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Old 04-25-2022, 10:03 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default 21st Century Plague: The Rise and Fall (?) of a Global Pandemic

Note: When I originally began writing this, although of course the vaccines were in full swing, Ireland was still under restrictions and things still looked a little bleak. Not saying they don't look that way now, and with the outbreak of war in Ukraine perhaps the idea has just been pushed to the side, but for all that it does look like there are a few shafts of light coming through. We're not out of the woods by any means yet - we're still lost and stumbling around, if truth be told, and bumping into trees, while some sections of the population refuse to even acknowledge the presence of the forest, declaring it a hoax by the liberal media - but we do seem to be in a slightly better place than we were when I began writing.

The original subtitle of this journal was "The Rise of a Global Pandemic", and it shows the hope I have for the future that I've felt able to add the words "and fall" to it, even if I have had to qualify that with a bracketed question mark.

No sunrise yet, but the first rays are beginning perhaps to peep over the dark horizon...




This is, sadly, something everyone knows about. I can’t, and don’t intend to, as is my usual modus operandi, attempt to display my superior knowledge of the subject (mostly, it has to be said, gained through reading other people’s works) or tell you much you don’t already know. Everyone has lived through the Covid-19 pandemic, and continues to do so. Many have, very sadly, lost loved ones or friends or relations, or had or knows of someone who has had a bad case of the Coronavirus, and many families are, to put it in the words of President-elect at the time Joe Biden, looking at an empty chair at the table. No single event in human history, since probably the Second World War, has changed our lives so dramatically and so drastically. It could be compared, perhaps, to the 9/11 terror attacks on New York, but when all is said and done, though thousands lost their lives tragically and should never be forgotten or brushed aside, and though the way the world worked changed fundamentally after the attacks, it continued on, in some form. Nobody ever forgot, but we went on with life.

In contrast, the Covid-19 pandemic literally brought the world to a standstill. With lockdowns and travel bans, industry itself ground to a halt and people spent often months inside their houses, unable to leave due to government health regulations. Mental health suffered, and daily we watched the figures on both cases and deaths spiral out of control. We were, to put it bluntly, terrified. And finally a vaccine was found, soon joined by others, and we could think in terms of being able to manage, if not defeat, the virus. Of course, after the main waves came new variants, and we’re still living with those today. But nobody who lived through that initial first year of the pandemic will forget it, or be able to. It’s an insidious influence that’s touched us all, whether we’ve been lucky enough to avoid serious illness or deaths in our families, or whether we’ve watched those we love succumb to the virus. It’s been, almost to quote Star Trek Voyager, a year of Hell.

But then, it’s been two years of Hell, and now heading for the third. With sort of no real indication that it will ever be gone. Variants keep popping up, mostly due to those who, for various and mostly unfounded reasons refuse to take the vaccine, allowing it to propagate and develop and mutate, deftly trying to counter our vaccines. We may be living with Coronavirus in one shape or another for a very long time, maybe even forever. It may, in time, become so commonplace that we no longer fear it, our vaccines completely effective against it as are the ones against measles and polio, and we may listen with boredom to the announcement of yet a new variant having been discovered, safe in the knowledge that we are protected.

Or we may not.

Perhaps there’s a killer strain of the virus out there, just waiting for its chance to mutate into something that will skillfully avoid all our vaccines, and bring more death and misery to us. But I get ahead of myself. Nobody knows the future, and we have to hope that eventually the virus will be brought under some sort of control, where we have a vaccine or vaccines that can handle any new variant and stop it dead in its tracks. Perhaps we will get Covid booster shots the same way we now get flu shots. Perhaps our kids (well, yours: I ain’t having any!) will read the history books and wonder how we could get so worked up over a virus which is by their time so easily controlled, the same way we roll our eyes at how previous generations feared smallpox, or tuberculosis, or the Black Death.

Perhaps. Let’s hope so.

But that’s in the future, and in this journal I want to look to the past. Not the distant past, as I often do, but only three years (at the time of writing) back, to 2019, when the virus initially known only as the Coronavirus first began to make its presence known. While I usually/always write journals about subjects that interest me, subjects I wish to share with others, this one is different. This is almost the journal that had to be written. Yes, we're all sick of social distancing and washing hands, and variant this and variant that, but I still think it's important that some sort of an attempt at an actual record of the worst natural global disaster to hit planet Earth in over a hundred years should be made, and so I'm making it.

We probably all know where we were the day the first case(s) was or were announced in our country, or state, and we’ve all watched the news reports and (I hope) followed the health advice in order to keep ourselves and those dear to us safe. So I can’t tell you much you don’t already know, and I won’t really try. Although this will be essentially the usual history of this or that, in this case the pandemic that swept across the world in the first years of the third decade of the twenty-first century, it will take more the form of a diary, an actual journal for once, using the most common format that pertains to that word. An account, a retelling of how Covid began and how it came into our very houses, how the world shook and trembled, how deaths skyrocketed and how eventually we began to get it somewhat under control.

