BERLIN – Ebola has reached Europe.
No, it is not just here via patients brought to isolation wards under strict security conditions to be saved from an otherwise relatively certain death by high-tech Western medicine. Now the virus has arrived in a Spanish hospital, having managed to pass from a priest infected in West Africa to a nurse.
It should be noted that this is in Madrid, in a fully equipped Western hospital in which all doctors and nursing staff were well aware of the deadly sickness they were dealing with.
With this, the Ebola catastrophe has reached a new dimension. And many people are panicking. Could, as happened in Dallas, Texas, an airline passenger with no symptoms bring in the virus? Can a patient in a high-security ward pass the virus to doctors and nurses and thus become a danger to us all? Is it no longer safe to go to the airport to fly off for a holiday? Should we be bracing to see around us here the same sort of conditions that prevail in Liberia?
Because mistakes can obviously happen everywhere, the simple answer to these questions is a conditional yes. Ebola could spread to Germany and elsewhere in Europe. A prominent advisor to the World Health Organization, Dr. Peter Piot, has warned that more cases of infected Western medical staff is likely.
Our society has become too mobile for viruses and other pathogens to be warded off at borders. The risk is minimal, but it's there. And the German health system is far superior to those of West African countries, so a similar epidemic as we're seeing in Africa is unlikely to happen here.
But it would still be wise for the authorities to get a better grip on the sorts of mistakes we saw in Madrid and Dallas. Why aren't some airlines banned or redirected? Why are people flying in from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone not more rigorously monitored to check if they have had contact with Ebola victims? Why aren't they quarantined? Why is the staff in a high-security hospital ward not better trained and supervised?
The emergency remains in West Africa, where the situation continues to worsen. Every day, Ebola patients are dying and new people are becoming infected. The world community has failed to keep the catastrophe from spreading in those countries. Now it must not also fail to protect the rest of the world from the virus.
The growing number of people infected also increases our risk. Only more control, restrictions, and bans can bring greater security. And in view of the growing unease, such measures would probably be popular with the general public.
With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.
CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.
Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.
It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.
Abundant sunshine, low temperatures
The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.
Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.
It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.
Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park
Chinese want to expand
The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.
The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.
The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.
The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.
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