WHAT a Lunar New Year celebration it was. Major world happenings like the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Trump’s impeachment trial and the ICJ Session on the Rohingyas were eclipsed by the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. According to one hypothesis it started with live animals at a wet market, which was closed on Jan 1.
Viruses are known to jump from animals to humans. And as humans come into closer contact with animals, the transmission becomes ever more likely.
The latest incident is dubbed as the fourth generation or 4.0. Where have we heard that before? Of course, the Industrial Revolution 4.0 which was bandied around after being promoted by the 2016 WEF. Following this, many were told expect a so-called “disruption” thanks to the emerging autonomous technology, like it or not. Else we will be left behind as the world moves on. So goes the argument.
Thus in Malaysia, the 4.0 tag is persuasive beyond the industry. Education, fashion, food, health are among the sectors that have adopted the 4.0 tag. All these are techno-centric, where machines are the drivers. Even in health care, it is also becoming more and more techno-centric. So as we move closer to a more life-centric paradigm, things can turn chaotic.
The “bio-disruption” initiated by a “novel” coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is one good example. Being”novel“, it has caught the world unprepared with no established vaccine at hand, not enough facilities, protective clothes for professionals in active centres, screening machines at entry points, and reportedly even professionals with the right expertise to cope with the rapidly unfolding “dangerous” situation. To date, more than 10 countries are affected although with fewer cases, but no less vulnerable.
Evidence has it that there is “sustained human-to-human transmission” in Wuhan city. Meaning to say, a person contracting the virus from a non-human (animal) source can further ignite a series of transmissions to infect many persons. At press time, the number of confirmed cases stood at 4,474 with 107 dead. Even then there are critics saying that these numbers are a gross underestimation.
So it is not surprising to hear the president of China admitting the outbreak was a “grave situation“ when denials used to be the knee-jerk response. Some 15 Chinese cities have been locked down to keep more than 60 million people quarantined to slow down the spread. And extra holidays have been declared for the same purpose. The affected locations look like “ghost towns” where mobility is restricted, even to buy daily necessities. Most people feel helpless. This is compounded by the lack of information available on the latest steps taken to reduce if not resolve the issue.
In contrast, the speed of transmission is alarming; some patients exhibiting no early symptom even though infection had already set in. It makes effective detection more complicated raising the notion of an overall entry ban as an alternative for the outside world.
Countries more familiar with China socio-politically have taken steps to ban travel to and from China, specifically Wuhan and the Hubei region. Hong Kong and Taiwan are among the earliest, while some countries are still on wait-and-see mode even though there are positive cases reported.
Malaysia has halted all immigration facilities including issuing visas for Chinese citizens from Wuhan and areas around Hubei province
The takeway from this incident is that in ensuring the safety and health of the people, it is not sufficient to rely on techno-centric approaches alone without giving equal if not more human-centric emphasis too, which is often much cheaper through preventive measures. In short, we need to remain rational at all times come what may.