Coronavirus: It need not all be doom and gloom!

I’m no different, I believe, to most people at the moment, in respect of how much and what I know about COVID-19, so I will share that with you, what I’m going to do about it, and how I think we can all contribute to getting through this together.
COVID-19 is the third of a group of three Corona-viruses of which Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars-CoV 2003), was the first, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV.EMC-2012) is the second. These are of the more virulent Beta group of respiratory diseases, while the Alpha group of four other strains presents ‘normal’ flu like cough and cold symptoms.
Sars originated in 2002, among cave-dwelling bats in South China, and MERS in Saudi Arabian camel markets, in 2012, while COVID-19 has not been specifically attributed yet, other than its original location of Wuhan, also in China. The mortality rates for Sars were 9.6 per cent, for MERS 3.8 per cent, while at the moment COVID-19 fluctuates around 3.4 per cent, according to WHO statistics on March 16.
So that’s the history! Now although researchers are saying it will be a year before they have a vaccine, there are a few interesting, maybe positive aspects emerging from the crisis. Very few children are affected, women are much less likely than men to show symptoms, and the elderly are most vulnerable.
Even more relevant to the Omani experience, Professor John Nicholls, a Viral Pathologist at the University of Hong Kong, said recently, “There are three things this virus does not like: Sunlight, temperature or humidity.” He explained that, “The virus’ ‘half-life’ is 2.5 minutes, while in the dark it is 13-20 minutes. The National University in Singapore concurred regarding its temperature fallibility saying that “Above 26 degrees C it is compromised, and at 30 degrees C for 2 hours, is converted to non-infectious.”
Maybe to place the virus in a situation we can easily understand, Maimuna Majumder, a computational epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School colleague Kenneth Mandl say that, “Infectious measles has an R-nought infection rating of 12 to 18, Sars was 2 to 5, while COVID-19 transmissibility is estimated at 2 to 3.3.” Christian Althaus and Julien Riou, of the University of Bern in Switzerland, support their calculation that the new virus’s infectivity is between 1.4 and 3.8. While they are slightly different the researchers are reassured that the numbers are similar. So, it appears there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we are not in the throes of a ‘zombie eclipse.’
What am I doing about it? Well, I’m a male, over 65 and that makes me vulnerable according to the statistics, but I believe if I stay here in Oman, or at least in the GCC, where temperatures are rising, and take all of the precautions advised by the Ministry of Health. I have hand mousse, alcohol spray, Dettol soap and antibacterial wipes at hand, I wash my hands regularly, and keep my distance from others. I also spend a lot of time currently outdoors, trying to let Mother Nature take care of me. Right now I feel it’s karma time, and she will repay me for my efforts over the years in terms of conservation and the environment.
Sadly, the global consequences appear significant as businesses relying on people moving around such as tourism and hospitality will suffer. Not all legitimately, I might cynically add, as COVID-19 may appear a convenient excuse for the unscrupulous to reduce staffing, or declare bankruptcy. Ordinary people will suffer, as the wealthy seek to evade moral and social responsibility. It would not surprise me to find that some employers refuse to pay salaries with the most facile of justifications.
Sports and global entertainment events, I make no apologies for saying you are being extremely selfish if you do not immediately cancel your crowd-drawing activities. You make heaps of money from the average person for a hundred years and now you want to keep going so you can maintain your excessive lifestyles? Don’t be so incredibly selfish!
Banks and financiers: Be pro-active and empathetic, cancel interest and give repayment holidays for the next three months. Employers: Don’t make your staff take holidays because they can’t go anywhere, but maybe offer them the option. Parents: Take your kids, who will be bored senseless, to a nice hotel for a few days, helping that industry recover a little of their lost business from the border closures.
We can all be sensible, compassionate, demonstrate understanding and respect for each other. These are uncertain times, but we are probably climatically speaking, in the best place in the world just now, so chill out, relax, unwind, and make the most of a very ordinary global situation. Would I rather be somewhere else right now? I don’t think so.

Oman Observer

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