Another Health ‘Crisis’
After a series of health scares to hit this island in recent years – SARS, flu, rabies – that did not in the end amount to much, we thought the authorities would take a measured approach with the newcomer swine flu. We were wrong.
As panicked as the World Health Organisation has been in almost declaring an H1N1 pandemic, as cases of infection rose in the West, and then announcing a full-blown pandemic that is only justified by its new, self-serving rules, hardly seems justified, the Indonesian government has been running about in alarm.
Late last week, it seems, a directive was issued to blood-test all foreigners arriving through Bali’s main airport; if such a directive was issued it was a poorly thought-out plan that logistically would not have been possible, given the volume of people arriving daily and the facility’s small size. This instruction was given after a couple of foreigners were hospitalised in Denpasar and confirmed as having the swine flu virus.
After ordering the installation of blood-testing equipment at Ngurah Rai International Airport, officials then cottoned on to the scale of the endeavour – not to mention the severely negative impact it would have on Bali’s crucial tourism industry – and quickly ditched the idea.
In the midst of this imbroglio, Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari was openly fretting about foreigners coming to this country and infecting people with swine flu. She then had the notion that everyone should go around wearing face masks.
“Visitors from infected countries should wear masks. It’s a precautionary measure we’re taking to avoid human-to-human transmission of the virus. We’ll give them the masks when they arrive at the airports and tell them to wear them for three days,” she said. (Wearing the same face mask continuously for three days is a great health idea.)
This kind of obtuse, knee-jerk reaction is not what is needed in dealing with swine flu, or any impending health calamity. The indications are that H1N1 is no more serious than common influenza.
Let us hope that calmer heads will prevail.Filed under: Editorial