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Published On: Mon, Mar 23rd, 2020

COVID-19: Time to Organize, not Agonize

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By Issa Aremu

Coronavirus causative/management narrative globally is riddled with multiple meanings: the metaphysical to the scientific, the clinical to the pedestrian, conspiratorial to the racist, the sobering to the hysterical, the political to the partisan. The discourse is as infectious and virulent as the notorious Virus. Invariably everything about Coronavirus is human after all. It’s time for some sobriety in coming to terms with a rampaging affliction not in a hurry for a cure. First detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019, coronavirus (COVID-19) is truly stateless. It’s global. It’s classless and gender blind. It defies all human contrived walls namely Berlin/Chinese/Great Zimbabwe wall/Donald Trump Walls/Israel/ West Bank Border Walls. As of March 20, 2020, over 240,000 have been infected in 148 countries. More than 10,000 had died across the world. About 88,000 recovered according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Nigeria’s timeline of the pandemic according to the Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) started in February 27 with a 44-year old Italian. He reportedly tested positive in Lagos but later tested twice negative. He has since been discharged with one of his contacts in Ogun who tested positive. With a new confirmed case in Abuja FCT yesterday, Nigeria parades 27 confirmed cases, with the highest in Lagos (19 cases,) Abuja – four, Ogun- two, Ekiti – one and Oyo – one. The hope is that we will stop counting. But with seemingly open headed updated list, we are certainly living in the age of an adversity occasioned by Coronavirus. However as worrisome as it is, lest we forget: global pandemics are almost inevitable. Certainly they are unavoidable. The Chinese who first bite the COVID-19 bullet (and who first commendably and successful confronted the Virus) have a saying that, “misfortune is not that which can be avoided, but that which cannot”. Carl Edward Sagan, the late American astronomer, cosmologist, author and science popularizer is my favored author. In one of his books,: Cosmos: THE STORY OF COSMIC EVOLUTION, SCIENCE AND CIVILIZATION, (1995) the popularizer of astronomy wrote that “We can lead a full life and never personally encounter a natural disaster more violent than a storm. And so we become complacent, relaxed, unconcerned. But in the history of Nature, the record is clear. Worlds have been devastated. Even we humans have achieved the dubious technical distinction of being able to make our own disasters, both intentionally and inadvertent. On the landscape of other planets where the records of the past have been preserved, there is abundant evidence of major catastrophes”
The point cannot be overstated that Coronavirus is the new link in human chain of afflictions. Precisely because we were not there in 430 B.C.: we are not witnesses to the earliest recorded pandemic disease. It was during the so-called Peloponnesian War. The disease with symptoms such as “fever, thirst, bloody throat and tongue, red skin and lesions” reportedly flipped through Libya, Ethiopia and Egypt, “crossed the Athenian walls as the Spartans laid siege killing two-thirds of the population”. Today Cholera outbreak is casually associated with economically backward poor countries of Africa. But the first Cholera pandemic originated from Russia not Africa! The small intestine infection in 1817 killed as many as one million people in Russia. Spreading through feces-infected water and food, the British colonial soldiers passed the bacterium to India and British colonies in Africa where millions died. There was also the notorious Asian flu in 1957. It started in Hong Kong and spread to mainland China, then the United States and England claiming some 14,000 people lives. The second wave of Asian flu 1958 claimed about 1.1 million deaths globally, with 116,000 deaths in the United States alone. Just as vaccines were developed, effectively containing the both Cholera and Asian flu pandemics, it’s time to organize globally to confront, curtail and damn COVID-19 menace. Organize not panicky surrender. We just must adjust to the inevitability of Coronavirus and the possibility that it can and must be curtailed. Trouble the saying goes, “brings experience and experience brings wisdom”. Unfortunately humanity failed momentarily experience-test since the outbreak of the new killer in town last year. In the global rat race of survival of fittest, all countries hardly pause to remember that ancient cholera, leprosy and tuberculosis pandemics were never region or race specific.Gain time, Gain life, goes another wisdom. A disease detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019 ought to have been globally contained. American President Donald Trump at a point mischievously stopped referring to the disease for what it is: Coronavirus but a racist smear: the “China/foreign virus.” Watching Donald Trump at last Saturday media briefing saying “can you believe that the disease is in 148 countries, confirms the truism that “adversity makes a man wise, not rich”! It is sad that it takes an affliction for an American President to come out of his insular fortress mentality.
I acknowledge and salute the Federal governments and states government for the measures so far to confront Corona Virus scourge. It’s could be better if some of the new current frenzy measures had preceded the spread. But certainly we did better than America and Italy. The current partnership between Federal and states government should be applied to confront malaria which in any case has a cure but still killed hundreds of thousands annually and confront road accidents which kill as many 40,000 annually!. Labour and capital and employers must partner to halt the spread of the virus at work places. Corona Virus shows that we must deepen Diversification of the economy, produce what we consume and consume what we produce. All agencies must follow the example of CBN under Governor Godwin Emefiele which well before Coronavirus scourge “saw tomorrow”, stopped financing 43 items Nigeria can produce at home. Even if we are willing to import, today China has shut down teaching hard lesson in self reliance. When this singular pandemic is over, global Solidarity/ Humanity award should go to Cuban revolutionary 53 doctors and nurses who on Thursday arrived in Lombardy, Italy to help the country contain the menace. For now the best useful mantra to damn Coronavirus: Regularly Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or hand rub sanitizer. Maintain social distancing of at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Stay informed and follow advice given by public health authorities.
Issa Aremu mni, is a Labour leader and a writer

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