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We must learn from Europe’s failures

The spread of coronavirus has created worldwide panic among governments and its citizens. Political views aside, opposing parties in countries all over Europe are coming together to intervene in the spread of Covid-19.

Bermuda has the opportunity to prevent the multidimensional impact of such outbreak by learning by the mistakes of countries in Europe such as Italy, France and Spain. Unfortunately, these countries underestimated the spread of the virus, which led to their complete lockdown.

These are some of the examples that Bermuda can learn from.

In Italy, the prevalence of Covid-19 increased dramatically because initial cases were not properly contained. Without testing, allowing borders to remain open and not quarantining individuals, the virus spread throughout the country and neighbouring countries in weeks.

The greatest driver in new cases was on the country's delayed reaction to take measures in containing the spread. Now Italy has 21,157 cases with 1,441 deaths — as of yesterday. With a limited supply of ventilators, doctors are now choosing who can live or die.

This delayed reaction allowed for infected individuals to pass on the virus unknowingly to other citizens, which created a tsunami of new cases. Since then, every two weeks the number of new cases in neighbouring countries has also increased rapidly.

From Italy to France, from France to Spain, countries have failed to be proactive in preventing the spread of this virus, and to protect its citizens. Countries such as Spain who have great healthcare systems are now seeing the effect of not reacting to the imminent threat that is Covid-19.

Without testing, and containment, Spain has quickly risen to a level that has caused the country to head into the same state of emergency as Italy. Only this week as the number of cases reached 6,000 — 7,798 as of yesterday — did provinces in Spain such as Catalonia begin to shut down their borders and order citizens to remain in their homes.

Europe is a hotbed for the virus at the moment, but not all countries are feeling the effects. Countries like Portugal have taken proactive steps to ensure the spread of Covid-19 is minimal. Although there are a small number of cases in Portugal, they learnt from the mistakes of Italy, France and Spain — as can we.

In particular, the Portuguese islands of Madeira and Azores, who have zero cases, have forbid all cruises to unload passengers, while everyone that flies into the island has to be in an officially enforced, quarantined zone for 14 days.

Our proximity to Covid-19 hotbeds such as New York, and frequent flights to cities with high numbers of cases, should highlight how easily the virus could end up on our shores. With very limited resources to provide services to the masses of Bermudians in the event of an island-wide outbreak, it is of upmost importance to take proactive measures.

In the event of an outbreak, we would see our most vulnerable citizens greatly affected. With limited testing capabilities, limited emergency rooms and limited hospital beds, it is critical to take serious proactive measures to ensure the safety of our citizens.

The economic impact of closing our borders would be felt by certain industries in our country. But in the event Covid-19 sweeps through Bermuda, the disruption on human capital would be even greater. The seriousness of this virus is not in the virus itself, but in the limited resources and supply of healthcare we have available in the event of an outbreak.

We are making strides to avoid the mistakes of others. I applaud the actions taken thus far by our government as we move to stay ahead of Covid-19. The cancellation of our major sporting events, large public gatherings and cruise ships arrivals is a great step.

The additional measures of a 14-day quarantine and the introduction of a health questionnaire for visitors arriving on our island are being implemented, similar to Azores and Madeira.

Although our government is taking all the possible measures to grant the needed supply of Covid-19 tests, there is a global shortage for these technologies owing to the global pandemic of the disease. Thus, enforcing isolation of all possible sources of infection will create an extra cost-effective safety measure for our citizens.

At this stage, Bermuda still has the ability to avoid a major outbreak of new cases. Let us learn from the mistakes of Italy and Spain. Let us embrace the measures of Portugal's small islands and keep Covid-19 off our shores.

Better safe than sorry.

Aaron Evans is a Bermudian who possesses a Master of Science degree in Health Economics and works in Barcelona, Spain

Aaron Evans is a former Bermudian athletics star who possesses a Master of Science degree in Health Economics and works in Barcelona, Spain

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Published March 16, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 16, 2020 at 8:32 am)

We must learn from Europe’s failures

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