2020-3:Message from the Grand Master of Knights of Malta (KMFAP) about Coronavirus

Dear Dames and Knights,

I come to share with all of you some thoughts and considerations regarding the present crisis caused by the Coronavirus, a crisis that is being dramatic for many millions of persons all over the World.
As you know there are 3 types of plagues: The Lymphatic Plague – that attacks the Lymphatic System, of which the most well-known for its tragic consequences was the Bubonic Plague, responsible for the death of millions -, the Septicaemic Plague – that enters the bloodstream and multiplies there – and the Pneumonic Plague – the most lethal of all three and the only form of plague that is transmitted from person to person, mainly by coughs and sneezes, when other persons breathe that air.
Pandemics and epidemics are known since the ancient times, but from the 14th Century on the Mankind has known at least one large plague outbreak every Century:
In the 14th Century, originated in Asia and travelling through the Silk Road, arrived at Europe the first outbreak of the terrible Bubonic Plague, also known as the Black Death, a pandemic that killed about 60% of all the European population. This outbreak, with its ups and downs, took more than 200 years to be eradicated and is considered as the Greatest Catastrophe ever in History.
The 15th Century continued to be affected by this outbreak and it is during this Century that the Government of the Italian Republic of Venice decided that 30 days of confinement were not enough to stop the disease and decided to impose 40 days as the appropriate time of confinement to the infected and that was the origin of the word “Quarantena” (quarantine). In the UK during this century another terrible and mysterious plague appeared, called Sweating Sickness (Sudor Anglicus) and later propagated to continental Europe during the next Century.
The 16th Century was marked not only by the mysterious Sweating Sickness that caused death in few hours and is believed today to have been caused by a virus, but also by the Smallpox (Variola) outbreak, which devastated most of the indigenous population of Central America.
In the 17th century other forms of Bubonic Plague stroke and devastated Europe, when the Italian Plague extended to Spain and went on in Europe causing what is known as the Great Plague of London and the Great Plague of Vienna. In this century, we must also mention the disastrous results for the population of American Indians caused by the arrival of the Mayflower “Pilgrims”.
The 18th was the century of the Marseille Plague, that devastated not only this French city killing most of its inhabitants, but also a part of France and stroke also other European countries.
The 19th Century is known as the century of the First Cholera Pandemic. Coming from Asia, believed from the Ganges River area, this terrible outbreak killed many people all over the World.
Early 20th Century, after the First World War, the World was again devastated by what is known as the Spanish Influenza, not because it started in Spain (it is believed to have started in the United States of America) but because, as in the present times with COVID-19, it affected specially the Spanish population.
The new Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 is without doubts the Great Plague of the 21st Century.
In fact, in-spite of all the high technology of the 21st Century in all fields, from Medicine to Biology, from Telecommunications to Transports, in-spite of the powerful microscopes, of the advanced laboratories and of the sophisticated World’s Economy, a simple virus, not even as lethal as its predeceasing plagues, has managed to stop the World and to spread fear among the populations, and its future consequences, mainly the economic ones are still unconceivable.
To minimize the crisis caused by the Coronavirus outbreak most Governments have allocated hundreds of billions of Dollars to support populations and companies, however one fact is for me difficult to understand: Up to this day (21st March 2020) the Coronavirus infected about 298,000 persons and caused about 13,000 deaths and the World had to stop in order to intercept the outbreak, however, for many, many years that Malaria keeps devastating the populations of many poor countries. In accordance with the report of January 2020 of the World Health Organization only in 2018 were registered 228.000.000 cases of Malaria in the World causing in that year 405.000 deaths, of which 272.000 were children under 5 years of age so, to control and eliminate this disease in all World only $2.7 Billion USD were spent. Sadly, we have to come to the conclusion that the life of the poor has much less value than the life of the rich…
Presently every country, every city, every person in the World has been, and will be in the future, very seriously affected – mainly in economic terms – by this outbreak of Coronavirus, which has become a global problem, but, like other global problems of our times such as the problem of the refugees in Europe and America, we only see different responses given individually by each Government and there are no global solutions at all to the global problems. Without global solutions, the global problems will not be solved.
Pandora was, in the Greek Mythology, the first non-goddess woman created by the order of Zeus. She received from the gods all good qualities, including Curiosity, but she also received a box containing all the evils of the World. One day Curiosity impelled Pandora to open the box to see what was inside, so, consequently, all evils escaped from the box and ever since are tormenting the World. Only Hope, that was an evil at that time, remained in the bottom of the box… and in the present times, when all evils seem to be tormenting the world, Hope still remains in the hearts of all humans giving the strength and the confidence to build a new future, but nothing will be the same as before.
Hopefully the future will be better and the recent study of the Stanford University (USA) is a beacon of Hope, when it states that the decrease in the global pollution caused by the lower industrial production, has saved only in China 20 times more lives than the ones that the Coronavirus has taken. So we have reasons to believe that the future will be better!

21st March 2020 HMEH José Cosmelli, P.
Grand Master and Head of the State