Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

Vico Sotto fiasco with tricycles and drones could have been the same culprit on why Italy has now broken China’s lead on deaths due to Covid-19.

Manny Pangilinan’s news website InterAksyon posted that President Rodrigo Duterte’s stern warning to abide by regulations formulated by the Inter-Agency Task Force applied to all local government units in Luzon, and not just to the mayor of Pasig City.

On the contrary, the Presidential warning was actually precipitated by Mayor Sotto’s allowing tricycles in his city to start operations on full view of oligarchic television networks, without clearing it with the task force coordinating all Covid-19 activities.

Inter-Akson labelled Vico’s antics as “proactive” initiatives to combat COVID-19. Actually, they were stupid and careless improvisations that movie actors and comedians are so used to.

Now InterAksyon changes the story saying the mayor only allowed the tricycles to ferry medical workers to work, when the mayor himself said on video that his heart bled because there were many people who wanted to run errands but they had to walk. The mayor simply lacked appreciation of the instruction for residents to stay at home and observe social distancing that was actually a call for self-imposed or voluntary house arrest.

As a result, the poor tricycle drivers ended up being arrested by the police. Under quarantine rules, all public transportation including domestic air and sea travel in Luzon are suspended until April 14.

In another report by Esquire, Mayor Sotto procured three units of octocopter drone with a 10-liter payload designed to spray pesticides in farms, that he said may now be used to fumigate the entire city from the air.

Now commonly, are firefighting equipment loaded with Xonrox to disinfect suspected surroundings. It was not clear whether the drones will also use the commercial chemical.

It was not also declared whether he cleared the idea with the Department of Health and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or the Inter-Agency Task Force, as to the advisability and safety of his move.

Esquire only wrote that Sotto has turned to technology to combat COVID-19.

My friend from Bagong Ilog who voted for Sotto in the last elections however said that “what the idiot may not realize is that instead of curbing the disease, the drones might end up spreading the virus even more virulently or posing other serious health danger, like spreading allergens, through his improvised air force.”

What highly evident on social media, however, is that Sotto’s trolls have birthed his election plans for the 2022 elections by mistake under the prevailing national calamity.

Italy overtakes China, Europe new epicenter

Across the seas, it’s anything but parochial and political.

The death toll from the new corona virus has surpassed 5,000 in Europe — the new epicenter of the pandemic — as Italy and Spain, even Germany, reported a steep rise in infections.

Italy announced 627 more deaths and 5,986 new cases as of March 21, the biggest day-to-day increase in the country’s four-week epidemic, a day after surpassing China’s death toll.

The total number of infections in Italy marked 47,021 with deaths reaching 4,032. 

Healthcare systems in Italy are reported to be at a breaking point, with hospitals having to turn away patients for lack of space. As the crisis has worsened, Italy has enforced ever more stringent controls on its population. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced Italy’s lockdown would now extend past the original April 3 deadline, with no new end date mentioned. Italians are only allowed to leave their homes to buy food or medicine.

Police have already ticketed 43,000 Italians for breaking the new rules.

Iran and Spain spirals

 Iran’s death toll from the new corona virus outbreak rose by 149 to 1,433, a health ministry official tweeted, adding the total number of confirmed infections had increased by 1,237 to 19,644.

Iran is one of the countries outside China most affected by the pandemic.

Iranian Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said 1,237 more cases were confirmed over the past 24 hours and 19,644 people are now known to have been infected in Iran, one of the world’s worst-hit countries.

The latest figures come as Iranians celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year which ushers in a two-week holiday during which Iran’s roads are normally filled with people visiting family.

In Spain, the death toll rose to 1,002, a highest-ever increase of 235 in 24 hours. The latest statistics showed 19,980 cases across the country, after another 2,833 infections have been confirmed in a single day.

Over the past seven days, the number of deaths has risen 10-fold, the figures show. Of those diagnosed, 52 per cent were in hospital and around 6 per cent were being treated in intensive care.

Madrid remains the worst-hit area, accounting for 7,165 cases, or 36 per cent of the total infections in Spain, while the number of deaths in the capital rose to 628 – around 63 per cent of the national total.

