The capricious virus
Coronavirus continues to spread across all continents and cases continue to rise, with more than 9 million confirmed in 213 countries and territories worldwide. More than half a million people have died. Among the handful of countries that have yet to report any cases are several islands in the South Pacific, Turkmenistan and North Korea. In these last two, somehow unreliable, “zero cases” looks extremely unlikely.
We face what has surely been the most difficult moment of the 21st century in terms of health and quality of life.
If life is a box of surprises, the new coronavirus is a box of uncertainty. The volatile coronavirus knows no borders, politicians do. The disease has affected certain countries, including Brazil, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with particular ferocity. There are several enigmas of the coronavirus: why do some suffer so much and others so little? Why can it kill some and go unnoticed by others? In addition to the age, genes, viral load and drawer of previous pathologies, we do not have many certainties about the reason for the cruelty of this infamous virus. Somehow, each new infection has the ability to open its own chapter in medical textbooks.
COVID-19 deaths have evolved at different rates at each location that has received its unexpected visit. Whether the outbreak was defined from the start by a series of changing epicenters, including Wuhan, China, Iran, northern Italy, Spain, and New York; it is now defined by its wide and growing scope and there are more risks ahead as countries begin to reopen their economies.
The epicenter of the pandemic continues to move towards Latin America, which although has the advantage of a younger population, but also has informal economies and often precarious health and living conditions. It is prudent to adopt social distancing and face masks as the best measures, instead of waiting for the vaccine without being certain of the results. The poorest countries do not have the financial means and public policy coordination capacities necessary to sustain societies and economies through strict quarantines.
We see with surprise that some countries that should be overwhelmed with patients are not, leaving researchers racking their brains. Comparisons are always difficult, but some cities seem more vulnerable to its devastating spread. No place seems immune. There is evidence that people in some regions have been less quarantined and some countries have closed earlier than others, but there is no single, simple explanation for all cities.
We can cite several examples that allow us to give this nasty microorganism the nickname of “capricious”.
The first place goes to Vietnam, a nation that 50 years ago was immersed in a bloody war with the United States and now has had a historic recovery, becoming an economic and tourist force in Southeast Asia.
In Vietnam, reports of coronavirus infections have recorded just over 300, regardless of their proximity to China. Surprisingly has managed to keep its coronavirus death toll at zero , which makes it unique in the world. This country with an iron communist government, quickly quarantined a large part of its population, ordered social distancing measures and made an effort to quickly track the contacts of patients with covid-19, as soon as the focus of Wuhan, China had begun.
The Dominican Republic continues to be the worst hit country in the Caribbean by SARS-CoV-2. More than 28,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported. Haiti, which shares the same island and has a similar population, only reports around 5,000.
In the former French Indochinese peninsula, Cambodia did not impose any quarantines and has reported few cases. Thailand, with its capital Bangkok, the most visited city in the world, above Paris, London or New York and where the offense “lèse majesté” to the king is a crime sentence to jail, exhibits statistics similar to Venezuela, having twice the population density.
Japan, with the world’s oldest average population, has recorded fewer than 1,000 deaths.
Right here in our Latin American “patio next door”, the phrase “ Thanks to the hot weather, nothing will happen here”, received a bucket of cold water, with the events seen in Guayaquil, Barranquilla and Maracaibo. The virus continues to circulate among us like a masked villain.
In the 1918 “Spanish Flu”, Alaska’s Far North remote communities were saved by isolation from the world, but other communities that implemented rigid quarantine and protection measures were equally pandemic victims. Survival, it seems, can sometimes be reduced to blind luck and good fortune.
Time will pass and surely we will quickly forget this natural calamity, as soon as we leave it behind. At that point we will no longer ask ourselves so many questions and most likely, in a short time, we will be surprised to remember everything that we do not know right now.
Finally this a my last message. Let’s be optimistic and choose “the glass half full”. Most people who get the disease recover; many may never realize they ever had it. The worst virus is ignorance, denial and dismissing the recommended sanitary measures. The key to overcoming the pandemic is found in ourselves.
Originally published at https://www.elnacional.com on June 26, 2020.