Viral scare

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph T. Gonzales (The Freeman) - March 1, 2020 - 12:00am

After the first three cases of coronavirus patients, it's still zero for the Philippines?

I somehow feel dread, not relief, with this news. While the cases reported abroad are mushrooming, here nobody is getting sick! How propitious.

I would attribute this to many reasons, the most plausible is that Filipinos getting sick aren't being tested or seeking treatment for it. So, left undiagnosed, they are getting well on their own, all the while spreading the virus left and right. When we eventually find out the real score, COVID-19 would have blazed like wildfire, and the contagion won't be easily contained.

I know, such a gloomy prognosis. But how else to explain the absence of bad news (Enter a conspiracy theorist saying the government is keeping the bad news from the public, that patients are dying quietly in hospitals while being given falsified death certificates, and that hospitals are being forced to cooperate with the media blackout to control panic. Much like the Wuhan anecdotes of mass incinerations and corpses left lying on the ground)?

There’s now a rumor that Pinoys are so resilient to flu viruses that COVID-19 is chickenfeed. Would that this were true. Otherwise, the mortality rate (between 2% to 4%) is frightening. To add insult to injury, it seems the virus disproportionately affects men above the age of 50. So guess why the Chinese Communist Party, composed of either old or even more ancient men, locked down entire cities?

If I were above 50, I would be concerned too (please, no indignant email at this subtle untruth).

Even without confirmation COVID-19 is here, best to take precautions. Probably everyone has already received the necessary health advice now, so we should just implement it. This would be a good juncture to stress exactly that point (implementation) since after the initial health scare, when masks quickly ran out and city streets were filled with mask wearers, public apprehension seems to have quickly disappeared. Life returned to normal, with parties, art fairs, and concerts proceeding as planned. How we all quickly forget.

That was the drumbeat of my thoughts while on a plane today, and the girl behind me kept coughing and sniffling. And she wasn't wearing a mask! My companion remarked how, if she were an airport official, she would have denied boarding to the cougher. In my annoyance, I exclaimed how, if I were the cougher's boyfriend, I would have dumped her there and then.

My friends laughed. And yeah, I got personal. But you get my point. This is when we should be most vigilant, and avoid crowded places to prevent transmissions and infections (Mama Mary forgive me for going to that birthday party and attending that dinner and going to that art exhibit - I will do better).

Back to the puzzle. Given all the workers from China flooding our workplaces, and all the Chinese tourists in our resorts and hotels, why have the cases been confined to only three? During Chinese New Year, Singapore's hotels recorded virus patients from mainland China landing. During that same period, when the same demographic proceeded came here for holiday festivities - our hotels didn't get any?

Now, it is South Korea's turn to unearth coronavirus cases. And Cebu has just received at least 25 Daegu travelers, and a mad scramble to locate them has unfolded. Hopefully, none of them tests positive. But if one does, given this smaller sampling, chances are that the earlier mainland Chinese invasion should have yielded a greater number of positives.

The virus is here. We are just woefully, even deliberately ignorant, of its presence.

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