But the men and women who do that, apart from the tireless scientists, doctors and other medical professionals, researchers, experimenters and pharmaceutical companies, are the governments of the world. In order for the virus to be contained as best we could manage, those in authority had to order us to remain behind closed doors for a specific time. They had to relay the advice of the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) on social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing, as well as other points of health and safety. Most countries did this, with varying degrees of competence resulting in varying degrees of success, but some ignored their responsibility to their citizens, willfully going against the advice and putting their people in danger. Some of these were countries you might expect to go that way, the autocracy that is Russia, the right-wing South American countries, especially Brazil, and, to a slightly lesser extent, Britain.

But the country whose government has, unfortunately, gone so far out of its way to demonise this virus and “take a stand” against “vaccine terrorism” is the United States. It’s due to them, mostly, or to the ones who refuse to mask up and get vaccinated, that these variants continue not only to appear but to thrive, for as long as there is a breeding ground for this virus it will continue to exist, it will threaten our lives and those of the ones we love, and it will never be gone, never cease to be a threat.

The resistance to Covid-19, the blind, stupid, ignorant and deliberate attempt to pretend it wasn’t there centre of course on the last years of the Trump administration, and so we will also be examining that in some detail. Under a president who cared more about getting re-elected - and failed to do so - than protecting the people he swore to serve, right-wing conspiracy nuts such as QAnon have sprung up (or rather, sprung out, as they were always there, just previously lurking like vampires in the shadows, afraid to come out into the light) and fascist militias such as the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys have risen to unprecedented levels of power and acceptance, as the dark, ugly side of America, hidden from view mostly for the last decade or so, showed itself in all its twisted horror as the final months, weeks and days of the Trump administration wound sulkily and angrily down.

I welcome any comments, stories you may have, corrections or offers of cash incentives as usual. I can only relate my own experience and that of those I read about - I certainly have amassed a few books on the subject to help me with my research, though oddly enough there do not seem to be that many, so I will be mostly relying on the timeline provided by Wiki - but those of you who have another view, who have seen things unfold on the ground where you are, who know the things that may not be printed in books, who have lived through it perhaps in the most tumultuous era of the most divided country since the Civil Rights era, are welcome to share your stories here.

Just make sure you all have your shots before you come in, and nobody gets in without a mask.
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Old 05-14-2022, 09:55 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Chapter I: Dark Genie: Pandora’s Box Opens

I: Once Upon a Time in Wuhan

Timeline: mid-November - Dec 31 2019

Various factors make it all but impossible to know exactly when and why and how the Covid-19 virus first escaped. The fact that it began without question in China, one of the countries most noted for its suppression of the media and the truth, and always ready to make itself look good at any cost, means we will probably never know the real story. The original idea was that the virus had been carried on horseshoe bats and that it jumped from animals to humans, in a process called zoonosis. However, it’s also theorised that there may have been an intermediate species which interacted with the bats and then passed the strain on to humans. Nobody knows for sure and investigations into the origin of Covid are ongoing. Recently, the team from the WHO (not quite sure what Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend have to do with… oh) revised their conclusion that the virus could not have escaped from a laboratory, citing pressure from the Chinese government, and now supporting that theory as possible, even “likely”. Nobody though is suggesting it was a deliberate act, rather a tragic accident possibly due to inadequate safety procedures.

What we do know without question is that the virus quickly contaminated the tiny town of Wuhan, which is a word everyone is familiar with today, but which before this nobody even knew existed. From there it quickly spread till all of China was infected.

Covid, the COronaVIrus Disease, or Coronavirus 2019, is a SARS virus (SARS: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and related to the almost-pandemic which threatened the world in 2002/2003. Its scientific name is SARS-CoV-2, and it has also been described as a Novel Coronavirus, I guess because at the time it was a new strain. Mostly though it’s just referred to around the world now as Covid-19 or more often just Covid, though President Trump, while in power, tried to stoke anti-Chinese feeling in the USA by calling it “the China Plague” and, completely inaccurately and stupidly, the “Hong Kong Flu”, presumably to pull at the memories of those of us who remember the cartoon kung-fu practicing dog, Hong Kong Phooey. Yeah.

So nobody can say with absolute certainty how the virus started. That’s where the conspiracy nuts come in. Well, you’d expect that wouldn’t you? Nuts gonna conspiracy. But usually that’s all they are: nuts who are largely ignored, often ridiculed and seldom believed by anyone but fellow nuts. But Trump changed all that. When QAnon came out into the open, it should have been sent scurrying back into the shadows with its tail between its legs to the sound of jeers and scornful laughter. But when the then-President of the United States starts retweeting these completely baseless, false and made-up so-called theories, unfortunately, people take notice. And so rumours began about Covid being, I don’t know, developed in secret labs by the Chinese with the help of Hunter and Joe Biden and ZOG and a cabal of blood-drinking, paedophile Hollywood A-Listers and George Soros and insert whatever conspiracy figure you like.

And people started believing.

Which is why we are where we are now. But I’ll be going deeper into all that later. Right now I’m just using it to illustrate the fact that what seems to have been a natural occurrence, tragic yes but involving no human agenda, has now been bumped up to be a massive worldwide conspiracy, resulting in over half of America refusing to take the vaccine shot, and actively - and very stupidly and with zero success - fighting against the virus, or I should say fighting with the virus, as their intransigence and “refusal to comply” has exacerbated what was already a terrible situation, and it’s not likely to get any better any soon.

