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau until May 1. At this point, the health risk should be our top priority. The airline industry can manage to survive even without China – that’s for sure.

Esperanza Cabral, who served as head of the Department of Health in 2010, acknowledged the speed of 2019-nCoV’s spread compared to previous viral diseases. She pointed out that the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS outbreak in 2003 took nine months to infect less than 10,000 people. In contrast, the number of 2019-nCoV infections are close to 10,000 in just a month.

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