Best to avoid crowds, act on earliest symptoms

Published February 13, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Baguio  City has decided to postpone its annual Panagbenga  flower festival. Originally organized  to help the city  rise from  the devastation of the 1990 Luzon earthquake, Panagbenga  has become  the city’s biggest  celebration, featuring  a  parade of flower floats, street dancing, exhibits, and opportunities for the indigenous people of the region to celebrate their culture’s traditions.

Because of the  coronavirus epidemic that is now spreading in many countries around the world, however, city officials led by Mayor Benjamin Magalong thought it best to avoid gathering big crowds of people, which the Panagbenga does. So, instead of its scheduled celebration  in February, the opening parade, featuring street dancing, was moved to March 28, to be followed by the flower float parade on March 29.

At the other end of the country, way down south in Davao City, officials  also cancelled the celebration of the 83rd Araw ng Davao. All the many activities scheduled as part of the celebration – among them the Pasiugdang Pagsaulog, Mutya ng Dabaw, Parada Davbaweno, Datu Bago Awards, etc. – will be held instead in 2021.

A great deal of the  concern about coronavirus is due to the fact that it is a new  strain and so there is no existing immunity in anyone it will encounter. It is believed that it spreads from person to person by means of droplets of body fluids, such as saliva and mucus, from an infected person who sneezes or coughs. The virus can travel several feet and stay suspended in the air  for up to 10 minutes, scientists say.  Droplets could pass between airplane passengers via surfaces like plane seats and armrests.

The incubation period – the length of time before symptoms appear – is between one and 14 days. This is why the Filipinos now arriving from China are being sequestered for at  least 14 days in isolated quarantine areas, such as the athletes’ village at Clark  used in the last Southeast Asian Games.

There  is indeed very little that is known about the new virus, but it is enough to warn people against joining big  crowds, like the ones at Panagbenga or  the Parada Dabawenyo, or any site with people in close quarters like Metro Manila’s light rail transit cars.

Teams of  scientists around the world, from the US to China to France to Australia  are  racing to develop a vaccine but these usually take years, including testing on animals  and  clinical trials on humans.  Australian scientists hope theirs could be ready in six months.

In the meantime, prevention is the best strategy – for governments, such as the quarantining of all Filipinos arriving from China,  and  for every person, such as avoiding close crowds as much as possible, covering as much of the body, including arms and face,  as possible, and seeking medical attention at the first sign of fever, coughing, or shortness of breath.