Editorial: The virus, the fear and the struggle to prepare

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 28, 2020 12:38

Editorial: The virus, the fear and the struggle to prepare

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL

Albania is still spared the experience of having confirmed infected people with the coronavirus (COVID- 19) that is wreaking havoc in many countries across the globe, and most importantly for Albania, in neighboring Italy. However authorities expect the virus to be here and cases to appear in the near future, given the intense interaction with Italy in terms of multiple flights, ferry rides and other forms of transportation that shuffle hundreds of people back and forth every day.

For some citizens the decision not to suspend travel to and from Italy might be wrong. Indeed, a sense of panic has already gripped the capital where facemasks and hand gels are already outsold and some entrepreneurial drugstore sellers have hiked the prices so high to prompt investigations. Schools have not closed yet the situation is being monitored in order to make a relevant decision about them too.

The Ministry of Healthcare and the Institute of Public Health continue to repeat in the media that they are prepared to face the situation and have set up the quarantine sites. However the prospect is not so clear and not at all reassuring.

Tirana and Durres are highly dense cities where the infection can blowout very rapidly. Public transportation in Tirana can very well be the super-spreader in this case, overcrowded and lacking basic hygiene as it is. Hospitals in the capital function as national ones since the regional and small town hospitals lack not only the specialist doctors but often basic equipment to conduct tests and offer assistance. In a case of epidemics everyone from the rest of Albania would rush in to the capital to seek medical aid which would substantially worsen things.

Durres in the meantime is still suffering for the damages of the November earthquake and the lagging efforts for reconstructing. If the disease shows up there too, it will deal a final blow to the city’s economy and livelihood.

The authorities of public health, education and national security should have clear and detailed action plans in place to re-direct and re-orient all public life in the case of the infection spreading in Albania including commerce, public administration work, school and internal transport networks. Much more frequent and robust communication and awareness actions are needed in media and in public spaces to remaining citizens of simple yet effective hygiene and respect for others in a country where basic etiquette and cleanliness manners are often lacking.

Containment of individual cases which is the best strategy proved not to be possible in countries with much more elevated system of response. Despite the checks reported in the border check points it is quite likely that those will miss eventual cases. Nobody should rub their hands in futile content that the virus has not shown up on this side of the coast and wait around.

For the present citizens are left to hope and the pray that we are spared this tragic tribulation. Those in charge better do much more than hoping.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 28, 2020 12:38