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Saturday, August 1, 2020

Covid 19 spread - is not just International - it is in Sea too ~ and Chennaites are happy on roads still !!

Strange are the ways of people !   In this century, many countries, especially in Africa and Middle East are still reeling from years of conflict, famine and other humanitarian crises yet this year we are talking about Covid 19 only !  

Not sure of what is happening elsewhere in the State or in other cities – Chennai is outright mad ! – it is under lockdown for 115 days officially and not sure whether it would open up in Aug 2020 too .. .. yet, if you venture out on road [actually everyone of us should be inside and go out only for essentials and when absolutely needed !] – but market places are crowded, shops are open, people are busy walking, driving, speaking on phone and .. .. .. Public transport – Chennai metro buses, EMU, Parakkum Rail, Metro train are not available and hence people have trouble in going to Offices – otherwise there appears an air of festivity – people do not fear Corona nor take any precautions. .. .. and claim that ‘curve has been flattened and numbers are coming down !’

Factually, Tamil Nadu recorded its highest COVID-19 fatality mark yesterday  with 79 people succumbing to the virus, pushing the death toll in the state to 2,315.  In a mad scramble, it is Maharashtra with 284000 (11194); Tamil Nadu 156000 [2236] & Delhi 119000 [3545] [the nos. in brackets indicate the death].  In the race among cities Delhi is far ahead of Mumbai and Chennai [119000 / 84524 / 79662] – Delhi CM is happy meeting Press claiming that it is Covid is not feared and totally  under control !

The outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.  The casualties soon started mounting that WHO which initially appreciated China termed it a Pandemic and named it Covid-19 ensuring that it has no Regional or Country bias !!!  

The United States has shattered its daily record for coronavirus cases after more than 77,000 new infections were reported on Thursday. America's total infection count has now surged past 3.5million after the massive new spike of 77,255 cases, surpassing the previous high of 67,417 patients registered on Tuesday.   The US totals of 3,576,157 cases and 138,358 deaths are both by far the highest in the world, with Brazil second in both tables. India became the third country to reach a million confirmed infections.   Florida is becoming the new epicenter of the US outbreak, with a record 156 deaths announced yesterday alongside 13,965 new positive test results.

If one has observed – Wikipedia and other sources state Covid 19 figures as categorized as people from : Africa,  Antarctica, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, South America and International Conveyances (what is the last one, ever wondered !) .. .. It is not Countries .. .. but Ships, more specifically Cruise Ships – the  outbreak spread to several cruise ships.

The dangers of cruise ship travel came into full public view in February and March when thousands of people were quarantined on the Diamond Princess in Japan. More than 700 passengers and crew tested positive and nine died. At one stage, it was the largest outbreak in the world outside China where the virus originated. Further outbreaks came to light on dozens of other ships, leaving thousands stranded as countries closed their ports to the contagion.

The Princess Cruises ship was the location of one of the first major outbreaks of the coronavirus outside of China after and was quarantined at Yokohama port in Japan from 4th Feb 20  for over a month. Over 700 passengers and crew from the 3,700 on board were ultimately infected after a single passenger from a previous cruise tested positive after disembarking she ship in early February 2020. Of the 712 people infected on board, eight so far are known to have died, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker and experts have been widely critical of the quarantine and containment approaches used by the Japanese government.

The ship became a floating laboratory for studying the spread of the coronavirus in confined spaces and predictably, scientists are now using this data to try and learn about how the coronavirus spreads and affects people in the rest of the world.

Cruise operators have either cancelled or changed their itineraries as countries across the world implement travel restrictions to curb the disease.  The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents 90% of cruise operators, announced various precautionary measures being implemented by its members.  

In US waters there have been 2,973 confirmed or suspected cases and 34 deaths after a total of 99 outbreaks affecting 123 different ships, the CDC says.  Ships including the Zaandam, Rotterdam and Coral Princess docked in US waters in April after virus outbreaks on board.  The CDC said the outbreaks earlier this year had required contact-tracing for more than 11,000 passengers on various cruise ships. As of July 3, nine of the 49 ships directly affected by the No Sail Order had 'ongoing' outbreaks or were still in the process of 'resolving' them, officials say. Areas of 'major concern' included a lack of detail about how crew would be monitored, what protective equipment they would have and how they would receive medical care.

                       As of July 10 only one cruise operator - Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line - had a 'response plan' meeting all of the CDC's requirements. These 'difficulties' in managing health protocols 'highlight the need for further action prior to resuming passenger operations', health chiefs warn. 'On cruise ships, passengers and crew share spaces that are more crowded than most urban settings,' the CDC said in its announcement on Thursday.  The No Sail Order will continue until at least September 30 unless the director of the CDC modifies it before then. It applies to any ships for more than 250 people in US waters.

The Cruise Lines International Association had already announced that its 'voluntary suspension' in the US would continue until September 15. 'Although we are confident that future cruises will be healthy and safe, and will fully reflect the latest protective measures, we also feel that it is appropriate to err on the side of caution to help ensure the best interests of our passengers and crew,' a statement said. 
Covid is not just Pandemic cutting across National borders, it has its presence in the sea too !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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