Coronavirus without borders: How to protect yourself while governments are helpless

Author : Iryna Shostak

Source : 112 Ukraine

Coronavirus continues expanding its geography: as of today, it has been spotted in 19 European countries. The number of deaths in the world has reached 2801 people. In particular, Italy experienced the greatest surge in infection in the EU, which was the first European country to introduce enhanced preventive measures to combat the virus. Thus, with this state of things, the question of Ukraine’s readiness to fight back the coronavirus is more acute than ever. Moreover, in parallel, another question arises - is it really possible to fight against an epidemic?
22:49, 27 February 2020

112 Agency

Since the end of last year, one of the most discussed and exciting topics in the world has been the outbreak of a new coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Today, the infection already has 3 epidemic centers outside China. In particular, these are South Korea and Italy. The spread of the virus in recent days has caused an even greater wave of anxiety among those skeptic Ukrainians, who already believed that Ukraine, unlike other European countries, was not ready at all to face the infection.


Ukraine: level of readiness for the virus

“When onboard a plane, they said to remain seated to wait for medical control. But in a minute the lat everyone out. Without any control,” Ivanna Budnik said in a message on her Facebook page on February 24. The girl arrived from Italy on a Rome - Kyiv flight, and was outraged at the negligence of workers at the Boryspil International Airport. She is not the only person who believes that all the doors are open for the virus to get to Ukraine.

“Tonight, the flight from Rome arrives in Zhuliany (the international airport in Kyiv). No one has even looked in the direction of the passengers, not but that they checked anyone. My relative came. Thus I've gt the first-hand information,” another user of the social network Oksana Belova writes.

It should be noted that Italy really became the epicenter of the coronavirus in Europe, as the number of people infected in the country as of the morning of February 27 reached 453. Most of the cases were registered in Lombardy and in Veneto - the regions are considered the “red zones” in the country. The cases were also reported in Piedmont, Lazio, Liguria, Marche, and Bolzano.

It should be noted that Italy really became the epicenter of the coronavirus in Europe, as the number of people infected in the country as of the morning of February 27 exceeded 453. Most of the cases were registered in Lombardy and in Veneto - the regions are considered the “red zones” of the country. Also, cases have been reported in Piedmont, Lazio, Liguria, Marche, and Bolzano.

Anyway, the airports recognized their mistake that, according to many Facebook users, could become fatal for the country, and already on February 25, Zhulyany and Boryspil airports announced that passengers arriving from Italy got checked.

“On February 21, when we flew to Rome, nothing like this happened. The crew on board didn't wear masks and gloves,” mar1naa.b posted on Instagram. According to the woman, the situation has changed dramatically on February 25 exactly, when she was returning home.

“Half an hour before boarding, we were told that after arriving at Boryspil airport everyone should remain seated and wear safety belts until the medical staff arrived to measure our temperature. None of the passengers were afraid of this, many were already masks during the flight. And another thing which scared me while boarding - all flight attendants were wearing gloves and masks."

The traveler also adds: “After boarding the plane, a man from the medical staff, came, he had two thermometers in his hands (two people got measured their temperature at a time). It took half an hour, maybe more. There was a woman with him, she explained to us that in case of symptoms of coronavirus we should immediately call a doctor or ambulance at home."

“I just returned from Milan. Two medical workers entered the plane and measured the temperature to everyone. Until this process was completed, no one got out of the plane,” Tatyana Prokopiy shares her experience on Facebook.

“Naples – Kyiv flight. There was a check with infrared thermometers. A twin check,” Svitlana Tsybulia notes on Facebook.

What about passengers on other flights? Ukrainians also complain about negligence in relation to checks of passengers of other flights. In particular, these are flights from Egypt and London (1 case of infection in each of the countries).

“Today we arrived from Egypt, nobody checked anything, only the passport control officers were wearing masks and gloves,” says Tatyana Grinevich on Facebook.


What about land transportation?

A large number of Ukrainians are also concerned that inspections bypassed ground transportation. Although there are a lot of tourists who travel by car or bus and risks to get infected is also high.

