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By our own correspondent

EAO Region, 10 March 2020 -- Since January, the Coronavirus (Covid-19) has been making the headlines in all possible media around the world. Indeed worldwide there are only 75 countries (including Myanmar) that haven't reported any infection so far. The statistics are still climbing, with more than 111,000 infected and almost 4,000 victims, and the WHO (World Health Organization) starts to speak about a global pandemic, while the effect on the economy is going to reach many billions USD and the end is not yet in sight.

However, the situation is now serious in some countries (after China the second one is now already Italy with more than 9,000 confirmed cases and almost 500 dead). Every day so many people die as victims of other diseases like malaria and we don't even realize that every day some 25,000 people are dying due to lack of nutrition - victims of hunger. At the same time, just four countries account for 93 percent of the 110,000 cases worldwide (China, Italy, South Korea and Iran).

Also the impact on daily life is enormous - with school closures, lock-down of cities and entire countries, many factories remaining idle and even religious services and public gathering banned in many countries. Such are the government measures to contain the spread of the virus. Of course, poor families are the first to suffer in this situation.

At the same time we see also many fake news about the dimensions of this 'pandemic', general panic that empties food or even toilet paper shelves in supermarkets from Australia to Japan.

Also the Catholic Church is forced to cancel all Masses for some weeks or months or impose special restrictions: Filipino Bishops have released special pastoral letters (e.g. Manila archdiocese administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo) and Catholic clergy without possibility to meet their flock are to follow the faithful via SMS, online Eucharists and other creative approaches. Catholic faithful are praying, entrusting themselves to Mary - Our Lady of Lourdes or Mary Help of Christians.

While the new cases in South Korea have begun to slow down and Vietnam have recently experienced a growth in new cases, there is not yet a clear idea when this Covid-19 epidemic will be over. Instead of irrational fear, panic and selffish behaviour we have an opportunity to offer witness. The Vatican 'Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life' two days ago published a special Statement: ... “We are all called to face this international health emergency with seriousness, serenity, and courage, also through willingness to make sacrifices in our daily lifestyle for the common good: our own good and that of all. Everyone is called to do their part, but not only this: we have the protection of God, Who watches over each one of us with a Father’s love, and men and women who share with us the path of life and solidarity in the present and in the time to come. The Church also wishes to be close to every person afflicted by Covid-19, to their family and friends, to the health care and public assistance personnel providing care, and to researchers who are searching for a remedy for this disease.”

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