Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Worst is Yet to Come | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Figures indicate that the swine flu pandemic will pose an even greater threat in the near future and that what has been revealed so far on the global scale is merely the tip of the iceberg.

The number of cases of swine flu is soaring at a tremendous rate. In the US, for example, the Secretary of Health announced that the number of swine flu cases exceeded one million. In Britain, the number of cases has reached over 150,000. But the areas that observers describe as the most dangerous and sensitive are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile and New Zealand, all of which are located in the southern hemisphere where the winter season has already begun. In these countries, swine flu became the biggest flu virus and has spread so aggressively among people that it has surpassed traditional influenza.

The World Health Organization is observing the impact the pandemic is having on these countries as it prepares for the winter season in the northern hemisphere, which has higher population levels. It also coincides with the beginning of the new academic year for students. There are predictions that further intensify the ferocity and challenge that swine flu has brought to the world, as experts estimate that around 45 percent of the entire world’s population will be infected by the virus.

This frightening scenario is, of course, accompanied by the issue of preparing and providing the correct vaccines, and the race of pharmaceutical companies to test the vaccines on humans to make sure they are successful before they can be circulated officially on the market. The dates announced so far regarding when the vaccine will be made available are merely guesses at best.

France announced that it would vaccinate 64 million citizens i.e. the entire population! The US announced that it would make the vaccine available to half its population. This will certainly be the medical challenge of the era for pharmaceutical companies to produce and provide vaccinations for such a large number of people within a short period with fairness, equality and in an economical manner.

Facing this kind of horrific scenario, we must learn from the experiences of the countries in the southern hemisphere, particularly Argentina that managed to suppress the transmission of the virus among its citizens in a remarkable manner after it closed down its schools for over a month, and reprogrammed its transport and cleaning systems before it allowed students to return to school.

Today, those in charge of government services in the Arab world will be required to reconsider the way they deal with “traditional” issues such as the Hajj pilgrimage, schools, matches and special occasions in a serious and cautious manner because the virus is spreading whilst preparation in this regard is below standard. Leaving things as they are will lead to a tremendous catastrophe for mankind.