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Daily dose

How the novel coronavirus outbreak gave birth to #OustDuterte

A lot has happened in the past month since the world learned of the 2019 novel coronavirus that started an outbreak in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province. As of this writing, figures from the WHO are as follows:

Globally
11953 confirmed (2128 new)
China
11821 confirmed (2102 new)
1795 severe (268 new)
259 deaths (46 new)
Outside of China
132 confirmed (26 new)
23 countries (4 new)

Novel Coronavirus(2019-nCoV) Situation Report – 12 as of Feb 1, 2020

In the Philippines, the numbers from the Department of Health as summarized below:

DOH tracker of novel coronavirus cases in the Philippines

The first fatality in the Philippines also earned the distinction as the first one outside of China: 44-year old male who was the companion of the first patient, 38-year old female to have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Both were tourists from Wuhan arriving at Cebu via Cebu Pacific flight 5J 241 (Hong Kong-Cebu) and DG 6519 (Cebu-Dumaguete) last Jan. 21, 2020. From Cebu, they then took a flight to Manila on January 25, 2020 via Philippine Airlines. Both airlines have pulled out the actual planes boarded by the tourists for disinfection and have had their cabin crews and pilots screened for the the coronavirus. They are also working with health authorities in tracking down and contacting the other passengers who sat nearby the two tourists.

For some measure of relief, 24 persons under investigation have tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

On January 31, the WHO declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. In response, neighboring countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Mongolia and Russia have declared travel restrictions on passengers from China. Meanwhile, here in the Philippines, all the government did was declare a travel restriction only to passengers coming form Hubei province where the epicenter of the of outbreak is. This slow response and deference to ‘avoiding the ire of Beijing‘ sparked public outrage that made #OustDuterte a top trending topic on Twitter.

Which was no surprise considering that on that same day, still active Presidential-aide turned Senator Christopher Go stated that President Duterte would meet have a meeting with heath experts and government officials to deal with the outbreak NEXT WEEK! Adding insult to injury, Presidential Spokesperson followed up with a statement that for Duterte, “weekends are sacred” and that he “likes to sleep long.

The response of the administration’s supporters was not totally unexpected: the deployment of online trolls and bot farms with a different, albeit hypocritical narrative: an appeal for sympathy for our Chinese brethren and that a travel ban smacks of racism:

Be careful with sharing the sob stories you read surrounding current events. Some of them are fake/propaganda…

Posted by Martin Luke Lastrilla Patiño on Friday, January 31, 2020

This quickly backfired as netizens used the troll’s message as a template to further mock and throw shade against the administration:

I'm sad. We have Chinese neighbors sa condo, and just now may nakasabay kaming babae (Chinese) with 2 kids. Ang sabi nya…

Posted by Rafael Antonio Anton Dulce on Saturday, February 1, 2020

There are a lot more of these and quite sure you’ve seen either type or both on your newsfeed. The key takeaway is this, at the very least the Duterte administration is sensitive to public opinion.

Categories
Daily dose

New coronavirus in China similar to those found in bats – just like in the movie Contagion

Have you seen the movie Contagion? Released in back in 2011, it showed how a deadly disease could easily spread throughout the world thanks to the convenience of air travel. How that deadly disease started was accurately shown in the film’s final scene:

Pathogens crossing from animals to humans has long been established by science. The recent outbreak of a pneumonia-like illness in China and the discovery that the virus closely resembles those found in bats just made the movie a lot more scarier. It just happened in real life, in our present times.

ScienceMag has details from a transcript of an interview with Xu Jianguo, head of an evaluation committee advising the Chinese government on what we know so far of this outbreak:

Q: The virus has been isolated from one patient, is that correct?

A: Correct. Two groups isolated the virus from samples from one patient. The viruses are nearly identical in morphology under electron microscopy. Researchers did laboratory investigations of 34 patients. A total of 15 were positive for the novel virus, [based on] sequencing samples of [fluid injected into the lung and collected for examination]. The teams got complete genome sequence data from about 10 patients. They are now attempting to isolate the virus from those samples as well. There are 19 cases with no evidence of the virus. There is no information available for the results of the remaining 25 cases.

