Love in the time of nCoV
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - February 11, 2020 - 12:00am

To say that it has been a very trying start of the year would, once again, be a severe understatement. Many people have written off January (the seemingly endless month) as a trial period for 2020 and are hoping that things will improve as we move along. Unfortunately, it seems as if the problems of January are bleeding into February and it doesn’t look like they are going to abate any time soon.

Thankfully Taal remains quiet for now. We still need to keep an eye out for any activity, but at least for the moment, it seems to have calmed down. The same can’t be said for the novel coronavirus though which continues to spread and sow fear and uncertainty in the Philippines and around the world.

At this point, containment is the biggest priority as the virus has already spread past China into several other countries. Health organizations around the world are focused on slowing down the virus progression in the hopes that they have more time to develop a vaccine/cure before more people get infected and infect others. That’s the goal, but the reality is that the virus is spreading much faster then they anticipated and it’s a constant race against the clock.

And a race against the spread of misinformation. I think one of the major problems concerning the novel coronavirus is all the fake news that is circulating about it. This makes it that much harder for real, relevant, and important news to be seen and circulated. As much as possible we need to confirm information before we share it. After all, being careful is one thing, but instigating unnecessary widespread panic is another. And it won’t help. It will only make things worse.

We can already see this fear and panic gripping several countries – ours included. Panic buying of food and supplies is happening in Singapore and even here in the Philippines. Alcohol is running low and face masks are wiped out in most stores. Indeed, between Taal and nCov it seems as though face masks are going to be the norm for quite a while.

Especially since the latest news is that Chinese officials have confirmed that the coronavirus is now airborne. What was once said to be only transmitted through direct transmission (coming into contact with droplets from a person infected through sneezing or coughing) or contact transmission (touching something infected by a person with nCov and then touching eyes, mouth, or nose), is now mixing with droplets in the air to cause aerosols which cause infection after inhalation. This just adds another layer to the care people must take to avoid getting infected.

How does this affect us moving forward? We have already been warned to steer clear of crowds, try to avoid public places when possible, and be vigilant with hand washing, alcohol, and hygiene and we will need to continue to double down on these measures and make sure we are consistent. Change out masks when they get old and remember to try to keep our bodies healthy – eat as well as possible, take our vitamins, and sleep and rest as much as we can. 

Another important consideration for us Filipinos is less physical contact. This is going to be hard for us as we are used to hugging, shaking hands, holding hands, or making beso. Not to mention, February is “love month” – a time when physical affection is at its peak.

This is all going to have change for the time being. People are recommended to forego hugging, kissing, and shaking hands for the foreseeable future for safety. And it’s something that others mustn’t take personally. It’s not meant to be an insult – it’s just for the sake of safety, or as I suggested in my title – it’s just love in the time of the coronavirus. For now, we should especially instruct our children to be more careful and not pester them to give aunts and uncles and more kisses and hugs like most Filipinos normally do. We can never be too careful.

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The much-awaited Oscars award show was yesterday and I have to say that several milestone moments occurred. One of the biggest ones was that the Korean film Parasite bagging four of the six awards they were nominated for including the big prizes like Best Picture and Best Director. This win makes them the very first foreign language film to nab the prize. And in a time when Asians have been trying to get more representation in Hollywood, this is a very big deal indeed.

In the end, representation and “being seen” so-to-speak were important themes during this particular Oscars ceremony. Times are changing – and not just for the motion picture industry – but for the world in general. Gone are the days when we could pretend that there was only one view that mattered or that one type of person or one type of voice should be held above the rest.

I think Joaquin Phoenix said it best in his Best Actor acceptance speech when he implored everyone to be more open and understanding and accepting of one another, to honor our ties to nature and to be more respectful of them. Now is the time to recognize that we need to be united not divided and that now, more than ever, we need to “create and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and the environment.”

And then he ended it by remembering his brother River and sharing one of the most appropriate quotes we should live by – “run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.” There’s definitely more than enough hate in the world right now, let’s try to fill it positivity and peace instead.

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