Pandemic journals, Week 1

Note: These are my Covid-19 Pandemic Journals, started on 1 March 2020 (offline) and my daily entries summarized every Sunday. They contain my personal observations, opinions and musings, which would otherwise remain buried in the sheer avalanche of news and analysis in these past three months of 2020. These have been trimmed down in some places and expounded in other places so I can post them here for public consumption. This are my entries for 1-7 March, Week 1.

Greenhills scare is portent of things to come

On March 2, in nearby San Juan, the Greenhills shopping center’s normally staid pace was suddenly disrupted by a hostage-taking incident. A disgruntled security guard in Virra Mall took 30 hostages in his cry for justice. Long story here and here. On March 6, the same shopping center suffered a worse wipeout when the government confirmed that a frequent visitor of the Muslim mosque there was downed by the novel coronavirus. The mosque was promptly closed for disinfection, and while the mall itself remained open, it was most obviously devoid of the usual crowd of customers.

These are portents of bigger things to come: vacant malls and a fear-gripped, increasingly disgruntled people. Timely, accurate and honest information, and sincere dialogue among stakeholders to find quick but fair solutions, are most crucial in these coming days. (March 7)

The Wuhan Covid-19 experience

Being an inveterate China watcher of long standing, I had a lot of sympathy for the Chinese people in the face of the breakup of their precious socialist legacies and the restoration of capitalism. Thus, since early February I had been closely watching the Covid-19 outbreak and how China was handling it, especially the unfolding drama in locked-down Wuhan. (Disclosure: I was following it through Xinhua News and CGTN via FB notifications.) There was also another reason for my focused watch: I was scheduled to make a trip to Europe in the last week of February, and watched with growing horror at the rapid rise of Covid-19 cases and deaths in Italy. By now WHO has declared Covid-19 as a public health emergency of international concern.

Everywhere, media panic preceded the potential pandemic and soon overtook it—an understandable result of the mass hysteria, a fear of the unknown as former WHO director Tikki Pangestu put it. But since I was checking a wide range of news sources about the growing health crisis, I was better prepared to cope than the average Pinoy person, mentally and emotionally I’d like to believe. More or less I had a less than superficial understanding of the novel coronavirus, and kept track of the mad rush by biomolecular scientists to map its genome, document the growing clinical experience and epidemic behavior, and ways to combat it.

But still, part of me was saying, “Oh it’s just like the US seasonal flue, a temperate-zone scourge that won’t reach our tropical shores.” How miserably mistaken was I—and of course countless others, all the way to national policy makers of many countries. And so here we are. (5 March) #

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