Unaware of this, uncaring since it is in fact not sentient and doesn’t give two shits whether we believe in it or not, Covid ran rampant across China. Beginning, at best guess (due to the Chinese government’s typical denials and refusal to provide records and details) in the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, in Hubei Province, several people have been offered as the actual “patient zero”, but nobody can confirm this. Market sellers or people working in the Wuhan Virology Laboratory, accountants… there’s no real way to figure it out, and in the end it matters little. The horse has bolted and we’re all being trampled by it, while madly trying to hammer back the stable door onto creaking hinges, as other horses - new variants - also make their escape.

It’s also been reported that, while whomever was the actual patient zero (we can at least be all but certain it was a Chinese resident) there are good reasons to believe that Covid had already made its way to such far-flung shores as Brazil, France and Italy by late November (the first actual case only being reported, or caught, in the first days of December in China). By December 8, one week after the first case had been reported, over forty people had been confirmed as positive with the new Coronavirus. By the end of December, as more patients began pouring in to the Wuhan Central Hospital and experts in infectious diseases were called in, the Chinese CDC was advised of the seriousness of the situation.

On December 30, mistakenly believing they were dealing with cases of “infectious pneumonia”, all linked to the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission sent a series of directives, one of which was to have tragic and far-reaching consequences, not only for China but for the rest of the world. It forbade doctors from spreading information about the medical treatment being given, without official authorisation. In effect, China can be accused of hushing up and covering up the whole thing, which I suppose in fairness you might expect from just about any country. Nobody wants to be seen as the springboard for a worldwide pandemic, and again to be fair, nobody wants to spread panic unnecessarily. But again, this is China, where information is tightly controlled and the government takes responsibility for nothing unless it is to their advantage.

By the next day the Chinese public were being advised to watch for symptoms of “flu” and “high fever”, and to seek hospital admission in this case. People were advised to wear face masks in public, not the first time China had had to do this, so it was something they were used to and probably didn’t cause the kind of immediate panic such an instruction would engender over this side of the world.

So far, no deaths had been reported.

Outside of Hubei, Hong Kong was the first to respond, placing thermal sensors at their ports and airports to monitor the body temperature of incoming passengers, and also advising the wearing of face masks. They also provided detailed information on how to wash hands properly. Anyone who had been in Wuhan fourteen days before the outbreak and who presented with symptoms of this “fever” would be put into isolation. The WHO office in China relayed the information on to its counterpart in the South Pacific, which in turn advised the CDC. Taiwan began tightening security measures on flights or ships from Wuhan.

As we all celebrated the arrival of 2020, nobody had the faintest clue what we were heading into. Those few of us who kept up with the news (myself not among them) had some vague idea of a virus outbreak in China somewhere, but that was thousands of miles away, and could never affect us, could it? We were safe.
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Old 05-21-2022, 10:12 AM   #3 (permalink)
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II: Secrets and Lies

Timeline: January 1 - 14 2020

The first days of 2020 saw the Chinese government finally break their silence and advise the American CDC about the outbreak. It was now characterised as such, with 47 patients believed to be affected, eleven seriously ill, and over 100 “close contacts”, a phrase unheard till then but which the whole world would soon come to recognise and fear, all being monitored. The National Institute of Viral Disease Control Prevention was busily ruling out several variants of influenza, as the disease had first been suspected being, and certain other common respiratory viruses. Genetic testing and sequencing revealed the virus to be a strain of coronavirus, which they named 2019-nCov. Having alerted the USA to the bare bones of the outbreak, the Chinese National Health Commission issued instructions prohibiting the release of any information on the virus. The shutters, having lifted the tiniest bit, were slamming back down again, and while the world would soon learn the true meaning of the word lockdown, China was executing its own informational one. No data got out of the country, nobody else was advised, no warnings were sent and no information shared. China’s pathological need to control everything about its people and its country would help to undo the entire globe.

And the new year was yet only three days old.

There was, however, one “whistleblower” in the country, and he did what he could to try to alert everyone. Naturally, he was repressed, punished and threatened for daring to speak the truth and look beyond party loyalty.

Dr. Li Wenliang

An ophthalmologist by profession, Li had worked at the Eye Centre of Xiamen University until 2014, when he transferred to the Wuhan Central Hospital. On December 30 2019 he shared information his colleagues had that seemed to indicate the virus was a SARS-coronavirus, and pretty immediately he was summoned by the hospital board, accused of spreading “false information”, after which the police arrested him as part of their investigation into his claims, censured him and warned him to retract his statement and make no more on pain of actual charges being brought against him. Having done so, on his return to the hospital Li contracted the virus himself, and on January 31, 23 days after falling ill, he published details of his interview with, and threat by the police on social media. The post quickly went viral, as people began to ask why the hospital had tried to silence him?

He was not the only one to be reprimanded, but the Chinese Supreme Court took a more sympathetic view, noting that "It might have been a fortunate thing if the public had believed the 'rumors' then and started to wear masks and carry out sanitization measures, and avoid the wild animal market."

