SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Of viruses and obscenities

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 24 March) – Like a fighter caught off guard the world didn’t see it coming until the blow landed on its face. There was no time to duck; the surprise punch called Covid-19 gave over 160 countries and territories a neat lesson in the medical equivalent of mortal combat.

Indeed, not since the Black Death that obliterated a fourth of medieval Europe’s population has the world stood at the mercy of a microscopic villain.

China, where the disease originated, appears to have put it under check. Italy, however, has become the new epicenter of the pandemic with the number of deaths there surpassing China’s. Figures may change in the coming weeks depending on each country’s capacity in terms of resources and policymaking.

And here’s an unlikely development. The US, the world’s number one economy and home to many scientific minds, is racing against time to contain the virus. CNN on Sunday reported that President Trump’s dilly-dallying stance has caused things to get out of hand. He ignored warnings from US intelligence as early as January on the likelihood of the problem evolving into a crisis.

The same may be said of the Philippines. Health Secretary Francisco Duque himself admitted that government should have acted with dispatch sooner than it did. Apparently, he deferred to President Duterte, who was reluctant to impose a ban on the entry of foreign nationals, among other measures. He particularly disdained the idea of banning Chinese visitors – for obvious reasons.

In one speech, in fact, Duterte profusely thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for conveying sympathy to the Philippines in these distressing times. This Duterte did before he could even thank Filipino health workers and professionals who are risking their lives in the frontlines.

Here’s more bad news. The country’s public health care system has to deal with another sinister enemy, one that further undermines its capability to cope with the crisis.

Reports had it that politicians and high officials have asked the Department of Health to prioritize them, their families and staff in the testing [for the disease]. Given the scarcity of test kits such flaunt of power and privilege can only be described as shameless and obscene.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at