Is it worth the panic anyway for us as Africans or it is another flu?
By Ronald Humura
Seated in my apartment looking at the empty streets, my phone rings. ‘My son are you still ok, shall we survive this corona here? We are already surrounded; we have heard on the radio that it has reached Kenya and Rwanda" That's my mum in a broken and weary voice.
Coronavirus, undisputedly, the most mentioned word on the Globe so far, but what do we know about it apart from being told that shutting down our borders saves us from it? If at all it wasn't panic creation as an objective by the mainstream media, what else would they report?
Is it worth the panic anyway for us as Africans or it is another flu? Maybe if we dug deeper for answer find ourselves serving as King's riffles only in a different uniform.
Popularly referred to as coronavirus, on February 11, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the official name of the disease: Covid-19 and declared it a pandemic, the global death toll has surpassed 5,000.
Interesting to note is that while the global number of cases has surpassed 150,000, about 68,000 victims have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the virus.
But the mainstream media has concentrated at stigmatising it and causing panic and done little or nothing about preaching hope.
Before you read the statistics below first turn off your BBC and CNN reporting about Coronavirus.
A research done by the University of Hamburg indicates the leading causes of death in the world in the first two months of 2020 were topped by cancer at 1,177,141 death, and smoking-related death in second place claiming 716,498 lives, alcohol-related deaths third at 358,471, HIV itself that has ravaged especially African comes in fifth place claiming 240,950.
Others include road accidents (193,479), suicide (153,696), Malaria (140,584), common cold (69,602) and then COVID-19 comes 9th at 2,360. (This are statistics are as by end of February 2020).
So why has COVID-19 become a celebrity in no time when there are viruses that are already legends?
One will argue that COVID-19 is highly contagious but so is HIV and Common Cold, but why does the earlier take centre stage? Who is the player of this media ‘panic attack' music genre that the world dancing to?
Latest in the news so far is that Germany has closed its five boarders, US issued a travel ban on Europe, Spain and Italy are having a hard time controlling the rising death tolls with over 288 deaths in Spain and over 1082 in Italy so far.
The streets of the modern world are getting more and more deserted, U.S. just called on all the citizens outside U.S. to return home now their local Airports are crowded with people waiting to be screened.
Some UN agencies are closing because the longer they have to stay open the more the rest of the world is at risk because of the nature of their operations that require intercontinental movements
Our neighbours in Kenya President Uhuru President Kenyatta can't control the traffic of the International Community in Nairobi because it's the hub of offices and headquarters of several international organisations in the region on top of that, they have shut their boarders to all foreigners, the rumours from Rwanda seems the same tune as Kenya, in Uganda they are considering spraying all arrivals with disinfectants.
It's a world in Chaos
Meanwhile here in the UK, the prime Minister Boris Johnson, a former Journalist, is still big-headed and has refused to succumb to media pressure that is calling upon him to shut down everything.
Why daily mail will report how Arsenal football club Coach Mikel Arteta has tested positive of COVID-19 as the leading headline but give one line at end of the article about Chelsea's Callum Hudson- Odoi that has recovered from the same virus?
Nevertheless, the damage is visible on the streets. Could this be a Panic created by Pharmaceutical companies to sell their products like sanitizers, masks and medicine.
The scramble for toilet paper is unbelievable, as trucks offload more, people are already in the queue to buy. The sanitiser that was 50 pence is out of stock in stores, you can only find it on amazon for £7.
Panic has not spared places of worship, A few of us brave with my African brothers attended a Church mass, which termed the last mass until further notice, somewhere in North West of London, we had to bow Japanese style to wish each other a sign of peace.
There is a two feet mandatory distance from one person to the next on the same bench. You must receive your holy communion by hand.
Ok let the above questions be true, where does Africa come in?
"Africa has registered its first death from the new coronavirus - a German tourist who died in Egypt", so, reported BBC on 12th march 2020.
I am fidgeting to write this statement without sounding racist, but almost three months since it was first reported in Wuhan city in China on 29th December 2019, it has claimed over the 5000 lives comprised of all races but a Black African.
Not just blacks in Africa as a continent but even in the Caribbean countries. For example just like Uganda and other nations, Haiti is yet to record a single case yet their neighbours United States of America has already registered over 3000 cases and over 60 deaths as by Sunday evening. Jamaica of the 17 that tested positive is yet to record a death.
Some international experts and observers have speculated that Africa's relatively low number of cases might simply be the result of poor reporting and low testing rates.
Nigeria, for instance, has identified over 200 people who had come into contact with an Italian man who brought the first case of the virus into the country, but it has so far tested only 33.
Let the above case be true, does it matter? It has been more than 2 weeks, have the other 167 died since? The matter of fact is that we have lived with flue in Africa for decades, this is just another one. Believing this statement is optional.
Facts and numbers don't lie. Cut out this article and keep it, you will thank me later.
Recently, the UK government's chief science adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance advised to build up some kind of ‘herd' immunity so more people are immune to this disease and reduce the transmission.
According to Vallance, the virus would need to spread to about 60 per cent of the UK population before it loses its intensity.
Maybe as Africans we achieved the ‘Herd' Immunity already from the conditions we go through? Or If this coronavirus works like other viruses, it may be that warmer weather in some parts of the continent has stopped it spreading so fast, or its symptoms are mild.
What if it is an international strategy to re-set the economy?
Is the purpose of the International media campaign meant to settle some trade war between China and America?
Like all countries in the whole world, the uniformity of the first reaction baffles me. Even when China has successfully won the war against COVID-19 the first reaction when the first case is reported in any country is to stop all flights from Mainland China.
What a mindset. If with all the Chinese that have been flying into the country since it started almost three months ago, does stopping direct flights now contain it?
Why would United Arab Emirates cancel all its flights to Uganda when we have not had a single case of Corona? Is someone reasoning it out like me?
What is interesting is that all the initial cases of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa have been linked to European travel rather than China. Yet the there is no equivalent anti-European feeling.
The continent has close links to China, where the infection originated in late December, but the cases in Africa have all so far been linked to Europe
China is Africa's biggest trade partner and around 10,000 Chinese firms are currently operating throughout the continent. According to Chinese state media, more than one million Chinese nationals live in African countries.
But despite the above, our reaction and fear is alarming. More alarming are the measures we are putting in place.
As a matter of fact closing borders when the virus is already in does not stop, neither does it reduce its spread. Imagine in downtown the sweat, the human traffic, the rate at which money exchanges hands, the packing of people in taxis we only needed one person and it would travel like wildfire.
Before the border restrictions were put in place, how many passengers just from travelled from Italy from the red zone? Why do we think that the same way and same time it travelled from China its birthplace and covered Asia, to Europe, America, it did not travel to Africa?
Are we two months far from the rest of the world that it is still on the way coming? What if it is already here but it is simply any other flue that can't handle our immunity.
And we still believe we are not getting it because of the border measures in place? No thank you. All we are doing is follow a bandwagon, down borders, suffocate our already sick tourism industry, kill our brotherhood closing borders against each other. We are already protected by God. Why can't we as African take this opportunity and exploit the situation?
It is estimated that African airlines have lost $400m (£312m) since the outbreak began with airlines like South African Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Air Tanzania, Air Mauritius, EgyptAir, RwandAir and Kenya Airways all suspending flights to and from China.
The writer is a free-lance journalist based between UK and Italy