PUBLISHERS WORD. "Gentlemen, Hats Off!"

‘Pestilence is in fact very common, but we find it hard to believe in a pestilence when it descends upon us. There had been as many plagues in the world as there had been wars, yet plagues and wars always find people equally unprepared.’
We read these and the rest of the thoughts, featured in The Plague, written in 1947 by the French existentialist philosopher and writer Albert Camus, as if they have become the chronicle of the current events that the horrified and worried world has been witnessing since December.  The characters, situations, local government actions, human lives, forced separation upon closing the city gate and the global reaction, described in the novel, which has earned a Nobel prize in 1957, as if tells the story of the city of Wuhan and several dozens of the other cities that were closed in China.
In the presence of the modern-day plague – coronavirus, named Covid-19 – there is a prototype of the main character from the novel as well – Li Wenliang, a doctor from Wuhan.
Upon noticing reoccurring cases, which looked similar to the outbreak of Sars virus, which caused a massive epidemic in 2003, the thirty-four-year-old ophthalmologist set off the alarm. On 30 December, he sent a message to his colleagues, warning about a possible threat and urging them to wear protective clothing in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Instead of listening and analysing the information to take decisive action, doctor Li had been silenced by the police as someone spreading lies and disrupting the public order. ‘We hope that you will be able to calm down and rethink your behaviour.’ said the police warning to Li Wenliang that he was forced to sign, complying with the order to stop spreading rumours about the virus. Following a public outrage, the doctor received an apology and soon enough China declared extreme situation due to the outbreak of the virus only to be left to fight alone for ten whole days, since the World Health Organisation did not believe it was necessary to raise global alarm, watching the situation and offering words of encouragement to China, praising its decisive action of closing cities and applying quarantine measures. It was only 30 January, when WHO decided to declare the epidemic ‘a public health emergency of international importance’ and, in the middle of February, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus declared that the spreading of the disease poses a ‘very grave threat for the rest of the world’,
On 30 January, doctor Li was diagnosed with coronavirus and soon he was silenced forever. However, after his death his voice became even stronger. It was taken over by the society, demanding for freedom of speech, as well as the human right to know, to be informed and to be informed on time. Perhaps it gave courage to the nearly two thousand of his infected colleagues, who were not appropriately protected at the beginning of the outbreak.
‘A safer public health environment...requires tens of millions of Li Wenliang.’ share social media users, admiring the young doctor’s courage of not being indifferent.
On the same days, when doctor Li and more than 14,000 others were diagnosed with coronavirus, when people mourned for more than 300 of the dead and when the WHO declared the outbreak as a public health emergency of international importance, UNESCO’s world heritage site Hegra in Al-Ula, a city in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which gathered people, representing different religions and cultures to discuss and exchange ideas for thousands of years, hosted a conference of Nobel prize winners, famous world leaders and scientists to discuss the future of education, health, agriculture and economy.
During this conference, the founder of Human Genome Sciences and Nobel prize winner, American scientist Dr William Haseltine declared that the world should have been better prepared for the coronavirus and must be better prepared for similar challenges overall.
‘People should have learnt their lessons from Sars and Mers, but were seemingly caught unprepared following the outbreak of the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, but has since swept across the globe.
In the past 20 years, the US has spent $50 billion dollars in preparation for a bio-terrorist attack. But the coronavirus isn’t on that list, because we don’t consider nature to be our enemy, but nature is our enemy in this case. I have a very specific request to the US government, which is to include the Coronavirus into the list of organisms for which we have bio-preparation. It‘s not in there. It should be.’ said the scientist, emphasizing the fact that the US Government is capable of immediate action if it wants to and this is what was necessary in this case.
America and some of the other countries rushed to bring their citizens back from the source of the epidemic, and many countries have immediately shut their door to Chinese citizens.
Quarantine, travel and communication restrictions are necessary, when facing an epidemic. What is worse is the outbreaks of fury and hatred in people‘s hearts. In some European cities Chinese people became a target of abuse and demonstrative alienation. The public space spluttered with abusive and violent-provoking comments.  Even some of the newspapers took the liberty of using racist headlines, such as ‘The Yellow Alert’.  
People responded with ‘I’m Not a Virus’ movement on social media.
While the real Covid-19 virus continues to mow lives. At the time of me writing these lines, the world has already lost 2,466 lives and more than 78,880 of the infected continue to live in dire suspense, as there is no cure for this virus yet. Scientific forces are already working on the antidote, but it may take time and, according to Dr William Haseltine, it remains unclear what course will this virus take next, being completely ignorant of borders, nationalities, religions and social status.  
Despite all efforts, more than 500 million Chinese citizens, who became hostages of the virus, don’t give up, even if they are in shortage of protection measures, medicine, hospital beds and staff, and even food supplies. Let’s support these human beings, stoically fighting for their lives, let’s help them get through the mental and physical horror, which could fall on any of us.
In the words of the character from Camu’s novel, ‘Gentlemen, Hats Off!’
Let’s take our hats off for the heroic dedication and sacrifice of the Chinese medics and for the human endurance, which keeps the virus contained, preventing it from coming to our homes, at least for now.
And let’s wish them health from the bottom of our hearts.

Sincerely Yours,
Zita Tallat-Kelpšaitė
Publisher of JŪRA MOPE SEA magazine since 1999

 

The magazine SEA has been published since 1935
International business magazine JŪRA MOPE SEA has been published since 1999
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The magazine JŪRA has been published since 1935.
International business magazine JŪRA MOPE SEA has been
published since 1999.

ISSN 1392-7825

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