Taking draconian measures like in Italy may not be the way forward

Carmen Gomez

Coronavirus is a name for a large set of illnesses including colds and other respiratory ones. Covid-19 is a novel strain; however according to research, drugs previously in development of Sars Covid- 2, could be effective for Covid-19; as could some existing anti -viral drugs. A World Health organisation senior advisor, Dr.Bruce Aylward, team leader of the joint mission between the World Health Organisation and China on Covid -19, says that Coronavirus containment remains possible.

He says that the virus Covid-19 is neither Sars, nor Mers, nor is it influenza. It is a severe acute respiratory syndrome caused by a coronavirus. The nature of the virus, according to him, means that they have an opportunity to break the chains of transmission and thus contain its spread. This Doctor was on a fact finding mission in China and says that the experience there altered his view of what can be done.

Wrong Person

He does not agree with the fact that taking draconian measures like Italy, is the way forward. Perhaps, he says, countries may be taking the wrong lesson from China by relating its success to the Government’s restrictions on daily life. According to him the Chinese have actually changed the course of a respiratory –borne outbreak, without a vaccine; something which he found to be extraordinary; adding that this success is not, as many think, attributed to the Government’s unprecedented restrictions on daily life in cities. They have built beds for isolation and have bought ventilators to help take care of the very sick.

It all goes back to fundamentals of public health. He says that’s how they stopped it in the areas in China with over 1.3 billion people. Things like having enough testing capacity to quickly identify cases; isolating infected patients; tracing anyone who has had contact with them; placing those contacts in quarantine facilities so they don’t get infected by the sick person, or spread the disease further; together with prohibiting mass gatherings. His message is that it is not down to lockdown restrictions, which in his opinion leads to fundamental confusion and failure to act correctly; saying that when you lift movement restrictions, you should be prepared for a rebound.


More lives have been saved than lost, due to lower air pollution; air pollution levels have dropped dramatically during coronavirus slowdown. Two days ago China had no new local covid-19 cases for third day outside Hubei.

The thing is that when I hear the phrase “respiratory syndrome” I immediately think upon articles I have written of late, dealing with air pollution. I have written before on the air we breathe, and they do say that the latest figures show that air pollution exceeds malaria, as a global cause of premature death, by a factor of 19. For despite the dismal reports that the EU will miss its target for reducing greenhouse gases by 2030; it’s obvious that the current rate of progress will not be enough to meet 2030 and 2050 climate and energy targets.

So I suppose that in such an environment as this where people worldwide; certainly is the case in Spain and Gibraltar; are breathing in car and refinery fumes galore; which has the pharmacies shelving out nose sprays as if there was no tomorrow; this is helping to produce allergies which later lead to chest infections, which lead to lung infections, causing just as much or more harm than cigarette smoke.

All of which presents a dismal panorama, which eventually leads to respiratory problems and gives harbour to such a virus which affects the respiratory system.

Which leads me to a matter I believe to be of the utmost importance in all this saga. Each country has its culture and customs which perhaps to others may not be that attractive. But what worries me more than angers me, is the fact that now twice supposedly, viruses have sprung from animals to humans in China and its wet markets! It appears that quite apart from the air pollution factor, it has been reported that the outbreak of this coronavirus likely started in Wuhan, pointing the finger at its wet markets. These markets are a part of Chinese culture which is a spill over of their desire for “warm” meat.

As the animals bought are killed there and then. It seems incongruous to me that such a way of life should be the cause of such misery and one that can not be eradicated. I happen to know as many of you do that in Spain, the meat from recently tortured bulls; the “Toro de lidia” i.e. the fighting bull; is destined for consumption due to its high qualities. It is deeper in colour; more bloody, due to the extreme sacrifices the bulls encounter. I recall as a young girl, there was a Spanish lady who came to help mother in the house and she used to tell us she would go round to the slaughter house immediately after a bull fight to buy such meat, because it was not only cheaper but lovely tasting and “still warm!”

No Kissing

It is a known fact that Global Health experts have been saying for years, that another pandemic wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when.” As the world waits to see if the Corona virus will truly turn into one, we in Gibraltar; apart from having bought what we think we need in the house to be prepared for what may come; are fairly relaxed about it. It’s seen as a funny thing now to hail your friends with “no touching or kissing” or a flurry of hands warding off the oncoming embrace. In the meantime I greet someone sat by the kiosks in Casemates with friends, and ask him if he is worried about the virus; he replies “not at all; in Gibraltar we are blessed;” let’s hope he is right.