In other words, the Supreme Court was either defending the whistle-blowers or possibly reprimanding the hospital, and through it, the party for trying to silence voices that were trying to alert China to the seriousness of the developing situation. Tragically, as Li returned to work and contracted the virus, he fell very ill and had to be hospitalised. He died on February 6, less than a month after contracting Covid. Chinese state media tried to cover their arses, pretending he was still alive when his heartbeat had already stopped, finally admitting that he was dead eight hours later.

The Pandemic is filled with the work of heroes, most of whom remain unsung and unknown, a few of which have received the honour they deserve. A phrase developed over the last two years: not all superheroes wear capes. It’s true: mostly they wear white or blue coats, masks and face shields, hi-viz jackets and other uniforms of the front-line staff who gave their lives on the line, and in some countries continue to do so, for the people they try to save. If Dr. Li was the first true victim, the first of millions of deaths from Covid-19, his death would be a harbinger for a pattern that would replicate itself across the globe as medical health professionals, care workers and staff in hospitals braved the dangers of the Pandemic in order to provide comfort and care to those who needed it most at such a time. So many would lose their lives that it would become nothing short of a scandal, fingers pointing to governments who skimped on essential protective equipment for their medical and healthcare staff.

Dr. Li’s death was not in vain, nor was he alone in succumbing early to the virus. Six more doctors died by June, and the internet was alive with expressions of sympathy for Li, and anger at the intransigence and arrogance of the Wuhan Hospital and the Chinese government, neither of whom offered any apology for how the doctor was treated, though they did pay tribute to him. A protest campaign began to gather momentum across China under the hashtag #WeWantFreedomOfSpeech, with two million views accumulated before the ever-repressive censor removed it. But like they say, once something goes up on the internet it’s there forever, and removing the hashtag did nothing to dampen the demand of Chinese people - and those outside the country too - for the truth behind the Coronavirus and its dangers. Academicians began to speak out, and a small protest was held in New York’s Central Park.

Finally, in April, Li was honoured as a Chinese martyr, the highest honour the country can award. Fortune magazine awarded him top spot in a list of World’s Greatest Leaders: 25 Heroes of the Pandemic.

Back to January though. On January 4 the United Nations activated their incident response team, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stood ready and the US CDC offered to send representatives to Wuhan to investigate the outbreak. Given the state of relations between the two countries, to say nothing of President Trump’s ultra-militant stance against China’s trade agreements, this was never likely to be an offer that would be accepted. Across the mainland, Hong Kong geared up for tight restrictions, its own University’s Centre for Infection warning that it was “highly likely” the virus was jumping from human to human. With Chinese New Year just over the horizon, they worried about a sudden surge in cases as people mixed and mingled. Though many might wear masks, not enough was known about the virus yet to indicate that this would be enough protection.

On that same day, Singapore was notified of its first possible case, a three-year-old girl from China who had been in Wuhan. On January 7 the CDC in America issued their first travel notice, warning (but not banning) people against travelling to Wuhan city. The next day South Korea seemed to have identified their first case, a middle-aged woman, again from China and again from Wuhan. She was placed in isolation and underwent observation.

The Virus Claims its First Victim

January 8 marked the first death - or at least, the first recorded/reported death - from the virus that was to take millions and make tens of millions sick over the next two years. A man who was a regular at the Huanan Market, and who also had what we came to be used to hearing of as “underlying medical conditions” - in his case, chronic liver disease - died of heart failure and pneumonia. The agent of his death was traced as the Coronavirus, at this time still called 2019-nCov, known by medical professionals to be a coronavirus but still seen as a “mystery virus” by the world at large. In some circles it earned the name of the “Wuhan Virus” (a variant of which name would later be jumped on by the Trump administration and widened to take in all of China) and was also known generally and referred to as the novel coronavirus.

At this point it should be noted that, Dr. Li and his six associates aside, no other healthcare provider had been infected, or at least, reported as being so. But the Chinese must have known: if Dr. Li had contracted it from a patient, then surely the virus was jumping from one human body to another? Easy to be Captain Hindsight of course: at this point in our lives we were all pretty much blissfully unaware of the threat posed by the virus, and how soon, in relative terms, it would be crossing our own borders and knocking at our doors.

On January 10 Dr. Li contracted the virus and immediately isolated himself, hoping to save his family, though his parents caught it too. They recovered and survived while he was not so lucky. As close contacts began to be monitored, rising to 700 in all, what we would grow to see as usual began to happen: hospital ICUs in Wuhan began to fill up and overflow, with patients being turned away as there was no capacity to look after them. The WHO, acting on information released by the Chinese government, advised that there was no evidence that the virus travelled from person to person. This may have been caution, an educated guess or an outright lie, there’s no way to know. But one thing is certain: China was not in any way sharing all it knew, and people would die as a result.

