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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Americans, vexed at tight social restrictions, frantically seek to open up as summer approaches. Throw in November's US presidential elections and Russia's current 93,000 virus cases, and new spikes could afflict the world. Was Covid19 cooked up in Wuhan chem lab, not derived from wild animals as China claims? PRESIDENT TRUMP APPEARS CONVINCED THAT THE LAB THEORY IS IT . Or is it?



As of today, statistics from CNN stated that over 3 million cases of the Coronavirus have been reported worldwide, of which some 211, 350 were deaths from various parts of the world. Of the total affected, more than one million virus afflictions have hit the  US, plus some 58,365 deaths. Even Russia reports some 93,000 ill cases. A pandemic alright. 

The interesting thing about these figures is that  even as they appear to be growing, there's a restlessness in the US---the country that has been affected the most also because it's the largest in the world. With summer approaching, there's tremendous pressure from US citizens themselves to loosen up on restrictions earlier imposed. 

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For one thing, weather in the Western Hemisphere is improving as spring has turned the corner, working into summer in a few weeks. While virus afflictions continue to result in either illness or death, figures are plateauing in an entire continent that has grappled with this virus for many months now. It's obvious from interviews that Americans are plainly tired of lock-downs and restrictions, and are ready to cautiously junk their protective gear and enjoy the beaches and the outdoors.

The question is, how much to open up and throw caution to the wind?  I was listening to CNN earlier tonight and an American official was discussing with the emcee about the possibility of beaches opening up, though with proper social distancing. As he spoke, photos of beach scenes that looked kinda crowded appeared on the screen, and it was obvious that distancing would be the  toughest thing to impose among the gregarious Americans---after a terrible locked-down winter dominated by the virus. 

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The official also spoke about the need to jump-start other activities such as sports and shopping malls, as closure of so many business outlets has hurt the economy so much. It is said that some 26.4 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the last five weeks---a phenomenon never seen before even in the Great Depression. Thus, this plan to reopen America seems to have become imperative. 

Reopening the economy, however, has to be done with a lot of care and caution, and we can only wish the American people good luck. We know how the virus can be so contagious, and super-gregarious Americans are given to hugging and kissing---all too often defiant of social distancing. But it's not only the Americans who will open up but also the Europeans and the Australians, as the weather warms up a bit. 

At this point, state authorities could try to still impose social distancing, but for folks who have been restricted so much, this is like holding back waters from a huge damn whose floodgates have broken loose. How will the virus behave when social distancing is thrown to the winds? Virologists are warning of spikes as much as 78,000 cases next winter. 

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THERE IS ANOTHER COMPLICATING PROBLEM:  the presidential elections are coming up in November---with Republic President Trump vying vs. Democratic challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden. The elections will, of course, trigger feverish political  campaigning---goodbye to social distancing, throw caution to the winds. 

The campaign season has unofficially began---with former First Lady and Senator Hillary Clinton just recently having endorsed Joe Biden for president.

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Another issue: did  the coronavirus that has killed nearly three million people and afflicted another million really come from "host species" among wild animals such as the pangolin and wild bats---as China insists?  Or was the virus "synthesized" by theWuhan Institute of Viriology (WIV), where the disease was first identified and then inflicted upon the world?

A French and a Japanese scientist who were awardees of world-renowned scientific honors were earlier also quoted as expressing some doubt about the Covid 19 virus as originating from wild animals, Some scientists have also noted that this virus shares "an uncanny similarity with HIV."

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Thus, doubts and counter-doubts have persisted in the past week about the nature of this virus that has wreaked such terrible havoc on the world. President Trump HAS COME TO ASSERT that the probability is high that the virus has originated from that Wuhan laboratory, which China is expected to deny vigorously. 

And so the plot thickens, even as worries are stirred anew about how social distancing could be practiced in various beaches, social clubs and theaters in the summer in Europe and America, and amidst the furious political campaigning for the fall national elections in the US. Will all these happenings spike new highs in this pandemic? 

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