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Saturday, Feb 29, 2020 - 20:44 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert


...can we not just call it "mega-ultra-high threat" instead?
(Source: r/Wuhan_Flu)

Welp, this may be it, then. Remember when a handful of new cases outside China was news? Well, South Korea's reporting over five hundred a day now, Italy's leaped from virtually nothing to third place with nearly 900 in a week, and dozens of countries are looking around and gingerly raising their hands while going "Mr. World Health Organization, I don't feel so good". With all eyes waiting on the WHO to say the dreaded P-word, they've instead merely raised the threat assessment to "very high", up from "public health emergency of international concern", which was previously reported as its highest level of alarm; apparently the Phase 6 "pandemic" category, as employed until 2009 at least, is no longer in use somehow.

Netizen doomers weren't amused at the WHO's downplaying of the gravity of the situation, all the more given their perceived deferral towards China whilst the disease was still mostly confined there. It would soon be whispered that this refusal was motivated by financial concerns, since an official acknowledgement would trigger the World Bank's Pandemic Emergency Financing (N.B. not "Very High Threat Financing") bonds, which are due to mature in a few months. Notably, a Nature commentary from last August had questioned why such funds were earmarked to go back to investors in the first place.

The latest explanation from the WHO is seemingly that calling COVID-19 a pandemic would cause countries to prematurely abandon containment strategies while they still kinda work. This may be one of the worst-kept secrets in modern epidemiology, though, with a bunch of experts, the NIH, CDC, various hospitals, the French PM and Bill Gates all hinting that we might be on the verge of The Big One, with Moody's putting the odds at 40%; sure makes a change from "It's just a flu, bro".

Keep Calm & Carry On (But Not The Virus Please)

Given that one of the few things worse than a pandemic, is pandemic plus panic and economic meltdown, some have reasoned that fibbing to the public is actually the correct route to take, thus leaders like GEOTUS TRUMP projecting composure and buying his people some prep time, while putting in an expedited order for one billion N95 masks on the quiet, against childish slander from the likes of the New York Times (how far they have fallen!). Censorship and disinformation appears the flavour of the day, particularly with China's funny numbers and probable widespread undercounting alongside what looks like a partial Internet ban. It was left to two nurses to make a public plea for foreign aid in The Lancet Global Health after witnessing the enormity of it all (which has been swiftly retracted within a couple of days; someone should really keep tabs on those two), amidst increasing frustration from the locked-in residents.

Courageous survivor dog battles ninja in virus-ravaged Wuhan
[N.B. Sequel is already out! Sure it's not Jedi Bruce Lee with lightsaber nunchucks, but we all gotta start somewhere]
(Source: r/funny)

Considering all this secretiveness and outright falsehoods by the powers that be, it was left to the truthseekers at various ironically-quarantined subreddits (with admins doling out questionable warnings and outright deleting first-hand reports) and 4chan to preserve the torch of free and open discourse, with creative investigative journalism via Grindr catfishing to obtain on-the-ground interviews, and a chillingly-prescient 4chan /pol post predicting on the 31st of January that "...the WHO is already talking about how 'problematic' modeling the Chinese response in Western countries is going to be, and the first country they want to try it out in is Italy. If it begins a large outbreak in a major Italian city they want to work through the Italian authorities and world health organizations to begin locking down Italian cities in a vain attempt to slow down the spread at least until they can develop and distribute vaccines".

Indeed, despite Italy's pretty-good healthcare system and comprehensive testing (strangely against WHO advice, it should be said), it's not looking very rosy, with reports of stores being raided and price-gougers abounding already. One supposes that's humanity for you, with similar hoarding going on in Korea, Germany, New Zealand and even Great America - though the Second Amendment should help reduce looting in the latter. Much of the regrettable violence has moreover been directed at Chinese, with a Filipino fella apparently getting assaulted in Italy out of mistaken ethnicity, despite well-meaning "Hug a Chinese tourist" campaigns several weeks back. You know stuff's serious when the Italians postpone Serie A matches, with China's PR efforts and geopolitical ambitions crumbling rapidly, as Xi faces domestic mass disobedience from workers (understandably) refusing orders to return to normal duties.

Moving from WHO to whodunnit for awhile, some might figure that Iran being one of the hardest-hit countries together with China, despite their relative geographical separation unlike say with South Korea, might be worth a rethink. While Iran is of course likely playing fast and loose with the statistics too, they've nonetheless reported a remarkably high death toll. Yet more interesting, perhaps, would be the number of leadership figures affected, with their deputy health minister and coronavirus IC shown sweating uncontrollably on live television, a vice-president confirmed as infected, amidst rumours that their President has it too, together with other staff members.

The more conspiratorially-minded could interpret this as Great America sending a reminder that they have more than just Hellfire missiles in their arsenal; then again, there seems to have been a quiet official admission that the virus didn't originate from the seafood market after all, reigniting theories on how it was a lab leak that can be traced back to... *drumroll* Canada. Just to pile on the cloak-and-dagger, Best Korea's Kim Jong-un has reportedly nominated his sister as successor due to a mysterious illness, while in unrelated news, their first confirmed COVID-19 patient has sadly perished from state-of-the-art experimental lead therapy. As things stand, Iran has finally banned Chinese nationals from entering, but it's tough to tell who's being protected from who here.

Prayers And Wishes

While some are trying to keep optimistic, with Japan for example still hopeful of hosting the Olympics (denying the Akira prophecy) despite already closing all elementary and high schools, faith has evidently preserved the true believers. Indonesia's still adamant on fighting the virus with prayer - word from the Health Minister himself - with a pastor suggesting that the solution would be for China to accept Jesus.

This is not a good sign.

Much of South Korea's terrible state, to begin with, might be fairly attributed to the Shincheonji cult (borrowing from the ever-popular Heaven & Earth motif in Oriental theology). No-one would have cared too much had they just run the standard script of worshipping their leader as the second coming of Christ and multi-level evangelism, but they took it too far by purposely sending infected congregants to other churches, after achieving an 82% infection rate internally. Can't be too sad that they're being investigated here. It's not like more-established religions are being sensible, however, with Iran refusing quarantine as "old-fashioned" [!?] while insisting on continuing communal prayer. Small wonder they're a new outbreak epicenter, then.

While we've lauded the local branch of the Catholic Church for doing the reasonable thing in cancelling masses, this line of thought doesn't seem to have been picked up by the Pope, who insisted on showing solidarity with coronavirus sufferers - I'm for that, by the way - by shaking presumably hundreds of hands, and kissing plenty of heads. He promptly turned up ill the very next day, which had me scratching my head, as with much else with religion. To top it off, Iran's former ambassador to the Vatican has just passed away due to the virus. It definitely doesn't discriminate - the WHO did get that right.

For those predisposed towards deities, may I propose a candidate?

[To be continued...]

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