But let’s be clear here. I’m not condoning what they did, in fact I’m condemning them for it. They concealed information, downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak and threatened those who were ready to tell the truth. All horrible, reprehensible actions, and all very much in line with what we would expect of China. And as I said in the above paragraph, because of this, people died, and many more would die. But can we really put our hands on our hearts and say that had this broken out in another country that they would not have done the same? Russia? They certainly would have buried the information, and probably literally anyone who spoke of it or even tried to lift a whistle, never mind blow one. North Korea? Would surely have even denied such a thing could occur in their country and would never take responsibility for what they had let loose on the world. And America? Well, possibly under any other administration - Clinton, Obama, Biden, hell, even the Bushes, either one - you would hope, at least, that they would have done the right thing.

But we don’t have to speculate about how the Trump administration would have handled it, because we saw it. When the virus finally arrived in America, Trump and his party played it down, all but pretended it didn’t exist, then that it was going away. They ignored science and demonised those who spoke the language of health and safety, and eventually weaponised the pandemic against their own countrymen. So no, had this broken out in the USA at the time it did, with the Oval Office occupied by who it was then, I know for almost a fact that it would have been hushed up, shoved under the carpet, denied and ignored. Britain, run by a sort of Trump-lite, probably would have followed a similar path.

Sure, there are some countries you would imagine might have been more forthcoming, though really, in such a situation there’s no telling what politicians might do. They always consider their career, their re-election prospects and their future first, and that of the country second, so it might have been the same no matter where this virus broke out. So while we can definitely condemn and castigate China for its lack of responsibility and its failure in its duty of care to the wider world, we can’t be surprised and we can’t say it would not have happened anywhere else.

At any rate, it did happen and by now the virus seemed to have spread for the first time outside China, as a woman in Thailand was reported to be displaying the same symptoms. But so far, this was still Asia, and a long way away from us here in Europe, the UK and America. It still seemed like “their” problem.

It wouldn’t take long before it was everyone’s problem.
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Old 05-25-2022, 05:54 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Signature free maybe since 2018 but if these articles are your work Trollheart you should be writing for paid pubication. The standard of journalism is far above so much rubbish appearing in the printed/on-line etc media today.
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Old 05-25-2022, 08:49 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Hey thanks. I try to research my subject as far as I can, with as many different sources as possible, but this one weirdly proved hard to track down. Most of the books were either about how to treat the virus or how it developed, which, while part of the story, is not what I was looking for. A narrative of how it spread and how it affected the world was what I wanted. I didn't get that, so I had to cobble together facts from Wikipedia (as usual) and then add in my own personal experiences, research from one book where a guy in the UK kept his own personal diary from day one, and that's about it. I'm still working on it, but the plan next is to take each country separately and examine how the virus arrived, spread, was treated and eventually when vaccines became available, how the population responded. It's a work in progress. Thanks for your compliments.
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Old 05-26-2022, 12:21 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
Hey thanks. I try to research my subject as far as I can, with as many different sources as possible, but this one weirdly proved hard to track down. Most of the books were either about how to treat the virus or how it developed, which, while part of the story, is not what I was looking for. A narrative of how it spread and how it affected the world was what I wanted. I didn't get that, so I had to cobble together facts from Wikipedia (as usual) and then add in my own personal experiences, research from one book where a guy in the UK kept his own personal diary from day one, and that's about it. I'm still working on it, but the plan next is to take each country separately and examine how the virus arrived, spread, was treated and eventually when vaccines became available, how the population responded. It's a work in progress. Thanks for your compliments.
I don’t envy you the process of attempting to extract anything like truth from governments who have played politics and downright lied about Covid. You’ll also find a body of disinformation about how the virus arrived in many countries. Good luck.
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Old 05-26-2022, 05:13 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I don’t envy you the process of attempting to extract anything like truth from governments who have played politics and downright lied about Covid. You’ll also find a body of disinformation about how the virus arrived in many countries. Good luck.
Oh I know. I'm particularly looking forward to investigating Russia, more into China and of course the USA. Great fun. Hey, I actually enjoy it, though when I was writing this things looked bleak and I had to stop as it became depressing. Now we have some hope and it's cool for me to continue. So I'll be getting back into it - among my forty or so other journals...
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Old 05-29-2022, 10:00 AM   #8 (permalink)
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III: Calling Out Around the World: The Virus Goes On Tour

On January 15 2020 what the world had feared came to pass: the virus appeared in the west. The first case turned up in the USA, in Washington, where a patient who had travelled from Wuhan to Washington was found to be suffering from the symptoms and was isolated. The very next day Japan reported their first case, a man from China who, though he had not been to the market, was believed to have been a close contact of someone who was. However by this time cases had levelled off in Wuhan and the stringent restrictions were lifted. Meanwhile Thailand reported another case and in China a second death was recorded, and America began screening passengers coming in from Wuhan, although as yet no travel ban was put in place.

On January 18 a team of specialist epidemiologists arrived in Wuhan from Beijing to investigate the virus, meanwhile the city held a “super-spreader event” (another phrase 2020 brought us, and one with which we were to become tragically acquainted) for the Chinese New Year celebrations. Whether this was in defiance of the rising number of cases, in support of the official government position that there was no outbreak to worry about, or just plain ignorance and stupidity, we will never know. The official statement from the mayor remarked "The reason why the Baibuting community continued to host the banquet this year was based on the previous judgment that the spread of the epidemic was limited between humans, so there was not enough warning."But it certainly helped move the virus around, and Covid had a very happy Chinese new year. President Donald Trump, advised at this point of the situation by his Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, did not seem bothered about it. I suppose, to be fair to him and America, nobody really did. We would all learn to our costs not to be so sure of ourselves, but that was down the line.

