RWC Series: "Facing Challenges from Around the Globe: Covid-19"
By: Nassim Abreu Arbaje, MD , Associate Professor at Hospital Dr. Elías Santana and Medical Director at Centro de Oftalmologia y Glaucoma (Dominican Republic)

Affiliations include Sociedad Dominicana de Oftalmología (SDO), Panamerican Society of Ophthalmology (PAAO) and American Society of Ophthalmology (AAO)
A Message from Nassim Abreu Arbaje ~

Dear Colleagues,

I am Nassim Abreu, a vitreoretinal surgeon from the Dominican Republic, a half-island shared with Haiti on the western side. As many probably know, our country is mostly known for our crystal-clear beaches that attract many tourists from around the world, the vast majority coming from Europe. Case #1 of COVID-19 entered the country on the 22nd of February through the Punta Cana airport without symptoms and headed straight to the resort where he had booked his vacation. A week earlier, we had gone through a failed process of municipal elections and these were postponed until the 15th of March. Our Independence Day is the 27th of February. On this day, a massive gathering of people from all over the country took place in front of the “Junta Central Electoral” building, protesting what were declared fraudulent municipal elections. By the first week of March, we theoretically had 5 confirmed COVID-19 positive cases but because the government was dealing with a public crisis that generated the past elections, no official measures to combat the virus had been taken. 
The first official public measures were dictated March 17, two days after the elections took place. We were ordered to go on quarantine that meant that all businesses not considered essential to deliver basic needs had to close and only pharmacies, hospitals, and supermarkets could remain open. A curfew was also implemented from 8pm to 6am. To this date, the Dominican Republic has increasing numbers of cases and deaths. Few of our patients have recovered yet. From my point of view, we are missing many of the positive cases because we’re only testing those who have symptoms and from what I know there is not a lot of tracking/mapping of those that were in contact with symptomatic patients. Despite the government’s tardy measures, we have had many citizens that have not been distancing themselves and have opted to either go to the beach or arrange social events, not to mention that our elections were held 2 weeks ago amidst the beginning of the outbreak. The virus moves and is still moving quickly all over the world.

I practice with my wife who is a cornea specialist and my mother who specializes in glaucoma. We closed our office 2 weeks ago and have been on quarantine ever since. Our two children have been indoor 16 days already and there’s not a day that goes by that my 3-year-old asks, “Daddy when is the corona virus going to leave?”. This pandemia has brought both good and bad. It is up to us to decide whether we want to see only bad things or embrace the positive effects that come with all this madness. I generally have a full agenda on weekdays, so I get to see my kids in the morning and then at night…and sometimes just in the mornings. These days I have been trying to be as present as much as I can for them, and I acknowledge that they run through our minds even when we are not with them. They spend the whole day waiting for mom and dad to come home to play and nurture them. Even though I am home and only go out to the grocery store, I try to exercise daily and eat as healthy as possible because it relieves me from the stress of this situation that may not always be obvious but is definitely there.

Finally, I want to encourage everybody to please distance yourself for whatever time is necessary depending on where you live. It will be the fastest way to end this and get back on track with our lives now put on pause for this difficult reason.

Best regards for everyone and stay safe!
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