Coronavirus: Pandemic, it may be. Pandemonium, it mustn't be

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Pandemic, Pandemonium, ncov, coronavirus

The number of countries where the new coronavirus, the 2019-nCoV, has infected people now stands at 60.

By Vicky Kapur (From the Executive Editor's Desk)

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Published: Sat 29 Feb 2020, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 1 Mar 2020, 6:16 PM

It's all over the place, literally. What started off as an outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December 2019 has, in just two months, graduated to becoming an epidemic and now a global health emergency, infecting tens of thousands of people across dozens of countries and all continents (barring, of course, Antarctica). It hasn't been technically categorised as a pandemic yet, but the number of countries where the new coronavirus, the 2019-nCoV, has infected people now stands at 60 (at 4pm, February 29).
In a globalised world, containing the spread of the virus and, with it, that of the disease, the so-named Covid-19, was always going to be tricky. With almost 3,000 fatalities from 85,400 infections (39,500 recoveries), the World Health Organization on Friday raised the global risk assessment of the infection to 'very high'. The threat of the virus spreading rapidly outside of China from hereon is very real, and the financial markets are indeed taking it seriously. After more than a month of witnessing wild fluctuations, major stock indices imploded last week, and $6 trillion of wealth was wiped off global equities over six days and as many trading sessions.
From school trips to the Tokyo Olympics, events of all genres and genus scheduled over the next couple of months are under a cloud of doubt. Barcelona's Mobile World Congress (February 24-27) was the first major event to succumb to coronavirus fears and, since then, a host of summits, fairs, carnivals, and fashion weeks have been shelved or postponed. Even religious tourism and engagements aren't immune, so to speak: Saudi Arabia has suspended Umrah pilgrim visas while the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist spiritual leader, has cancelled his public duties and postponed an ordination ceremony for new monks. The 83-year-old Pope Francis cancelled official audiences for two days in succession last week while priests and other religious leaders are tweaking rituals to avoid direct human-to-human contact in the face of the spreading virus.
It is becoming increasingly clear that, besides maintaining the highest standards of hygiene, there are a few other things that are required to counter this growing menace with the full force and all-hands-on-deck approach that is now needed. One of the most important thing is, of course, a round-the-clock and transparent line of communication from global, regional and local authorities on the extent of the spread, the new cases and information on individuals and groups who may have been exposed. Not revealing the scope of the potential impairment can only harm containment efforts and prove to be counterproductive.
The UAE yesterday set a global example in demonstrating its preparedness and making it clear that it will not shy away from deploying efforts with the intensity required to deal with the exigency. The Central Bank of the UAE advised the country's banks to reschedule loans and defer repayment schedules of affected customers in order to mitigate any negative impact of the virus. During a press conference held by the country's National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, the authority not only shared hitherto-unknown details about the latest cases of infected and now-quarantined Italians who were part of the now-cancelled UAE Tour, but also clarified how hundreds of tour volunteers, including students, had tested negative for the infection. The UAE told schools to suspend all trips and excursions as a precautionary step while temporarily suspending nurseries in the country.
Every small step at this stage stands to boost the overall containment efforts. Perhaps the most important thing that we can do is to not panic and create unnecessary commotion. Experts maintain that Covid-19 may be categorised as a pandemic by global authorities soon, but it is for us to not create pandemonium. Let's absorb the information being shared by the authorities and follow the advisories to the letter. That will be our contribution to quelling the disease and ensuring that it is contained sooner than later. Let's make containment efforts viral.


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