On January 19 China woke to the scary news that the virus had been detected in people outside of Wuhan, as both Guangdong and Beijing reported cases, and one more person died, bringing the total at that point to three, with an estimated 201 cases in the country overall. The next day, as two medical staff became infected, the Chinese National Health Commission confirmed that human-to-human transmission was taking place. This was major news, and bad news too. Now it was confirmed that the virus could be passed on from person to person, the race began to create a vaccine. The first to undertake research into this was the National Institute of Health in the USA.

Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea were all now reporting cases, all of these believed related to a dinner held in a hotel in Singapore where one of the attendees was from Wuhan. Thus the virus made its way across Asia, and promptly began infecting more people. There’s nothing a virus likes to do (well, they’re not sentient but you know what I mean) more than propagate, spread and mutate as it infects, and this one was well on the way to being a major threat to Asia as well as America. It couldn’t be long before the rest of the world felt its clammy touch, and it wouldn’t be. Realising at last that they could no longer keep a lid on this, and that if they tried, they would be seen to be wilfully negligent and possibly complicit in the deaths that would surely follow, the Chinese came clean and shared their information with the world. A little late, but better late than never I guess. This was January 21. The next day the city of Wuhan was put under quarantine, but by now it was estimated that up to five million people could have travelled out of the city.

While the US embassy in China raised the Health Alert Level to 2, President Trump again shrugged it off. "It's one person coming in from China,” he said, “and we have it under control. It's—going to be just fine."
Of course, it was going to be anything but fine. More bad news was on the way. Mostly, for the first year or so, all we would get about the virus would be bad news, some of it very bad. This news told us that people who had the virus could be asymptomatic (not have or not notice symptoms) for several days before it showed, which of course meant people who thought they were perfectly healthy could be out and about and spreading the virus unknowingly before getting sick themselves. Then, those who had been infected, without knowing it, would infect others and so on. A vicious circle of infection that would be hard to stop, since nobody knew they were infected until it was too late.

We were now introduced to a new acronym, one which was to echo down the next two years across the world: PPE. PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment, and covers gowns, masks, gloves, face shields, all the paraphernalia necessary for medical professionals to provide themselves protection from the virus, and to prevent it being passed on in the event they have been infected. On January 24 the US reported its second case while France experienced its first, the first case to be detected in Europe. The entire province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located, was put into quarantine. The next day the virus reached Australia. As the last week of January began, cases began to pile up. The USA now had five, South Korea had three, Thailand and Hong Kong reported eight. Dean of the University of Hong Kong, Gabriel Leung, predicted that the amount of cases was in fact about ten times what was being reported, reckoning that there could be up to 100,000 cases in China alone.

Canada was next to fall, then Sri Lanka and Cambodia, while Germany recorded its first case January 27, while a scare in neighbouring Austria turned out to be a false alarm. Samoa, the first country to implement mandatory quarantine for Chinese travellers, detained six people who had been stopped from entering the country. The Director-General of the WHO went to China to discuss the situation with the Chinese government. Brazil and Ecuador reported “possible” cases, as did Finland, Armenia, Georgia and the United Arab Emirates. Air Canada became the first airline to suspend all flights to China. Peter Navarro, Director of Trade and Manufacturing in the Trump administration, began to sound alarm bells, warning that the virus could infect millions of Americans and recommending all travel to China be stopped. China’s cases now numbered around 6,000.

And the virus hadn’t even got started yet.

As January wound down, the WHO declared the coronavirus a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern", advising all countries to prepare for a possible pandemic. India, the Philippines and Italy confirmed their first cases, while Vietnam now had three, while in the US the first case of person-to-person transmission, marking their sixth case overall, was reported. Azar, the CDC's Robert Redfield and National Institute of Health director Anthony Faucci, the last a name which would become synonymous with the virus, for two very different reasons, declared that a ban on travel into the USA from China should be implemented.

On January 31 the first cases were reported in the United Kingdom, Russia, Sweden and Spain. By the end of the month a total of twenty-seven countries spread across five continents had cases of the novel coronavirus.
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Old 06-05-2022, 09:46 AM   #9 (permalink)
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IV: Death as a Way of Life

February brought worse news, as the first death outside of China was announced, a man from China who was resident in the Philippines, and who had been connected with the now-infamous market in Wuhan. He was, in fact, a close contact of the country’s first case. The next day Hong Kong also announced their first death from the virus. So far, all deaths had been linked to Wuhan, including one who had been on an evacuation flight to take them home. On February 5 a cruise liner called Diamond Princess reported ten cases, but there were over 3,500 passengers and crew on the liner, which was near Yokohama when it was quarantined. The next day Dr. Li Wengliang, as mentioned above, died from the virus, having tried to warn of the dangers and having been arrested and censured for telling the truth. He was later proclaimed a Chinese martyr.

