The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

From heartbreak to braveheart

Charles Flores Sunday, 5 April 2020, 09:52 Last update: about 3 months ago

In the past month or so, watching television and browsing the social media have truly become a painful experience for most people, even those addicted to war films and detailed, colour-added footage of history documentaries. The Coronavirus pandemic has sadly grown into a global calvary as a bewildered humanity desperately seeks a way out to what would be a welcome descent to normality.

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There have been sporadic good signs practically everywhere, what have optimistically been described as silver linings, but the heartbreak continues. Stories that continue to come out of northern Italy, for example, where the virus has hit the hardest in the number of deaths, leave one speechless. It gives you the shivers just to listen to or read them... endless rows of coffins, churches and muncipal halls opened to store the bodies before they are picked up and taken away to be cremated, their families unable to pay their last respects or even say goodbye with a proper funeral because of the extended lockdown quarantine.

Doctors, nurses and other healthworkers, trained to be strong and brave in front of every type of physical adversity, have been holding back tears as they describe the anguish they felt for their patients who are “dreadfully scared and lonely in their last hours”. They try to offer care and to show kindness, but they are strangers trying to save them and failing to do so.

We cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the heartbreak as we realise that our own relatives, wherever we live, are as vulnerable and that they could die alone because there is absolutely nothing we could do. As we watch the healthcare workers, in their protective clothes, masks and gloves, rushing about to save lives in halls and corridors with multiple beds all filled with motionless people connected to tubes, drips and breathing equipment, the fear is common. After all, there is no sure cure yet and the only positive side of the crisis thus far is that attempts to keep patients alive have been gradually successful.

Only an irresponsible fool would ignore our own public health authorities as they persistently ask us not to overlook the seriousness of the pandemic. As one inconsolable Lombardy surgeon told the international media, “don’t think that it is happening here and it can’t happen anywhere else – because it will if you don’t do anything to stop it”. Tragic events in China, Spain, the UK, the US and many other places around the world more than confirm that statement.

Our figures and statistics may tempt one to take a leisurely, albeit crazy, attitude to this apocalyptic world scenario, as we have seen with the small number of cases of persons defying orders of mandatory self-isolation – a freaking Frenchman four times, no less – and against going out in groups of more than three. There is no solace in the fact that similar and even worse attitudes have been shown in other countries, such as people barbequing in their gardens, malicious citizens in the UK spitting at healthcare workers who were only there trying to help them and threats, attacks, break-ins and violence against pharmacy staff in France.

Bravehearts are what is needed at this moment in time. Almost 80 healthworkers have died in Italy alone. Many other such heroes have died elsewhere. The first to die was a 67-year-old doctor, Roberto Stella, whose last words to a colleague were: “We’re here to work and to fight.” Before he fell ill, he had said: “We have run out of masks, but we don’t stop. Let’s be careful and go on.”

How ironic that at the same time whole communities were frantically clamouring for the provision in bulk of that simple cloth mask, the world was being told US scientists have developed a hybrid reactor which can produce air and food for future Mars colonies.

                                     

Beating the bug

I have no doubt the Coronavirus bug can be beaten. Science and technology can do wonders as we have seen in the way other no less virulent viruses such as AIDS, Ebola and more ancient maladies that once haunted society, have been either beaten or safely contained.

Apart from the initial hesitancy that led to selfish export bans on life-saving equipment, nations have finally been showing more solidarity. Predictably, the European Union has been the slowest to react, but now seems set on catching up despite the Orban dilemma destined to give our own Simon Busuttil within the European People’s Party a bigger headache than what his girlfriend Kristina must have given him recently with her incredibly obnoxious comment on state-school teachers and students during the current school lockdown.

A black mark on this emerging show of solidarity is some of the manipulated media’s ugly interpretation of the help provided to Western countries like Italy, the UK and even the US by China, Russia and Cuba. Why such spontaneous acts of solidarity have been so crudely politicised is, at this time of world-wide gloom, incomprehensible and an absolute disgrace on the part of the so-called journalists and politicians responsible.

                                     

Dissenters

A well-meaning friend from my Kalkara days who has been living in Australia for the past 50+ years, last week emailed me a message to express his annoyance at some comment that appeared at the bottom of the online version of my last column. I could only reply that while there will always be dissenters, I have respect for people with different opinions to mine.

What I detest is the venomous tone of some bloggers, not just in my direction, of course, especially those among them afraid to reveal their identity by conveniently using pen-names. I find comfort in the fact that there are many genuine readers who take the trouble to read our stuff. It is a privilege to be accorded this space and no one should begrudge anyone’s decent opinion.

 

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