That the Covid-19 virus which erupted in Wuhan of Hubei province of China has spread to the Gulf countries, is a matter to be viewed with serious concern and vigilance. China, a country with one of the most modern health machinery working like a well-oiled machine, a society living in a straitjacket of discipline, and above all a robust economy, has been nonplussed at the face of Covid-19 for the last two months.
At the time of writing this, the death toll in China from the disease has come close to three thousand. About a lac of people have been infected with the disease and under treatment. Not much after the malady was reported in China, presence of Covid-19 was confirmed also in countries of Asia like Hong Kong, Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam, Japan Taiwan, Singapore and others. If these are countries next or close to China, the infection was confirmed soon thereafter in far-off countries like Italy and France.
Cities that were closed in China due to the virus attack have not yet been opened. This epidemic has inflicted a severe blow on that country's domestic production, export, economy and tourism. But next to China, the country that will face most trouble owing to the Covid infection will be Iran. Iran's vice president, Masuma Ibtikar and deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi who were both diagnosed with the infection, are now under treatment in quarantine. So far, 34 people have died of the virus in Iran and hundreds of patients are under treatment or observation.
A fact that disturbs Keralites is that the virus infection has been confirmed in the Gulf too, following Ian. It is believed that Covid-19 spread was transmitted by those who arrived from Iran. And Saudi Arabia has even stopped pilgrims from umra trips owing to preventive measures. Pilgrims from Kerala who had set out for Umra were sent back from the airport. It will perhaps be an unusual experience in the history of Makkah that a ban, albeit temporary, was imposed on foreigners making a trip to Saudi for Umra. Covid infection has also been reported in countries like Kuwait, Barain, UAE and Oman.
Other Arab countries such as Iraq, Leanon and Algeria also come under the list of virus-hit areas. Several flight schedules have been cancelled by different airlines with consequent imact on sectors including international aviation, trade and tourism. The virus has also hit hard the stock markets and the oil market, two sectors whose jolt is bound to have repercussions on the markets and economy of the entire Gulf region.
It is a matter to be seen what reverberations this will make on the Indian expatriates, on top of the crisis they already face as a result of the rampant nationalisation of jobs in the Gulf countries. In other words, it is not only in the health security domain, but in the matter of financial planning too a cautious approach will be required. The governments in the Gulf countries generally maintain a careful vigilance on public health sector, which can be expected to govern them in the matter of Covid-19 virus too.
The expatriate communities in those countres should also be prepared to be on high alert. It has to be ensured that they get familiar with, and abide by instructions issued from time to time by government agencies. In the matter of passengers who arrived in Kerala with infection of Covid-19, our health machinery had made very effective interventions. It can reasonably be hoped that when it comes to cases being reported from the Gulf region, which has a sizeable percentage of Keralite population, the government will accord required attention and vigilance.