Real risks
THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - February 12, 2020 - 12:00am

Doctor Li Wenliang, the ophthalmologist from Wuhan, China, who first expressed concern over the new coronavirus in December 2019, has died from the disease. He and eight other doctors who co-discovered the virus were actually punished by the local police for spreading rumors. He eventually was infected with nCoV and died. Dr. Li Wenliang was hailed a hero on the Chinese social media platform while anger was expressed at Beijing over their handling of the crisis. More and more voices are criticizing officials and asking for more action to stop the spread of the virus. When did we just find out about it?

Even the doctor's death seems to have been kept under wraps but as soon as social media picked it up the World Health Organization heard about it and mourned the loss of the good doctor. Such is the risk faced by those in the frontlines in this current battle. We pray they stay strong as they fight to contain the spread. To date, more than 800 people have died in China while more than 37,000 people have been infected. An American has died in Wuhan. Of the coast of Yokohama, Japan, 136 passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship have become positive for the disease. There are more than 3,700 people on board who have remained under quarantine with many feeling they are at greater risk of being infected due to the confined space. Holland America's Westerdam was finally allowed to dock and disembark its passengers after no cases of the coronavirus were recorded.

The spread of nCoV can no longer be taken lightly. One may dismiss it as self-limiting but how many lives will it take before even doing so? It is difficult to know how many people traveled out of Hubei Province just before the outbreak. They could have been incubating the disease before proceeding to their respective destinations. Back home, the town of Capas, Tarlac, is asking the government to reconsider its plan of housing our countrymen from China to the New Clark City as a quarantine area for two weeks to ensure they are not infected. Local residents have expressed apprehension and even anger at the plan, prompting the DILG to sanction those officials who blocked the government's plan.

This is what an infectious health crisis does. It isolates people, it shuns people. It most likely brings out the not-so-nice in people. I will not assign blame to those who are overly cautious. I will call out those taking the disease lightly. We may be better equipped to confront diseases but it is not a reason to trivialize it. We have seen what happens when a virus establishes a foothold in a place, the spread is rapid. And with a vaccine still months or even a year or two in development, being overly cautious is not bad at all.

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