By Henrylito D. Tacio
Even the rich and the famous are not spared from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
In Australia, while filming a movie, two-time Oscar winning actor Tom Hanks caught SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. His wife, Rita Wilson, also got it. “We have COVID-19 and are in isolation so we do not spread it to anyone else,” he wrote in his Twitter. “There are those for whom it could lead to a very serious illness.”
In Spain, Francisco Garcia, a youth team football coach at Malaga-based club Atletico Portada Alta, died from COVID-19, having been suffering from a form of leukemia, according to Independent. He was only 21 years old.
In the Philippines, Senator Miguel Zubiri admitted that he was positive for COVID-19 as relayed to him by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. “My heart sank with what he had said but I’m uplifted with the fact that I am asymptomatic and have no fever or cough nor am I weak or have any headaches,” he wrote in his social media account. “My decision to self-quarantine… was the best decision I made and could have protected my family from contamination.”
The Department of Health has confirmed about 142 cases with 12 deaths. “Still low,” said President Rodrigo R. Duterte in his live public address. “It is a figure that is rising day by day. Beyond our borders, the whole world has been shaken by the spread of this disease. At first, it was China and the East Asian region, which is still in the midst of the crisis we speak. But now… the epicenter has shifted to Europe.”
The Philippines cannot do anything about it either. “We want to do business, we want to make money, we want to move but there is no interaction now and there is no trade to speak of and there are no flights going out, in, and for you to do business. In other words, if you go there, you are alone and please understand that we are talking to you honestly and in good faith.”
To contain the viral disease from spreading further, Duterte placed the entire country under a State of Public Health Emergency. “And that is why mayors now can go ahead and issue executive orders to make the environment of their municipality more conducive to a healing process,” he said.
On March 11, since most of the cases were reported from Metro Manila, he declared the whole metropolis under “community quarantine.” But when the figure of cases continued to increase and so he again placed the entire island of Luzon on March 16 under “enhanced community quarantine” until April 12, “coinciding with the entire end of Holy Week.”
Under an enhanced community quarantine, “strict home quarantine shall be implemented in all households; transportation shall be suspended; provision for food and essential services shall be regulated; and heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedure will be implemented.”
The declaration, however, is not what others thought of being a martial law. “Let me be this clear, this is not martial law,” Duterte said. “Under the Constitution, martial law is declared when there is invasion, rebellion or public safety requires it.”
But in this case, there are no such thing. “There is no invasion, no rebellion, and public safety does not – public safety requires it,” the president explained. “At this time, our enemy is COVID-19.”
Earlier, the president said, “Let us make no mistake. We are in the fight of our lives. We are at war against a vicious and invisible enemy, one that cannot be seen by the naked eye. In this extraordinary war, we are all soldiers.”
In this war, all Filipinos are soldiers, he said. “Young or adults, man or woman, every Filipino, whatever your status in life, can be considered a solider in this battle,” Duterte pointed out.
Duterte urged Filipinos living in Luzon to “stay at their homes, leaving their houses only to buy food, medicine and other basic necessary for survival in the coming days.” He added that only establishments “that provide these basic necessities and services will be opened.”
In his speech, the president assured the public there is sufficient food supply. “I have been assured by Ramon Ang himself of San Miguel Corporation and other food conglomerates that there will be sufficient food. There will be no hunger in the coming weeks because we have enough supplies,” he said.
Duterte has directed agencies, particularly Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and Depart of Finance (DOF) “to put in place, with utmost dispatch all feasible measures that will ease the burden of the Community Quarantine in our country, especially those who are living on daily wages, and small-medium enterprises.
“We shall make sure that, during this trying time, all of you will feel government’s concern in your – for your welfare,” he said.
Duterte also urged to follow the rules and guidelines and respect authorities. “Obey the police and the military,” he said. “Do not quarrel with them and do not start ruckus that would amount to a violation because you will be arrested and brought to prison – disobedience of authority, o baka nagkamali ako, then acts of public disturbance. You can be arrested. Sumunod na lang akyo at wala tayong problema.”
As COVID-19 cases and deaths continued to file up, there is a need to develop a vaccine immediately. There is a need to “quickly develop an inexpensive and effective vaccine against the COVID-19 virus, and to distribute it very widely, free of charge, with the support of government funds,” Dr. John Scales Avery, who was part of the group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize.
“With no with certainty that if a vaccine against the COVID-19 virus is not developed quickly and distributed widely, enormous numbers of people will die,” pointed out Dr. Avery, an associate professor emeritus at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, in a statement obtained by the author.
Public health experts say that if the COVID-19 pandemic is not successfully contained, it could spread to 80% of the world’s population. “With a 1% mortality rate, this would mean that 70 million people would die of the disease,” surmised Dr. Avery. “With a 2% mortality rate, the total number of deaths would be twice that number: 140 million people.
“Comparable numbers of people have died in the tragic wars and pandemics of the past. There is a serious danger that it might happen again,” warned Dr. Avery.