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The virus

Muna Al-Fuzai

By Muna Al-Fuzai

The coronavirus is spreading rapidly in the world, and the Middle East is no exception. Now it is here in Kuwait. On Feb 24, Kuwait reported its first cases. The most common questions and debates are about how it arrived here, who brought it, what should we do, are closing schools enough, should we start storing food and medical supplies, etc. Are we confronting a direct threat of illness and death when mingling with infected people, and are we witnessing a new epidemic?

Inquiries, arguments, prayers, medical advice and tweets have been abundant in the past few days. Five of the nine Middle Eastern countries that reported infections said their first cases were travelers from Iran. These countries are Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq and Oman.

I believe the emergence of cases in Kuwait was only the first shock. The worst part was the government procedures in dealing with the matter, which caused the biggest jolt in the hearts of Kuwaitis. The government measures were totally inconsistent with the seriousness of the unknown virus. The lack of a suitable quarantine and isolation for possibly infected people was the biggest shock indeed! Authorities moved a group of people from the airport to a local hotel and now they are transferred to a coastal resort – shouldn’t a quarantine site be in a hospital?!

Several people blamed the minister of health as the person in charge for the absence and lack of precautionary medical preparations. Many people expressed their anger and disappointment over the government’s failure on facing the situation on social media, specifically Twitter. I also think it was bad enough for some doctors to air their personal opinions, which I think the ministry of health needs to control, because the statements varied between exaggeration or ignoring the issue.

No one can ignore the virus – it is all over the world. The virus has no vaccine yet and can be fatal for the elderly and those with health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. I think all MENA governments including Kuwait must shut all borders with infected states to protect their populations and monitor all arrivals to the country. This I believe requires collaborative communication and hard work to reduce the risks of disease importation and transmission and boost the number of survivors who get sick from the virus.

The government needs to act in a transparent manner by clearly informing the people what is happening. This is a public health issue. People should be provided updated information, not to make them afraid, but to give them the right guidance to remain aware. All what most people wish to see now is an effective quarantine for infected people, because poor control at healthcare facilities might lead to a disaster and turn a few cases into greater numbers, something no one wishes happens.

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