I’m beginning to feel as if I’ve woken up in an alternative universe. It’s hard to fathom that a bowl of bat soup consumed in a Chinese market could result in millions of humans being forcibly quarantined en masse at pain of arrest or that family pets, wrongly suspected of being virus carriers, being thrown out of windows to their death.
Suddenly offering one’s hand in greeting is now an affront while kisses are potential lethal weapons. Employees who can are advised to work from home. Schools, universities, museums and tourist venues are closing. Sporting and entertainment events are being cancelled.
There’s a chance that Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will have to be postponed. Global markets are tumbling. We are in uncharted territory, told to keep a safe distance from our fellow humans.
Who could have imagined a mere few months ago that cabin-fever-ridden Italians would take to their balconies to connect with their neighbours in song or that crazed shoppers would resort to physical fights over the humble toilet roll.
The sight of former super model Naomi Campbell armed with anti-bacterial wipes and clad in a hazmat suit before taking a flight speaks volumes about just how fearful many people are. Flights are being diverted all because someone sneezes or coughs causing a panic.
President Donald Trump no longer writes off the dangers of COVID-19 as a hoax perpetrated by evil Democrats intent on bringing him down. He has finally declared a national emergency and taken the test. But when will it hit home that in our interconnected, interdependent world his America First policies are unrealistic.
We are all in the same boat. Surely governments should come together to formulate global policies rather than pulling up the drawbridge or engaging in the blame game.
It is discouraging that Italy, recognised as the virus’s epicentre in Europe, pled with fellow EU states to offer material assistance under a special European Crisis Mechanism and was ignored. It was China that came to the rescue with a team of medical advisers along with 31 tons of medical supplies.
Praise for China
China appears to be well on the way to nipping this virus in the bud and while Beijing’s quick action is being praised by World Health Organisation officials, the country is invariably demonised on Western television networks for its authoritarian practices and breaches of human rights.
I would have thought that keeping a population of 1.4 billion healthy is the most important human right of all.
The virus is not only being shamefully used as a political football to discredit America’s greatest competitor, people of Chinese origin are coming under attack by racists and xenophobes. Parents in Melbourne Australia refused to allow Asian doctors to treat their children. Asian Americans complain of being rudely stared at on trains or, worse, told to back to their own countries.
There are no certainties. We cannot fall back on historical precedent. There are no ‘experts’. The numbers game played by various countries is nonsensical because the majority of people have never been tested. We cannot know how many are suffering from the virus worldwide because in many cases there are no visible symptoms.
COVID-19 remains an unknown quantity that may or may not hibernate once the thermometer rises. There is no known cure and a vaccine is unlikely to be on the market until next summer. In the meantime, the spread of the virus must be contained and in this regard China’s experience has much to teach us.
The United States criticised for its snail-like handing of the crisis in terms of test kit shortages and bureaucratic mistakes is currently playing catch up. On the other hand Britain seems to be letting the chips fall where they may.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has eschewed taking stringent measures on par with other afflicted states. Instead, he warned Britons that they face the “worst public health crisis for a generation” and must prepare “to lose loved ones before their time”. Johnson apparently believes that the more Britons hit by the virus, the more immunity will be built-up in the long run.
Isolation for over-70s
The exceptions are the elderly. According to the Daily Express, the over-70s will be instructed to remain in strict isolation for four months at home or in care facilities. Telegraph journalist Jeremy Warner suggested in a chilling op-ed that the culling of the elderly could benefit the UK’s economy.
Every so often up pops an article suggesting COVID-19 was created in a laboratory. The themes are similar with the main variation being where the offending lab is situated.
Chinese officials have blamed the US military for planting the virus in China. Russia’s media plugs the theory that it emanates from US labs. US Senator Tom Cotton calls it a Chinese-made bioweapon.
However it is the author Dean Koontz who’s got bemused readers scratching their heads. In his 1981 thriller ‘The Eyes of Darkness’ that seemingly predicts the outbreak of a virus in 2020, a bioweapon called Wuhan-400 developed by the Chinese “to wipe out a city or a country …” Make out of that what you will!
All we can do is hold onto our hats for the ride of our lives in the hope normality will once again reign sooner rather than later.
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.