All fall down? Not necessarily!

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Like Chinese (pardon the pun) water torture, the inexorable drip, drip, drip of disturbing news from an ever-increasing number of countries around the world continues. At last check, there were 48 countries with at least one case of the novel coronavirus aka Covid 19. Of that 48, there were a total of 78, 497 cases in China with 2, 746 deaths. There have been 19 deaths in Iran, 13 in Italy, 13 in South Korea, three in Japan, two in France and one in the Philippines, as well as Japan. On Wednesday, Brazil reported its first case, and a day before that, the Iranian Deputy Health Minister, Hiraj Harairchi, announced that he had the dreaded Covid 19. It is scary!

By way of information, here are the affected countries and their number of coronavirus cases: Afghanistan (1), Algeria (1), Australia (23), Austria (2), Bahrain (33), Belgium (1), Brazil (1), Cambodia (1), Canada (12), China (78, 497), Croatia (3), Denmark (1), Egypt (1), Estonia (1), Finland (2), France (18), Georgia (1), Germany (21), Greece (3), India (3), Iran (245), Iraq (6), Israel (3), Italy (528), Japan (189 and 705) (that last figure represents those infected aboard the Diamond Princess in Yokohama), Kuwait (43), Lebanon (2), Malaysia (22), Nepal (1), North Macedonia (1), Norway (1), Oman (4), Pakistan (2), The Philippines (3), Romania (1), Russia (5), Singapore (93), South Korea (1,766), Spain (12), Sri Lanka (1), Sweden (2), Switzerland (4), Taiwan (32), Thailand (40), United Arab Emirates (13), United Kingdom (15), United States (60), Vietnam (16). (Source: Aljazeera News).

Mercifully, we have not had any cases here in our fair State, and we certainly trust that our health authorities will continue to be vigilant; that they will continue taking proactive and preventative measures. We salute them for the good job that they are doing, and certainly appreciate the frequent updates from the Ministry of Health. Nothing will spread panic and fear like ignorance, and our health authorities have been quite forthcoming.

The denial to the Aida Perla cruise vessel of permission to berth here in St. John’s was a good move, as is the plan to screen visitors from Italy. According to the notes from this past Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting: The weekly charter which arrives in Antigua from Milan, Italy, on Fridays, would usually drop-off 150 passengers and pick-up 150 passengers from the week prior. That charter will arrive on Friday, February 28, 2020, only to pick-up the last group that it discharged, and will continue the fixed pattern in the following week. However, beginning tomorrow, Thursday, and continuing during the days following, the several ministries in Antigua, collaborating with the agents of the charter, will develop a questionnaire that will be provided to passengers in Italy before alighting. Any unwell passenger or a passenger who emanated from any of the cities that are on a government quarantine list will not be allowed to board.” Good move!Again, eternal vigilance is the watchword! And so far, our health authorities appear to be on top of things.

Meanwhile, it was rather disturbing to hear of a burglary at the Margetson Ward which is being rehabilitated and retrofitted to serve as an isolation and quarantine centre. We understand that several valuable pieces of equipment and material were lifted, and we say, “a pox”on the scumbags who stooped so low as to commit such a dastardly crime. Mind you, the louse added insult to a rehabilitation effort that should have already been completed. We are a little perplexed as to why it took our health authorities so long to recognise that we were going to need an isolation and quarantine location. Sigh! But better late than never, we suppose. 

Actually, here is what we were able to gather from the aforementioned Cabinet notes re the Margetson Ward and the likelihood of an infected person(s) in our neck of the woods: “The expectation is that the refurbished ward will be completed in two weeks (not four weeks); that the equipment necessary to test for the virus and the lab technicians will also be in place in that time; that the state’s readiness can be affirmed by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) which is providing leadership and advice to the states of the region. The experts are of the view that an infected person will, sooner or later, arrive in the region; each country must therefore be prepared. Adaptation and no longer mitigation guides the decision-makers.” Hmmmm! That second-to-last sentence in bold print is rather unnerving, to wit, that it is not IF an infected person will arrive in the Caribbean, but rather WHEN. Heaven forfend! Help us, Lord!

Of course, the key is not to panic. While there is no known cure for Covid 19, there are several countries and scientists working feverishly to develop treatments. For example, the University of Nebraska, under the auspices/sponsorship of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, has begun clinical, controlled trials to determine the efficacy of an antiviral drug called remdesivir in Covid-infected adults. We wish them every success. Previously, we’d heard that certain HIV drugs, in conjunction with cold and flu treatments, appeared to be rather helpful. All well and good.

Noteworthily, most people who contract the virus become mildly ill, but recover after a while. For example, in China, more than 23,000 people who became infected have already recovered. Again folks, the key is to wash hands frequently, and avoid touching one’s nose and mouth. Much like the flu or the common cold, this respiratory disease can be transmitted/contracted via sneezes and coughs. According to the World Health Organisation, an infected person can avoid transmitting the virus by refraining from spitting in public, and avoiding close contact with others, if coughing and sneezing. Thankfully, Covid-19 is not an automatic death sentence.

And speaking of death sentences, we are reminded of the GREAT PLAGUE in England in 1665, where those who were infected with that terrible disease, would carry posies of herbs in their pockets to ward off illness (Herbal cures? Superstition?). Two of the symptoms of a plague-infected person were red rashes about the face and body and constant sneezing and coughing, followed by collapse and death. It is thought, in some circles, that the popular children’s game and rhyme, RING AROUND THE ROSIES, that is still played and sung today, came from the innocent children making fun of those who were manifesting the symptoms and effects of the plague in England in the Middle Ages. If you’ll recall, that rhyme says, “Ring around the rosies (the red rashes) / A pocket full of posies / Achoo! Achoo! (the sneezes)/ All fall down!”     Our prayer is that the wider world, indeed our fair Antigua and Barbuda, and our region, will not experience an outbreak of Covid-19 of pandemic proportions, with all and sundry victims falling down.

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