There were now over 10,000 cases in China, 31 in Europe, 120 in Asia, 2 in the UK and 11 in the USA including one person who died, giving the United States its first nasty taste of death from Covid-19. This death was particularly worrying as it led the CDC to conclude it was due to what was termed “community transmission”, (another term that would define 2020/21) meaning the virus was being spread from one person to another by close contact. Also worrying was that the woman infected died at home, suddenly becoming ill, staying at home rather than going to hospital or visiting her doctor, recovering then relapsing and finally dying over a period of a few weeks. She had not left the country. By now the total cases on the Diamond Princess, which had always been expected to increase, stood at 86.

On February 8 it was confirmed for the first time that aerosol was a factor in transmitting the virus, so that it could be carried in human sputum, breath, sneezes and so forth. China now stood at a staggering 40,000 plus cases, with over 800 deaths, by far the largest total, though not surprisingly so. On February 11 the WHO named the disease as Covid-19 (CoronaVirus Disease 2019) and officially designated the virus itself as SARS-CoV-2. The same day, Japan confirmed its first death from the virus. Two days later, France reported the first death in Europe. The woman was a Chinese tourist, but soon that would change; once the virus had a hold, the people of China, who I suppose could be seen as its unwitting transport system, were jettisoned and the virus struck out on its own, hitting every country and every continent regardless of its relation, or lack of, to China.

This would not stop President Trump from repeatedly referring to Covid as “the China Plague”, nor violence being directed at Asian people, seen to be the cause of the virus by those whose brain a hungry zombie would starve trying to get nourishment from.

February 16 saw the number of cases on Diamond Princess rise to 355. This was now almost ten percent of the cruiser’s complement. In addition, Japan had 59 cases of its own. One day later, the cruiser had another 100 cases confirmed. You could see where this was going. February 19 saw the offloading of passengers (with the total now at nearly 650 infected) to be returned to their country of origin. The next day the first two deaths from the ship were registered. Eventually there would be twelve deaths in all. The first death in Italy, which would become one of the biggest hot-spots for the outbreak, was confirmed February 21.

In the USA, the Trump administration continued to drag its feet and shrug, hoping that by ignoring it the virus would go away. I suppose at least they didn’t try to shoot at it! Only three states were able to test for the virus: California, Illinois and Nebraska. New Zealand, Israel, Iran and Lebanon joined the club nobody wanted to belong to, but all would eventually be members of, as each recorded their first cases. On February 22 Italy became the European country with the largest case number, 79, and two deaths. One single day later it became the country with the third largest number of cases in the world, as its cases climbed to 152. Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Algeria, Brazil, Austria, Croatia, Switzerland and Oman joined the party, and with no travel restrictions yet put in place - other than from China - people began importing the virus into their own countries.

Italy and Iran saw people return to Denmark and Estonia respectively, creating the first cases in both countries, while an Iranian man moved back to Canada, opening up Quebec to the disease for the first time. An Israeli travelling to Italy and an Iraqi travelling to Iran helped move things along for the virus. Iran now had 245 cases while Italy reported 655. Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman were all victims of Iranians visiting, while Norway had the dubious distinction of having both an Italian and an Iranian spread the virus there. The Netherlands and Nigeria can also trace their first infections to an Italian tourist, the latter becoming the first sub-Saharan African country to fall prey to the virus. Northern Ireland was infected for the first time, again this being due to an Italian who transited through Dublin, so we were next on the list.

Iran had 388 cases and Italy 888 as February drew to a close. South Korea remained number two in the rankings, well behind China, with over 2,000 cases to its 80,000, and on the last day of February, this being a leap year, Ireland was hit with its first case. It had only been a matter of time. Other countries to report their first cases on this day included Ecuador, Luxembourg and Qatar.



This is a regular section I’m going to be featuring, where I examine, in hindsight, what could or should have been done in the run-up to, and indeed after, full blown pandemic status of the virus. It’s acknowledged by me that this is all said with the benefit of knowing what we know now, but still, there are some valid points I feel.

As I read this now, I’m increasingly struck by how almost comic the events of January and February 2020 were. Not in a look-at-that-guy-falling-over type of way, of course, but in terms of how the hell could we not see it, sort of thing. The idea of borders not being closed, or at least properly monitored, as the outbreak became an epidemic in China and then spread to a full pandemic across the world, is hard to get my head around, even though I was there as it happened. The thought of people crossing and recrossing national boundaries, going from country to country like blind and dumb supersonic snails or slugs, leaving the sticky trail of the infection behind them wherever they went, kind of boggles the mind. No country was restricted to travel to, other than China and a few smaller ones who took quick action which may have saved them from the worst. Europe basically shrugged, America laughed and Africa, at this point, probably barely knew what all the fuss was about with the white folks. Probably the only continent taking this seriously as they should was Asia.

But then we do have the benefit of hindsight, and we can see what happened when nations did begin closing borders, restricting air travel and locking down. Airlines, if they had to cut back on flights, would and did start to lose money, with a resultant slow trickle-down of loss of employment. Holiday destinations would and did suffer, and the idea of industry being slowed, much less stopping altogether as it had to eventually, surely filled everyone with dread, as it should. To say nothing of the civil unrest such measures would, and did, bring. Besides, at this point the competent authority, the main voice of health advice was the WHO, and though they had declared SARS-CoV-2 a PHEIC, it had not yet, according to them, reached the stage where it could be called a pandemic.

