A pandemic transits the orb (4)

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.

Antonio Álvarez Gil, escritor cubano residente es España
Antonio Álvarez Gil, escritor cubano residente es España


By Antonio Alvarez Gil*

When news about a new virus appeared in a market in China began to arrive late last year, almost no one in this part of the world paid too much attention to it. Total, another virus that usually arises in that large and populated country. It will end as it started, people thought around, take a few hundred of the many millions of Chinese and the information will disappear from the pages of the newspapers.

Very soon, however, the perception of things happening in the Asian giant began to change. The images on the TV screens were stunning. The virulence of the epidemic, the speed of its expansion and the lethality with which it accounted for tens and hundreds of lives at that point on the planet caused the press in Europe to dedicate ample space to its daily emissions.

Thus, as weeks and days passed, we learned more and more about the coronavirus. It still had nothing to do with us, but we were already aware of its destructive power and its enormous capacity for transfer. However, we still kept seeing the images on the screens of our receivers, sitting comfortably on the couch and expressing, according to each other, the most varied comments about the misfortune that had been despondent about “the poor Chinese”.

Today he is here, among us, and he is the hidden enemy that lurks and attacks where he is least expected. It can jump from a road pick-up and end the life of any human being. It has done and continues to wreak havoc on all layers of the population in the richest countries in the world, let alone in the poor, where it strikes thousands of people without mercy. It does not respect sex, ages, or social classes, although it must be recognized that the poorest are the most exposed.

For reasons I dare not say, in Europe not all countries have suffered or suffer in the same way. I’ve noticed that the eastern half of the continent is coping better. The other half barely escapes its scouring. The strategy to combat it has also not been entirely the same in one place as another. The first to diagnose a case was Germany; but the first to suffer from the epidemic as such was Italy, particularly the north of the country. There the virus came from China, specifically from the Wuhan region, which had been the first and main focus of the disease. Then, with a never-before-seen haste, the virus spread, soon encompassing large areas of the transalpine nation. From there he moved to Spain, where I have lived for a few years.

And he’s from Spain, precisely, that I want to talk about. In my opinion, the authorities in this country were slow to take the necessary measures to minimize the damage. And this, in my view of things, has had an impact on the number of contagions and lives lost. I’m not going to talk about numbers or dates. Suffice it to say that after being already a national disgrace in Italy, the Spaniards continued to travel to the neighboring country. Examples include the followers of Valencia Club de Fútbol, who accompanied his team to support him in a match with Atalanta de Bergamo, one of the Italian towns most punished by the epidemic.

But tourists or students from Milan and other cities where the virus was already camped at their own devices also arrived at Spanish airports. They’d come, take a cab and go home and make normal life. Someday the exact number of infected people who continued to move for days between the two countries will be known.

The first week of March the epidemic was already a reality in Spain. Still, the government allowed massive activities that brought together hundreds of thousands of Spaniards across the country. But the worst thing was that, during that grace period, the authorities repeated over and over again that the Spanish people could rest easy, that the country had everything it needed to deal with it and defeat the epidemic without further difficulties. False. One of the major problems in Spain has been the lack of means of detection and protection against the virus, of many necessary resources to fight the disease.

That said, I can’t help but talk about the many positive aspects of the campaign. Once the Spanish government became aware of the scale of the problem, it began to act in a serious, organized and above all deeply humane way in the fight against the virus. He declared the closure of the cities, of the places where people usually meet; closed schools, cinemas, theaters, cafes and restaurants. Eventually, he confined families to their homes, drastically cutting off the spread of the virus.

But it had already spread across many regions of the country. When the sick began filling hospitals, the authorities understood that they did not have sufficient means of protection for doctors, nurses, cleaning workers and other members of health teams. Then they ran to look for them wherever there were. Unfortunately, the lack of means of individual protection caused, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, numerous contagions among medical personnel.

As is often the case whenever the law of supply and demand works, this situation has caused the country to have extra economic expenses, the magnitude of which is difficult to pin down. If it had reached the sites where these media are sold earlier, a lot of public money could have been saved. Another focus of contagion and death, painfully worth noting, has been nursing homes. Too many dead among the people who were to be cared for there.

Now I want to refer to the bright side of the problem. While it is true that at first it went slow, when the government “collapsed” and began to fight hard against the coronavirus, in this country unity was reborn in the people, the faith that the disease would be overcome and the optimism in tomorrow. Why did this happen? For a number of reasons I will try to summarize broadly.

First, because the 1940-foot Spaniard, the one who was confined to his home, has taken danger seriously and complies with the rules of confinement. Second, because the government has centrally played its role as a government and, despite mistakes and mistakes along the way, has never lost its face to the disease. And finally, because of the attitude of the health workers.

If I have left it for the last place, it is because its performance seems to me to be the most commendable fact that has occurred in the country during the crisis, the brightest and most glorious side in this war that the Spanish people wage against the Covid-19. I speak, of course, of the work of doctors, nurses and general employees of the state’s public health system.

The courage and dedication with which these men and women have faced evil is truly exemplary. Sometimes suffering from a lack of means of personal protection, they have worked selflessly for hours, days, weeks and months, with little rest. They have given their health, and often their lives, to heal their sick compatriots.

The number of toilets infected now exceeds 35,000 people. Nearly thirty have died of them. The list of sick and dead includes all ranks and jobs within the profession. Representatives of law enforcement bodies, whose work has been instrumental in enforcing confinement standards and curbing population displacement, have also become ill and dead.

Finally, one thing I cannot fail to mention here is the affection, the deeply humane treatment of patients admitted to hospitals. Unlike other European countries, with latitudes and a colder and more rational character, in Spain it is fought for the lives of all the sick, regardless of age or physical condition.

It is enough to see all those who have overcome the disease come out cured from the elderly and elderly hospitals around one hundred years old, how all those who have overcome the disease express themselves about those men and women who have been with them at all times, helping them and even licking them in the minutes that could be the last of their lives.

In these days of coronavirus in the land of my ancestors, I cannot fail to remember the words that José Martí, son of Spaniards and national hero of Cuba, wrote at the time: Honor whom honor he deserves. Reach out to them my recognition.

I couldn’t finish this chronicle without dedicating a few words to my people. I’m Cuban, a Cuban from South Melena who doesn’t forget his land. Despite the time and distance that separates me from my homeland, I always remember that there, plunged into a sea of deprivation, my people, my family and my lifelong friends live.

Away from its beaches, there are many children of Cuba who continue to love and suffer for it. In this harsh period of his existence, I would like to send to the people of the island all my support and solidarity, to tell him that I share his few joys and his many reasons for sadness. I know that sooner or later, our people will be wellpuled by the bad times it goes through. In the meantime, I wish everyone luck to overcome the disease, and force to rise again after it.

Alicante, 25 April 2020

*ANTONIO ALVAREZ GIL (Melena del sur, 1947) has an extensive narrative work that began in Cuba and continued to develop in Russia, Sweden, and Spain, where he currently lives. He is the author of a dozen novels, the last of which, At the Gates of Europe (Editions Huso, Madrid, 2018), was a finalist for the 2017 Nadal Prize. He has won the 2009 Vargas Llosa Novel Awards, Ateneo Ciudad de Valladolid 2004, and Ciudad de Badajoz 2001.

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