“We just returned from Italy by bus, there were 30 of us, we lived and traveled around Italy for a week, there were a lot of Chinese in Venice. Together with them, we went up to the town hall in the same elevator. My point is that nobody checked us when crossing the border. And how many people get into the country by ground transport without examination. We’re not ready for an epidemic," Natalya Demidova-Razkevich wrote on Facebook.

It is worth noting that, according to Ukrainian travelers, there is no such panic around this topic in Europe. The same body temperature checks are introduced in some countries, but not in all of them.


Answers to questions disturbing Ukrainians

On February 24, during a briefing following the meeting of the operational headquarters on preventing the introduction and spread of coronavirus in Ukraine, Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk said that Ukraine was ready to meet the threat of virus with dignity:

“The medical system of Ukraine is completely ready to provide assistance to those who identified symptoms of the disease. The appropriate infectious disease teams have been prepared - they are provided with all the necessary sanitary and epidemiological means."

It is difficult to say what information is true, because many experts still doubt that Ukrainian hospitals are able to withstand in case the virus gets inside Ukraine.

Thus, the chairman of the National Medical Chamber of Ukraine Serhiy Kravchenko expressed this opinion:

“One of the methods for treating coronavirus is extracorporeal oxygen saturation of human blood, but there is only one such device in Ukraine - at the Kyiv City Heart Center.”

According to the expert, the rent is $3,000 - $5,000 dollars per day.

Honcharuk also said that from 20 p.m. (February 24, - ed.), all people coming from countries with registered cases of coronavirus will have their body temperature checked. Temperature screening will be carried out for all passengers at the main airports of Ukraine, and also starting from 8 a.m. on February 25 for those traveling through the Tysa checkpoint in Zakarpattya. Shortly after, the same regime will work at other border points."

In case if at this moment you felt relief for a few seconds, we will upset you - the effectiveness of temperature screening as a guarantee of preserving national security from a threatening infection is quite controversial because the incubation period of the COVID-19 can last up to 27 days. Moreover, it turns out that in general any preventive measures in the fight against the Chinese coronavirus may not be enough.


A virus that has no borders

"Look at Italy, they canceled flights from China, and now this country suffers the most in Europe," Met Hancock, British Minister of Health Met Hancock said commenting on the decision of the authorities not to cease air service with Italy, where about 3 million of British people travel to every year.

As it was reported earlier, Italy was the first in the EU to introduce enhanced inspections on international flights from China, after WHO announced a six-month emergency, activating the tools (inspection protocols and the like) that were already used in the country during the outbreak of SARS in 2003. Also, cruise liners were carefully checked in the country. In particular, the Costa Crociere cruise ship with 6000 passengers, who were blocked for several hours on January 30 in the Italian port of Civitavecchia due to suspicion of coronavirus among Chinese tourists (this suspicion was not confirmed then).

In other words, it is impossible to quarantine every inhabitant of the planet, one way or another, those around them who appear healthy will carry the virus further on. In particular, Inna Berezyuk, the doctor, the chairman of the board of the Expert Council of Public Research and Projects in the Field of National Health and Social Protection expressed such an opinion on her Facebook page. The expert noted that each of us today should continue to work in the same rhythm:

"... Just do your own work. According to your professional rules, professional knowledge and professional experience."

European officials also speak against the spread of panic, who, reacting to the outbreak of the virus in Italy, note that now we are talking about a virus that does not pay attention to borders. Therefore, the decision to close these borders, according to the health ministers of France, Germany, Italy and the European Commission, is "disproportionate to the degree of threat."

Moreover, officials call the attitude to the situation in Italy to be “too serious” (Austria suspended railway connections with Italy, and the Romanian authorities decided to quarantine for 14 days all citizens of their country who are returning from the north of Italy).

The German Minister of Health Jens Spahn also expresses this point of view, while recognizing that things could get worse.

One on one in the fight against the threat

Taking into account the experience of Italy, where the actions of the authorities in countering the threat seemed coherent and a cut above the preventive measures in Ukraine, the responsibility for maintaining their own lives lies with each of the citizens. Therefore, in order to protect oneself from the coronavirus COVID-19, the World Health Organization advises following the usual safety practices:

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Practice respiratory hygiene

Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

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