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Scourge of our time

06 April 2020

By Daisy Catherine L. Mandap

What a difference a month makes. If someone told me last month that the novel coronavirus would leave the entire world on bended knees I would have thought that person crazy.

That time, Covid-19 was something thought of as just another disease that started in China, and would dissipate as soon as temperatures rose – much like the way Sars did 17 years ago.

We in Hong Kong were more naturally wary, as we still remember the fear and the pain brought on by Sars. We were the epicenter then, like Wuhan was for the coronavirus.


We took precautions guided by that grim experience, but as it turns out now, not nearly well enough.

Once again an unseen enemy, a new, more ferocious virus, is just outside our door. It is knocking, but we are best advised to stay indoors. Go out only if you must, and always arm yourself, not with a gun, but with a mask and a hand sanitizer.

Not even in our wildest dreams did it cross our minds that we could be fighting a one-sided battle with an enemy that moves like the wind, strikes like a knife, and is not afraid of anyone, be it a prime minister, a king-in-waiting, or a Hollywood star.

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While we were debating whether to lock our borders with China, or shut offices or schools, the enemy decided to move elsewhere.

Down came dozens of tourists aboard two luxury cruise ships in Japan and the United States. At the same time, hundreds of people belonging to a secretive sect in South Korea were virtually mowed down, one after another.

Without a warning, it again reared its deadly head in Europe. First destination was Italy, where the elderly became its easy prey. By the hundreds they fell, that in just about two weeks, the death toll had passed 10,000, a grim reminder that this enemy knows no mercy.

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Then it swooped on the mighty countries that were once protagonists in many of the world’s epic battles.

First, Spain, then France, Netherlands, Germany, and finally, the United Kingdom, where the coronavirus lingered to make a point.

Both the country’s prime minister and the second-in-line to the throne were stricken, with neither knowing where the blow had come from.

The onslaught continued, until the high-and-mighty, the one claiming to be the remaining superpower in the world, has been brought to its knees. Its president, who boasted just a few days ago that the United States would be back on track in a matter of days, has completely changed his tune.

Yes, he admits, the virus could kill as many as 100,000 Americans, and this could well be two million if we didn’t take more stringent measures now, like locking up everybody in their homes for another full month, until the enemy withdraws.

In Britain and other more cautious countries, the forecast for when citizens might be allowed to emerge from beneath the trenches is longer, like another six months, even longer.

Just about anywhere, the picture is grim. More frighteningly so in countries which do not have much to spare in terms of funds and other resources, or lack officials who appreciate the danger that stares them in the face, as the Philippines.

Hong Kong, Singapore or even China are not off the hook, either. They may have managed to stave off the enemy because they were better prepared from the Sars experience, but they, too, now face the prospect of squaring off with it again, after it has piggybacked on many of their residents arriving from overseas.

For many of us, the battle for survival continues. Not only in terms of keeping our mortal bodies alive, but also in ensuring we get to hold on to our jobs, our security, and our sanity.

We may be in this for the long haul, but if we do as we’re told by the experts, we will survive. Stay safe, healthy and wise. Remain indoors as much as possible. If all else fails, pray.

We have to believe — that this, too, shall pass.
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