Coronavirus: The Silent Killer Documentary Review: This will take time

Updated: 20 March, 2020 08:14 IST | Mayank Shekhar | Mumbai

Coronavirus The Silent Killer is a documentary, it lies wholly within the purview of news, since the story is still developing, as we speak.

A still from Coronavirus: The Silent Killer
A still from Coronavirus: The Silent Killer

Coronavirus: The Silent Killer
Genre: Documentary
Producer: Genevieve Woo
On: Discovery Plus
Rating: Ratings

Almost like the inevitably prophetic/philosophical, "This too shall pass," the line that stays with you foremost after watching the documentary Coronavirus: The Silent Killer, is the terse note of caution by the Singaporean Dr Leong Ho Nam: "This will take time."

Infectious disease specialist Dr Ho Nam should know, given that he himself had tested positive for SARS in 2002-03. Both Singapore and Hong Kong, unlike most parts of the world including India, have since developed advanced level of protocol systems to deal with similar viruses.

But, the ultimate relief from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is obviously going to come from a decisive vaccine. Which Dr Ho Nam predicts will take at least nine to 12 months. Even if the vaccine was invented today, it would take "several months" to disburse "hundreds of millions of doses", globally.

That's the long haul we're talking about. And that Genevieve Woo's 45-minute film The Silent Killer (that's just dropped on the Discovery Plus) attempts to study — right from the genesis of Coronavirus, from a 61-year-old customer, at the wildlife section of a sea-food wholesale market, in Wuhan, China, on December 8, 2019. What followed was city-wide confinement over an extended Chinese New Year break, ever since the Chinese surgeon-general Zhong Nanshan got on national TV to suggest, all izz not well.

While The Silent Killer is a documentary, it lies wholly within the purview of news, since the story is still developing, as we speak. Last checked (March 19, 7:30 pm) on Channel News Asia's tracker, the virus had affected over 2.2 lakh people globally. That number was roughly 2.08 lakh before I went to sleep last night!

This intensively aggressive spread is what separates corona from all other viral outbreaks, including the "76 per cent similar" SARS that was more lethal, yes; but, over 10 months of its sustained attack, it had affected only between eight to 10 thousand people, eventually.

Watch the trailer of Coronavirus: The Silent Killer here

What else is atypical about COVID-19? The fact that it could reside within you, and spread from thereon; while you, personally, show no symptoms at all. "At the heart of understanding its containment" is what a doctor in the film calls the "pyramid" (structure). At the tip are a relatively tiny fraction of folk showing symptoms, and therefore commanding immediate medical attention. But that's just the "tip of the iceberg".

The huge bulge at the centre comprises "asymptomatics", and the "less symptomatics", being at the lowest tier. It's this lot that requires comprehensive testing until which time we'd actually have no clue of the real numbers, and consequent dangers (to avoid). Basically, we're staring at a disease that spreads before the onset of illness!

No, don't wish to sound alarmist. Neither does the film. This is no time for it. Neither is it the moment to point fingers, namely at China, where it all began. Although one can't deny that cagey, opaque, autocratic governments are inimical to flow of info necessary to defeat a pandemic.

It took four months for China to globally acknowledge the 2002 SARS outbreak. It took them close to a month since the first case to openly admit to coronavirus as well. By January 29, the virus had already spread to all of China's 31 provinces, besides having breached borders toward 25 countries in Asia, Europe and North America.

That said, the swiftness of China's response to the virus and its containment can't be denied — as you watch in The Silent Killer, two hospitals in Wuhan, with 2,500 beds, come up in two frickin' weeks flat! The film surveys this capital of Hubei province, which is a ghost-town alright. But the city has managed to curb the viral spread. The epicentre of the pandemic has moved to Italy currently. This is why heads of states like Trump need to stop calling this a Chinese virus, as if it walked in with a stamped visa at immigration.

While precaution is still the best cure, the process of corona's containment is also known. Protocols are at least theoretically in place. So should shared resources. Like an open-source code, it's humans who have to lend each other a helping hand and collectively take this forward — regardless of which country they're from. If this pandemic doesn't unite us, ironically in our social distancing — God knows what will.

Stay home, and stay safe, world.

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First Published: 20 March, 2020 07:43 IST

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