A pandemic transits the orb (6)

Por: José Antonio Michelena


The pandemic unfeded by The Covid-19 has shocked the world and made it clear that despite all the technological advancement we have come to, nature can charge us dearly for our mistakes, and that globalization is excellent for expanding viruses.

As each nation has charted its strategies, its own crisis management, we have convened a group of intellectuals from diverse countries to put into context, from their respective nations, this current, globalized scourge of humanity.

They are scientists, professors, writers, journalists, communicators, who will leave their voices here to transmit their experiences, information, opinions. By sharing them, they encourage us to feel that protection that knowledge and ideas provide, something we need very much at this hour.

Anabel Pacios
Anabel Pacios


By Anabel Pacios*

In Germany, the first action taken was to begin the occurrence of cases: quarantine was ordered, the suspension of undes needed work, and workers were sent to their homes to continue, where possible, their work remotely. Borders were also closed, and inspections were placed on all existing ones to control people’s transit.

Within the European Union, many live in one country and work in another, so these people may have been greatly affected by the measures. In the case of Germany, the chancellery ordered that no worker could be dismissed and kept his full salary.

This measure was amended two weeks later, when the coming crisis was seen. Currently, workers whose duties have been interrupted are paid 60% of their wages if they are single, and 67% if they have a family. But it is discussed in parliament to increase these figures to 80% and 87% respectively.

Similarly, for workers who have reduced their duties to half-hours, the employer pays them the hours worked and the salary is increased by an additional payment provided by the Ministry of Labor.

The most affected in Germany were small businesses, such as florists, cafes, or clothing stores, as they had to close. In these cases, the government said it was going to provide financial aid to the owners, for which they had to fill out an application. Many restaurants and cafes set up home delivery and enabled a contact website. Likewise many stores opened online, and the software service has had more work than ever to meet demand.

All air flights were also cancelled and the government made an agreement with airlines to collect German citizens at the time of closing borders abroad, whether for holidays or work.

All other people were not accepted on flights. This measure was a bit extreme, I have friends of foreigners who work here and had to cancel their return trip because the country simply closed its doors for anyone who was not a citizen.

Germany has had few dead compared to neighbouring countries. One possible reason is that among the first steps was the prohibition of family members visiting nursing homes, parents leaving children with grandparents, and preventing young people – who are most often asymptomatic – from meeting or having contact with their older loved ones, who are the most vulnerable.

Another reason is that intensive care services have three times more capacity to care for respiratory care than neighbouring countries. The average age of those infected in Germany is around 40-50 years, even strong people who can, if they do not have a previous medical condition – hypertension, diabetes, asthma – unda0th the disease. In Italy, for example, the average age of the sick is between 55-60 years, and most of the deceased are elderly.

Quarantine established that you can only go to the market to make the basic purchase of food; in addition to pharmacy, hospitals, and work (in case of people who for reasons of profession cannot practice from home).

It is permissible to go for a walk, never meeting anyone else, no friends, no family, only those who live together. This measure here works, because people are very disciplined. But, if the rules are not complied with, there are policemen always watching in parks, squares, the river, so that no groups are formed and the law is being complied with. If not met, the fines are around EUR 200-600, depending on the fault. This was two weeks ago; up to five people are currently allowed to form groups.

After a month and a half in quarantine and seeing that the numbers of infected have decreased by less than half from the peak of infection, which for us was about a fortnight ago, the government has indicated the opening of small businesses and a gradual move to normal life. But the use of masks in all public places is mandatory, in addition to maintaining distance; hand sanitizer dispensers are located at the entrance of each site.

Bavaria, which is the most affected state in this crisis, is still quarantined, until next week, indicating the gradual opening of small shops from 4 May, although hairdressers and barbershops will open a little later.

All festive activities involving crowding of people (disk, clubs, festivals…) are suspended in Germany until 31 August.


At the moment there is no drug specifically designed to treat this virus. Therapies are being used to treat symptoms of the disease, such as commonly used antivirals to treat HIV and Ebola; other treatments include azithromycin (mainly to combat pulmonary fibrosis), immunoactivators, such as interferon, and hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial whose effectiveness, in my opinion, is a little dubious in treating this viral disease.


Diagnostic tests are dissimilar, and there are more and more in the market as many companies are focused on their development. The first to be done is based on the qPCR (quantitative polymerase chain reaction) technique, and consists of detecting gene fragments of the virus in the body. This test may take a couple of days to give the results, due to sample processing and data interpretation.

Other tests that have been developing consist of immunoassay methods, that is, that detect the presence in the body of antibodies raised against the virus, indicating that the virus has infected or is infecting the body (depending on the type of antibodies detected). This type is usually faster and according to the technology used can give the results between 45 minutes and two hours.

All of these lab tests are always backed by a medical supplemental test, an x-ray plaque of the lungs. If the lungs have necrosis – in conjunction with the laboratory test – it is a positive indication of the presence of the virus in the system. In addition to the clinical symptoms that the person presents when attending the doctor (usually fever and dry cough, sometimes also accompanied by headaches, tremors…).


Vaccines are in development. The most advanced are the use of mRNA technology (they are based on gene fragments of the virus), which are the fastest production and the easiest to do. Of this kind, the most advanced are in clinical phase I, and are expected to be optimal for distribution in a year, or year and a half.

(Wurzburg, Germany, 28 April 2020).

*ANABEL PACIOS MICHELENA (Havana, 1988). Degree in Biochemistry from the University of Havana, graduated cum laude. He worked in drug research and development in the Cuban biopharmaceutical industry. Master’s Degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He holds a PhD in Life Sciences, specializing in Biomedicine, at the Clinical University of Wuerzburg, Germany.

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