The Virus came –
CoVid-19 first appeared in Wuhan, China – a transpo hub with roughly 11 Million inhabitants. Initially, there were 4 cases before the end of December 2019 which hijacked dozens by the end of the month. In reality however, the virus slowly clawed into a thousand more. It began a local attack. The first outbreak.
Chinese officials kept silent about it until the 31st of December when they alerted the World Health Organization, reassuring that the disease was controllable.
The deadly assassin took advantage of the unwary victims and strategized its tactics and vectors.
It waited only for the perfect timing. By then the Chinese Lunar New Year incited millions to travel back to their families and hometowns. The contagion plan was cunningly played.
In the first month of 2020, around 7 Million individuals left the City of Wuhan carrying with them the invisible foe. It was too late when the Chinese authorities restricted travel. Major cities across mainland China had already sporadic outbreaks and the month of January showed its ruthlessness.
In the same month the stealth attacker hitched on international flights as yet no travel bans were imposed.
It passed border controls across 30 cities in 26 countries undetected. One of which is New York City which reports welcoming over 900 flight arrivals monthly. It crept into the City that Never Sleeps.
(As I write this article, All Hell Has Broken Loose in the city of 8 Million).
It crawled into confined spaces, of which dense crowds meet. Like the Big Apple, the northern cities of Italy also continued their normal way of busy life never realizing how destructive the impact would be. Bars in the city of Milan were packed even until the end of February shrugging off warnings of a pandemic.
By the 1st of March, Italy was already a frontrunner in major newspapers globally. Iran, Spain, South Korea were amongst the hotspot countries reported. Outbreaks exploded. The pathosis have crossed all continents except Antarctica.
The unseen enemy did not just target cities or airplanes. It also ambushed luxurious cruise ships. Diamond Princess and Costa Luminosa are just two of those virus-stricken vessels which affected many lives and jobs.
Locomotives crisscrossing continental Europe were not spared at all.
On March 15, I boarded my Budapest bound train, anticipating a very stressful day as my train shift started. The Italo-Austrian border had already been sealed off a week earlier and we were earnestly informed of the possible deadly organism tagging along. Panic buying and stress were already at high levels as reports of deaths in Italy, Spain and France stepped up.
On Vienna’s Hauptbahnhof, the EuroCity train bound for Hungary waited. Together with an Austrian colleague, we manned the locomotive and ran a normal procedure. My colleague was 64 years of age and was already anticipating his retirement next year. His dream was to live in a picturesque hilly place in Bulgaria. He asked me if I wanted to stay in Austria during retirement. I answered him of course with a No (I still want to spend it in Palawan). And CoVid-19 came to the picture. His thoughts were he was glad the virus came along, as it made people aware of how polluted our environment has been made into. And our society has become too filthy self-indulging.
I bid adieu to our chitchat at the Austro- Hungarian Border and hurriedly jumped in the opposite train bound for Salzburg not knowing what had happened to the first passenger train I alighted from.
The minute I hopped off in Linz I noticed I had 3 missed calls registered on my phone. The dispatcher’s voice messages were very explicit.
“Board the next train back to Vienna Hauptbahnhof. Hide in the empty cockpit area. No one should be there with you. Do nothing inside the train. Call again upon arrival in Vienna. Wait for further instructions”.
As soon as I reached Vienna I learned the awful truth. A suspected CoVid positive carrier passenger was scanned at the Hungarian Border. I was ordered to go home at once, isolate and call the local CoVid Hotline number to ask for further instructions. Later on, I learned the workmate on that Budapest bound train tested positive. Together with his dreams of retirement, his future now lies in uncertainty.
Like many of my colleagues, lives have been affected in Europe and elsewhere. We await the unpredictable as the momentum of events disabled our jobs, remodeled our families, disrupted our daily lives.
The Virus saw –
When it saw the carefree way of thinking, especially that of politicians, it made sure its virulence tripled. It preyed on the modern Epicureans’ way of living (Let’s be merry today for tomorrow we will die) and the stubbornness which comes along with it.
An Italian politician was rebuking the fatal implications as he raised up his glass in a gathering and uttered, “We will not change the way things we do around here”.
It saw cracks in the health system and the complacent thinking of politicians worldwide. It fed on it and ravenously modified its onslaught.
An EU leader admitted on broadcast, “We have underestimated the Virus”, as the minute organism butchered thousands of victims.
Weeks ago, US President Trump was quoted, – “The Virus will not have a chance against us”. As we see it now, it fiercely sucked on the arrogance of world leaders.
It also saw some countries being more concerned with their economies letting their guard down too soon. Such was the case of Hongkong when it loosened grips of restrictions. They too felt the tremor as it lashed back on their citizens.
It revealed politicians encroaching on VIP treatments and wallowed in that ‘Lawmakers are Lawbreakers’ attitude. One Philippine senator, who was tested CoVid positive has now been chastised online as he broke quarantine protocol, held meetings and even attended two birthday parties and accompanied his pregnant wife to a medical facility in the capital city, endangering his staff, the medical workers who attended his wife along with other lives.
It saw that public health systems when left unprotected and when not duly reinforced can bring a country to its knees. The examples of Spain, Italy, and the Philippines proved it all. Medical health workers are the first to bite the bullet and casualties are catastrophic. Nine doctors in the Philippines lost their lives and more medical staff around the world are left in the open battlefield.
It saw that fear and panic could be its powerful allies that even toilet paper squabbles were observed erupting inside groceries most repeatedly in the western world. Gun stores in the US have reported much demand as some Americans bought guns for fear of possible riots and looting. Yes, it too befriended greed.
The Virus conquered –
It conquered a vulnerable world. It exposed us to humans that we rely on co-dependency. The Italians reverberated this recently as they were singing from their balconies – a call for solidarity to survive.
It divulged that air pollution in many cities have already reached limits unfavorable for humans to respire. When compromised pollutants can ruin a community in months. It took only a virus to clear away smog in polluted cities.
It stripped bare humankind’s health risks and ‘invincibility’. It largely killed smokers, drinkers and those immunocompromised. It billowed a sinister message – ‘Rid those Vices or Fall Victim’.
It inflicted perversely into a fragile world – that anyone can be a potential host, breed it unknowingly and hostage our own members of family and friends. That even the younger healthier population of a country can be affected no matter how developed it is.
The scorn of the virus turmoiled the entire financial market and economies.
It showed no mercy it crossed paths with. It respected no maps, no boundaries, no normal life.
The current events which unfolded globally have changed history forever.
It conquered the mindset of the many. It has now been emphasized internationally that basic hygienic practices can immobilize the virus.
Over three decades ago, my first-grade teacher inculcated to use the phrase – ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’.
She demanded that we leave our shoes outside the classroom. She imperatively asked us to wash our hands before settling into our seats and desks.
I was about six then. And the most simple basic solution which could have prevented a pandemic stood the test of time. How elementary indeed.
Sadly, mortality rates are still spiraling. For many, time is ticking.
The virus came, it saw and it’s still conquering