One million and counting

THE GLOBAL count of covid19 cases passed one million on Thursday, a historic milestone that makes plain the grim threat this disease poses to humanity. More than 55,000 people have died, according to data from John Hopkins University, but if stringent controls are not observed, the toll could increase exponentially.

Locally, there have been almost 100 cases, and half-dozen deaths. While the figures are statistically insignificant to draw bigger inferences, the general pattern of the elderly being more vulnerable has proven true. Yet, that could be about to change. Globally, children and the middle-aged have been dying.

All of the State’s measures have had one overriding aim: to reduce the curve in the expected escalation of cases and thereby preserve the functioning of the healthcare system. Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, mincing no words this week, made plain his fears in relation to the worst-case scenario, one in which the system buckles, leaving citizens to fend for themselves.

If we had any doubt about the widespread nature of the threat, that was eviscerated by the information released by the Ministry of Health this week which mapped a clear correlation between highly populated areas and the virus. Such a correlation is not surprising. This is a virus that feeds on people, it will occur where people congregate.

About 181 countries around the world are battling this disease which has the potential to become as bad as the worst global pandemic in modern times, the Spanish Flu. That pandemic infected 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population. An estimated 50 million people died.

Covid19 began its official life in China, but the epicentre quickly moved to Europe. Now, however, the focus has switched from continental Europe to the US, the country which this week reported the highest daily death toll. In one day alone, 1,169 people died.

The irony is that this virus, which has come at a time of closed borders and heightened xenophobia, now shows us just how irrelevant borders are. No matter which country is involved, more and more of us will die. We are as vulnerable as this disease is spreadable.

As a small country, our size has given us a certain capacity to respond. In this global guava season, not many have been able to navigate. But it cannot be business as usual. That includes limits on Easter activities. Sunday’s commemoration of Palm Sunday will have to be a private affair.

Last weekend, citizens were largely compliant. This weekend, we must be more so. The State should not hesitate from taking even bolder action to ensure people stay at home. For if complete social distancing is not observed, more people will meet their maker.


"One million and counting"

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