Generally speaking, governments do not like making decisions, or perhaps I should say they don’t like to take responsibility for the decisions they may be forced to make. Politicians, as I already noted, are all about their next term, how to survive, how to continue, how to get elected again, or to a higher office. They don’t like doing things that upset potential voters, and mostly try if possible either to avoid doing them, or if not possible, look for someone else onto whose shoulders they can pass the blame. And with Coronavirus, there was a ready-made scapegoat waiting, so they would do nothing until the WHO told or urgently advised them to do so. Then they could just claim - as would be the truth, if slightly simplified - that they were simply following the advice of the people who knew best what had to be done.

Surely governments across the world, certainly in Europe at least, which has turned out to be one of the major sources of deaths and cases, could have come together and made a decision, without waiting for the word from the WHO? But I suppose then they could be accused - by the opposition parties, always ready to score points even in a humanitarian worldwide emergency, and by their own people, those all-important voters - of moving too fast, of panicking, of not listening to the advice of the WHO. Speaking of panic, no government would want to engender such in their populace, which is probably another reason why they played the whole thing down as much as possible, most countries taking the line that it was “someone else’s problem” and unlikely to reach their shores. Even if it did, they assured their jittery voters, they would contain it. It would never get as bad in Germany, France, Italy (um), Switzerland, the UK, the USA as it was in China.

Never.

Someone, I believe it may have been President Trump’s mouthpiece, spokeswoman for the White House Press Kelly-Anne Conway, sneered that Coronavirus would never enter the United States. There spoke either a liar, someone who was desperate to calm the public at any cost, or someone who did not in any way understand how this virus worked. Perhaps all three. In any case, as we know now, and America certainly knows to its tragic cost, she couldn’t have been more wrong.

To be fair, at this point nobody still knew quite what Coronavirus was. Nobody knew with any certainty where it had originated - we still don’t - and for a long time there was no vaccine, so much of the efforts of medical staff and scientists went into trying to contain rather than neutralise the virus, and inevitably many mistakes were made. Conflicting public health advice, from the WHO and CDC to our own HSE (Health Service Executive) would confuse and anger people, telling them this thing then that, countermanding information it had put out a few days later, leaving everyone looking at each other and wondering what they were supposed to do? We were all winging it, we understood that: nobody in our generation had ever lived through or dealt with anything like this before. Still, we expected our men and women in white coats to know what they were doing, to tell us what we needed to do, and to keep us safe.

But nobody could.

Belligerence by the leadership of certain countries didn’t help. It’s been well documented (but I’ll of course be going over it again in detail) how America responded, or rather didn’t, but they weren’t alone in trying to wish away or laugh at the virus. Brazil, Russia, many Eastern European countries, the UK to some degree, all seemed to think that it was being blown out of proportion - or conveyed this to their people, possibly to make them look strong and unafraid - and rather like Dickens’ Mr. Podsnap tried to wave the thing dismissively away as if it were of no account. By dint of this, a basic idea developed that those leaders who adopted what we could call the Podsnappery line were seen as strong leaders, refusing to bow down to fear and join in the slowly-growing panic that was gripping the world, and those that reacted to the virus with caution and tried to protect their people, who listened to the science and understood how serious things were, could be looked on as weak, easily-led and easily-duped, and not representing the good of their people.

The world was slowly beginning to split, as people chose their side. It would only get worse as the months went on.
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Old 06-05-2022, 10:11 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Nice Leslie Nielsen meme. I love his movies.

Belligerence by the leadership? I think that in Canada's case, it might've been more a case of arrogance. There were too many people thinking they, and only they, knew what was good for the masses. It led to lots of dead bodies. It divided the populace even more than it already was. Anyone who wasn't vaccinated was dubbed all of the current woke insults by our highest ranking politicians and Facebook experts.

Do as I say, not as I do, became the Covid policy. Much like others around the world, our politicians decided they weren't subject to the rules they put in place. Going on vacation while in lockdown? No problem. Having huge gatherings while in lockdown? Ok dokily.

My family was lucky. My wife and I didn't lose our jobs. In fact, my wife's workload almost doubled. A fourteen hour work day became the rule for her, not the exception.

Our kids suffered. They started kindergarten in 2020. The school year was almost a write-off. Our son needs extra support at school. He mostly didn't get it. Let me say that remote learning for toddlers SUCKS! As if they would want to learn, when their trove of toys lay beside them!

On the flip side of this remote learning, was the fact that my wife and I were still working full time. Having to take care of the kids, while working, well, it wasn't easy.

We all got Omicron in January. We survived.

It wasn't all bad though. I lost roughly 18kg. I started walking at night for stress release.

Our kids are closer than ever.

Considering the death toll, the financial toll, and emotional toll thrust on most people, I know my family is lucky.

The country's response could have been way better. At this point, I'd rather not waste energy criticizing.
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