POSTSCRIPT / April 7, 2020 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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China virus experts, how did you do it?

A DOZEN Chinese experts on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) arrived Sunday to help Filipino public health authorities check the local spread of the pandemic that has infected more than 1,270,000 worldwide, 3,246 of them in the Philippines.

They were welcomed by a party that included Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Health Secretary Francisco Duque, and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi. The experts were exempted from quarantine required of arrivals from China and other COVID-hit areas.

The Chinese team brought another donation of 300,000 surgical masks, 30,000 medical N95 masks, 5,000 medical protective suits, 5,000 medical face shields, and 30 non-invasive ventilators.

Most of them have had frontline experience in Wuhan City, in Hubei province in Central China, where the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off in December last year before leapfrogging to the rest of the world.

They should share their secrets on how they drastically cut the number of people infected and killed by the virus. President Duterte, an admirer of things Chinese, might be encouraged to adopt their methods.

There are interesting questions swirling in the media that the Chinese experts may want to address.

Distance from Wuhan to Shanghai is only 839 kilometers and Wuhan to Beijing the capital is 1,152 km. Wuhan to Milan (in Italy, the third worst-hit country after the United States and Spain) is 15,000 km, and Wuhan to New York (COVID-19 epicenter in the US) is 15,000 km.

Note that the coronavirus scourge erupted in Wuhan, yet inflicted no significant toll on nearby Beijing and Shanghai the economic capital. All business areas of China are safe and appear to be going back to normalcy.

In contrast, the COVID-19 death toll continues to rise in Italy, Iran, European countries and the US whose public health systems have been severely strained.

India is locked down, but all the cities of China are open. In fact, Beijing has announced the opening on April 8 of Wuhan, the birthplace of coronavirus.

Not a single political or military leader in China has tested positive for the coronavirus, while many officials and prominent personalities in other countries have been afflicted.

Hollywood stars, Australia’s home minister, Britain’s prime minister and its health minister, the wife of Spain’s prime minister, the wife of Canada’s prime minister, and Britain’s Prince Charles, among other prominent figures, have contracted the disease.

The virus has ruined many economies around the world triggering a depression. Many countries have had to close their borders to contain the spread of the virus and its inflicting further damage.

The global number of persons infected surged yesterday to 1,273,715, with 69,458 reported dead and 262,486 recovered. In China where the contagion started, 81,708 have been infected and 3,331 have died.

The end of the plague is not yet in sight with the US maintaining its unenviable position as the country hardest hit, sustaining a total of 336,830 infected, 9,618 dead, and 17,977 recovered.

Today Paris is closed. So are New York, Berlin, Delhi, Mumbai and Tokyo. While the world’s economic and political centers are closed, Beijing and Shanghai are open, having been left apparently unscathed by the virus.

It has been asked if the figures being reported by Beijing reflect the situation on the ground and if its communist leaders have resorted to inhuman measures to force down the numbers.

Assuming the doubts are baseless, perhaps China’s visiting public health experts could share with their Philippine counterparts – as well as President Duterte — how they did it.

 Church follows state’s ‘distance’ rule

THE COVID-19 pandemic is so compelling that it forced the Catholic church to follow the dictates of earthly governments for “social distancing” to help stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

For the first time in history, the Pope celebrated Palm Sunday Mass alone – without the usual congregation — in St Peter’s Basilica out of respect for COVID-19 regulations restricting large, especially dense, gatherings.

Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week, saw the blessing of the palms reminiscent of the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem where palm, twigs and the like were waved and laid on his path as he rode on a donkey.

The faithful joined Pope Francis celebrate the Mass via the internet, radio and television. He based his homily on St Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, where the apostle describes Jesus as emptying Himself and “taking the form of a servant.”

The Pope said: “We often think we are the ones who serve God, (but) He is the one who freely chose to serve us, for He loved us first.”

The Lord served us by giving His life for us, continued Pope Francis, God did this “with the humility, patience and obedience of a servant, and purely out of love.”

He said: “The Lord served us to the point of experiencing the most painful situations of those who love: betrayal and abandonment.

“Jesus suffered betrayal by the disciple who sold Him and by the disciple who denied Him… He was betrayed by the people who sang hosanna to Him and later shouted: ‘Crucify Him!’”

We have all suffered betrayal, the Pope acknowledged: “Betrayal risks provoking disappointment that can even make life seem meaningless (because) we were born to be loved and to love.”

The Pope continued: “If we are honest with ourselves, we will see our infidelities, the falsehoods, hypocrisies and duplicities. The Lord knows how weak and irresolute we are, how many times we fall, how hard it is for us to get up, and how difficult it is to heal certain wounds.”

Despite all that, he said: “Jesus still comes to our aid, He serves us and heals us by taking upon Himself our infidelity. Instead of being discouraged by the fear of failing, we can now look upon the crucifix, feel His embrace say You serve me with your love, you continue to support me… And so I will keep pressing on.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 7, 2020)

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