Government figures show that 1,585 cases have recovered, three-quarters of whom are in the Madrid region.

Liberalism vs autocracy

CNN reported that China has reported no new local infections for the past two days, marking a major turning point in the global battle to contain Covid-19.

Officials from China’s National Health Commission announced there had been just 34 new cases in the past 24 hours — all imported from overseas — and no new reported cases in Hubei province except eight new deaths.

The milestone will likely be held up as proof of the ongoing success of China’s sweeping, top-down efforts to control the virus. Just last month, mainland China was reporting thousands of new cases every day, and was considered the most high-risk infection area in the world.

In the weeks following the early spread of the virus, the Chinese government enacted draconian quarantine measures and strict travel restrictions affecting hundreds of millions of citizens. In some hard-hit cities, residents have been unable to leave their apartments for more than a month, while transport between major population hubs has been limited or halted altogether.

The unprecedented nature of the measures has exacted a steep toll, however, both on the many millions of ordinary Chinese forced to endure life under lockdown and the country’s economy, which has seen a steep decline in recent weeks.

Ten days ago, The Guardian of London reflected as “terrifying when the most obvious political and social reality is considered: that a democracy cannot fight a health threat with the same draconian measures that an autocracy can impose.”

To stem the spread of corona virus, it said China put 58 million of its people under martial law, with ordinary citizens basically under house arrest. The state used electronic surveillance measures to police the lockdown. This is before you consider what it must have taken to complete the construction of emergency hospitals in a week.

In any democracy such powers in the hands of the state, luckily, remain unthinkable as Italy now attempts, as a democracy and with no precedent in the western world, to do three extraordinarily difficult things – apply containment measures to the spread of the virus, reinforce its health system and manage the socio-economic fallout, said The Guardian.

On containment, Italy is now trying to enforce a nationwide lockdown.

After having first put only the centers of the outbreak into mandatory quarantine and after having successively widened the measures to most of the country’s north, the government has now extended internal travel restrictions to the entire country, in effect restricting the movements of 60 million people.

The only model available is the China model. The authoritarian regime proved to be an advantage. Struck with an outbreak, the Chinese government was able to overrun and stop the fast transmission the virus before it can develop a mind of its own. 

Lessons learned from Wuhan

Dr. Bruce Aylward, the Canadian head of the Covid-19 Mission to China, submitted its report to the World Health organization wowing the Chinese handling of the pandemic.

The first thing that caught my attention was that he said “speed” is the best weapon and that it would be the population, not the medical and healthcare practitioners, who will stop this virus.

The best to remember, Aylward explained, is that this virus spreads faster than it can kill.  So, with the cooperation of the people of China cutting movement to almost a halt through self-quarantine, the rate of infection whittled down and became controllable.

China also learned quickly that socialization was the fastest form of transmission, and so distancing and handwashing became a prescribed norm. It was also established early that the virus preys mostly the elderly and those with preconditions, like hypertension, diabetes and pneumonia symptoms.

They also learned that the virus does not settle on the air but on the ground. Of it lands on solids, it stays there for 12 hours, hence 20-seconds handwashing recommended. If it lands on fabric, it stays there for 9 hours but exposing the same to the sun will make it die in 2 hours.

It also stays in human hands for 10 minutes, so alcohol sanitizer should be handy. Ice cream and cold drinks are discouraged because the virus permeates in cold areas. It also gets killed in temperatures 26 degrees and above, so staying under the sun and warm to hot drinks are advised.

Our old habit of gargling with salted warm water also eliminates viruses and germs in our mouth and throats, preventing them from leaking into our lungs.

All told, quarantine for about 14 days will prevent the communication of the virus, and in isolation, it dies. 

As the former epicenter, China had no time to prepare. With its vast resources, only South Korea has improved on Chinese model by preempting the disease through massive nationwide testing, because it still had time for preventive measures.

The western world, which is largely liberal is thus highly at risk.

In cases where the enemy moves fast among the population and is unseen and unfamiliar, the last thing we want is a city mayor improvising on and debating with a virulent disease. (ia/

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