A world of pain

By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok - Columnist/CDN Digital | March 15,2020 - 07:00 AM


That’s how businessmen called the fate of stock market traders as stock exchanges tumbled around the world reeling from the effects of coronavirus and the disease called Covid-19. 

The stock traders’ description or prediction of the obtaining situation is so apt that I borrowed it for this column article.  

As a senior citizen, I find myself wishing this is all a nightmare and will wake up to see everything back to normal but guess what.

This is reality, the normal of Covid-19 where every news you hear and read on an hourly basis is all about the deadly virus.

Streets are mostly quiet, public places empty, shoppers looking for alcohol and hand sanitizers and not finding any, people are very scared not knowing where to go and what to do next.

Many are not aware this is just the beginning and the worst is yet to come. 


When Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella declared he was not inclined to suspend classes despite concerns aired by parents that their children might be exposed and get infected by the deadly coronavirus, the mayor was actually backed by findings of the World Health Organization who studied the demographics of reported COVID-19 confirmed cases in China.

Only 2.4 percent of reported cases were children and only 0.2 percent of such cases got critically ill.  In fact, China has reported no case of young children dying of COVID-19.

According to an article published by The Washington Post (March 10, 2020, “Coronavirus is mysteriously sparing kids and killing the elderly. Understanding why may help defeat the virus”), the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak that hit East Asia in 2002 spared the young.

Almost 800 people succumbed to SARS but children were spared. In the case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-Cov) which killed more than 850 people in 2012, only a few young people developed the syndrome.

I guess Mayor Labella didn’t want to sound panicky when he made the statement because panic only drives people crazy.

According to Professor Gabriel Leung, a well respected epidemiologist based in Hong Kong, panic is not a good way to contain or prevent an outbreak.

As we have seen in western countries like the United States, the rise in coronavirus cases led people to panic causing them to line up in stores to buy basic goods in boxes.

In Iran, 27 people died after drinking industrial alcohol, believing that it was a cure for coronavirus.  Here at home, the mere mention of community quarantine drove people to get out of Metro Manila. 

As we all know, it only took a few hours for Mayor Labella to make an about face — calling off his earlier statement and declare the suspension of classes in all levels, both public and private from March 16 to March 28, 2020 to insure the safety of the students.

Public perception of his earlier statement was simply negative although I think the mayor was just trying to project calmness in the midst of a panicking population already terrified by a Malacanang order placing Metro Manila under a modified lockdown.

In all my years of observing social upheavals from political to terrorist threats, I have never seen such fear seizing the whole population. 

The WHO findings over reported coronavirus cases in China that spared young people should pacify parents but the scenario is chilling and alarming for people in the opposite side of the spectrum — older people aged 65 and above. 

According to Professor Gabriel Leung, who led the battle in Hong Kong against SARS and MERS-coronavirus, the elderly are at risk of being killed by COVID-19 because it is very contagious and spreads rapidly and exponentially: for every death, expect 80 to 100 infected cases. 

“Everybody is susceptible. And when you consider that everybody randomly mix with each other, eventually you will see 40, 50, 60 percent of the population get infected,” Professor Leung told the Australian public affairs program “60 Minutes” last week.

“At current mortality rates, that level of infection would mean between 45 and 60 million deaths worldwide. Nobody is safe,” the world’s leading scientist-epidemiologist told Liam Bartlett of “60 Minutes.”

The bottomline is, the elderly are under serious threat because the rate of infection is very high.  Add to that, our health authorities are not prepared and hospitals are not ready to handle COVID-19.  

The Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia has 42 ICUs equipped with hospital equipment and latest technology but yet, hospital executives admit it may not be enough to handle a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The situation in the US is even more alarming. Maguwang ras ato’ng public health system ang ilaha sa Amerika.

As of yesterday, the first recorded COVID-19 case in Mindanao has died, bringing the death toll to six.  The total number of of infected cases so far is 98 and counting. If Professor Leung is right, that number could soar — 10 times over a period of 19 to 20 days.  I dare not do the math.

The impact on the elderly    

In the Philippines, the number of older people is increasing rapidly, faster than the growth in the total population. In 2000, there were 4.6 million senior citizens (60 years or older), representing about 6 percent of the total population. Fast forward to 2020, this has grown to 9.4 million older people or about 8.6 percent of the total population. (Figures courtesy of Stat website)

In the battle against the coronavirus, the government approach is to monitor and investigate cases of persons showing mild and severe symptoms of COVID-19 hoping that people who have come in contact with them can be traced, quarantined and treated accordingly.

There’s a constant set of reminders to wash hands frequently, rub hands with alcohol and hand sanitizer, avoid crowds, cancel unnecessary travel and close contact with people showing even mild signs of flu.  

But there is no mention at all about interventions for over 9 million senior citizens bearing in mind what Professor Gabriel Leung emphasized, that the elderly will most likely be killed if they get infected. (To be continued)

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TAGS: COVID-19, elderly, fear, Labella, MERS-Cov, SARS, stock market

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