Q: How close is this new virus to the SARS coronavirus?

A: The virus is similar to some of the published viruses collected from bats. But it is not close to SARS and not close to MERS.


Q: Is there any progress in tracing the original source of the virus?

A: I have no information. Personally, I’m interested, too. The virus looks like viruses isolated from bats, but how it was transmitted from bats to people is still a question. Several groups in China have been working on bat coronaviruses for years. I imagine they’re working on this but so far there is no information.

Q: Are other live animal markets being checked?

A: The Wuhan market has been closed. I have no information about other [markets]. Wild animals carry the risk of exposing people to new viruses. I think we should have more strict regulations and inspections of markets that sell wild animals, especially since the source of the new coronavirus has not been identified and eliminated.

One fatality has already been linked to the outbreak. Airports in Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines has imposed screenings of travelers from mainland China. Hopefully the disease is contained and there won’t be a repeat of the SARS or MERS epidemic a few years ago.

Categories
Opinion

#HINDIdependenceday – Can we repeat something we did 122 years ago?

History doesn’t repeat itself, we repeat history.

It’s my favorite quote by historian Ambeth Ocampo which, to me, simply means that if we do not learn anything from history or our past, we are bound to repeat it. Tragically or ironically or both, we Filipinos seem to have the collective habit of repeating the ‘bad parts’ of our history.

Take yesterday for example, our “Independence Day” commemorating the proclamation of independence by Emilio Aguinaldo 120 years ago. To be clear, that “independence” was from Spain which had colonized and ruled our islands for almost 400 years. We say and put emphasis on “independence from Spain” because shortly after that proclamation at Kawit, Cavite, we came under American occupation and colonization.

Ironically, the Act of Declaration of Philippine Independence contained the following:

“And having as witness to the rectitude of our intentions the Supreme Judge of the Universe, and under the protection of our Powerful and Humanitarian Nation, The United States of America, we do hereby proclaim and declare solemnly in the name by authority of the people of these Philippine Islands,”

Our history textbooks call this “benevolent assimilation”, the US subjugating our islands, robbing us of our independence, pillaging our natural resources and murdering thousands of our forefathers. Ironically, again, the same history textbooks fail and are even completely silent about how the US occupation was facilitated by our past leaders, led by the man who made the proclamation 120 years ago. He did not only proclaim our so-called independence that was “dependend” on a foreign power, he also proclaimed himself “egregious dictator.”

Which brought us to yesterday’s June 12, 120 years later independence still continues to be something complicated for our nation, succinctly captured in this photo by Christine Avendaño for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, taken before Rodrigo Duterte delivered his Independence day speech:

In the ordinary course of things, the photo would have been just one of the many that will serve as a memory of today’s programs. However, in the context of what has happened and what is happening in terms of the Duterte administration’s ‘pivot to China’ vis a vis China’s occupation of territories in the West Philippine Sea, one cannot find it hard to say that we, at the very least our leaders in government are repeating history once again.

We commemorate our ‘independence’ with all the formalities, speeches, parades, photo-ops, holidays, the whole official brouhaha, yet we find our so-called leaders embracing foreign powers that threaten our security, plunder our resources and steal outright from our citizens. We have a representative government yet its Chief Executive has acted and continues to do so in the fashion of a dictator. Dissent and criticism is dealt with violence, political persecution and oppression.

Like Aguinaldo before him, both leaders are surrounded by representatives of the ruling faction of society who has taken turns plundering our national coffers to protect their business interests, propagate themselves in power, collaborate with foreign interests setting aside and perverting the causes for which the Revolution began: freedom to steer our national destiny, taking our place in the family of nations and serving the common good so our people would prosper and our citizens are able to take on the pursuit of happiness.

120 years on, it is clear that the ‘independence’ we commemorate, despite the material and visual trappings, the parades and speeches, remain shallow and wanting. 120 years on our national project remains a complex and complicated work in progress. 120 years on we find ourselves repeating the shameful and disgraceful events of our history. 120 years on, can we not for once repeat something else? Can we not repeat that glorious act we took 122 years back? If you our history, you’d know what I am referring to.