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A sure-fire way to ensure you get the blood up of a large section of readers is to start off a blog post quoting Donald J. Trump.

So here goes. The US president tweeted the other day about coronavirus and the measures being taken to control it that ‘We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.’

People queue to enter a supermarket in north Bogotá, Colombia, during restrictions imposed to deal with coronavirus, Covid-19.

Coronavirus has changed the rules of engagement for everybody. The question is, for how long?

Of course, true to form, Trump’s discourse since this ‘Chinese virus’ emerged has read like a dark comedy. He’s gone from ‘we have it under control’ to ‘it will be gone by April’ to ‘the US is in great shape to tackle it’ to ‘this is a pandemic and I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called one.’

What ails you?
Nonetheless, he does have a point about the cure potentially becoming worse than the viral infection itself.

In this regard, we’re talking about the cure being self-isolation and strictly imposed countrywide lockdowns, the approach being taken by many states battling covid-19 right now. Basically, it’s a degree or two less severe than the Chinese model of tackling “their” virus.

The idea in the short-term is not to eradicate it completely (although if that did happen, great), it’s to, as most are well aware by now, flatten the curve in terms of the rate of infection. In that way, the health systems of the many countries trying to deal with this crisis will be in a better position to cope.

The nightmare scenario is hundreds of thousands of cases in a short period of time. Hospitals just wouldn’t be able to cope with those in a critical condition.

Of course, as experts readily admit, in countries that were slow to enforce self-isolation and social distancing, the majority of the population is likely to get infected. On the plus side, the majority of that number should make a full recovery.

So, at this remove, we could end up with the same number of coronavirus-related deaths regardless of the measures taken. Even with the best medical care in optimum conditions, the sick and vulnerable who contract the virus might die.

The global death rate in the coming years could be lower due to coronavirus.

To use an analogy from a history professor from my university days when talking about the demise of Britain’s Liberal Party, World War One was the bus that gave it the knockout blow but the postmortem revealed it was in terminal decline in any case, on “borrowed time” so to put it.

There is the possibility, once we get on top of this, that the global death rate in the coming years could be lower than would be normally expected, as coronavirus ended some people’s lives a few years earlier than they would have departed the scene.

Death by association
Thus, coming back to the “cure” currently being implemented, leaving aside the severe financial heartache and associated problems it will cause for millions of people across the globe, especially in developing countries such as here in Colombia, could it turn out that it ends up being responsible for a good number of deaths in its own right? Or, better put, coronavirus’ collateral damage.

With the panic and chaos being caused by these lockdowns, there’s a fair chance that people who get struck down with other life-threatening conditions are either neglected or choose not to seek medical attention due to all the fear that abounds. Of course, this is going to be next to impossible to calculate.

For the moment, we have to trust that the measures currently in place are the best option. We have no other choice.

Nonetheless, from a Colombian perspective, if this 19-day lockdown we’ve entered proves successful in terms of keeping cases down, the hard-pressed masses will look for a prompt easing of restrictions.

On the other hand, if it doesn’t work, if cases skyrocket between now and 13 April, there’s a fair chance those same people will ask what’s the point? Why all this extra hardship for nothing?

They might just decide that they have to carry on regardless.

The next few weeks will tell a tale.
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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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    • beforechrist

      It is indeed. As the article points out, however, there is a chance that we might lose the same number of people or more due to the measures being taken than had they not been implemented. We’ll never know and we just have to do what’s been asked of us and hope we see positive results.

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