The Sunday News
THE World Health Organisation (WHO) last week said the spreading of coronavirus across the globe could become a constant presence, urging people to remain on high alert despite the easing of lockdowns in many countries.
During a media briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme, warned that the disease may join the mix of viruses that kill people around the world every year.
“This virus just may become another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) hasn’t gone away,” Ryan said. “I’m not comparing the two diseases but I think it is important that we are realistic. I don’t think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear.”
More than 4,3 million cases of the virus have been recorded worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s latest tally. Multiple teams of scientists around the world are trying to develop a viable coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine. Nonetheless, WHO infectious disease epidemiologist Dr Maria Van Kerkhove according to media reports, struck a more optimistic tone during last week’s briefing.
“The trajectory of this outbreak is in our hands. The global community has come together to work in solidarity. We have seen countries bring this virus under control. We have seen countries use public health measures.”
Sentiments by officials from the WHO should remind everyone to remain alert all the time. Even if lockdown regulations are eased to allow more movement of people and economic activities, people should always stick to advice from health experts on how to combat the spread of coronavirus. President Mnangagwa yesterday said the country will continue on Level Two of the lockdown, which means it is still “not business as usual”, and measures to curb the spread of the virus should be adhered to all the time.
“We are going to have to remain on alert, stay the course and ensure that we are ready to respond,” Dr Ryan emphasised.
The swift implementation of the lockdown in the country and in many countries in Africa has been hailed as the main reason why the spread of the virus in the continent has been at a slower pace compared to the rest of the world.
Reports say Africa’s first case was announced in Egypt on 14 February and two weeks later, the first patient south of the Sahara was documented in Nigeria. Since then, Africa’s 55 states have notched up around 72 000 cases, according to an AFP tally compiled from official figures last week.
This amounts to less than two percent of the global total, whereas Africa accounts for 17 percent of the planet’s population. The proportion of fatalities also seems far lower in Africa — the 2 500 fatalities, expressed as a proportion of known cases, yields a death rate roughly half that of the rest of the world, according to AFP.
“Confinement measures were taken quite early, and this slowed the curve. Most countries implemented these measures almost as soon as the first case was detected,” Michel Yao, based in the Congolese capital of Brazzaville for the WHO, told AFP.
“In France, it took 52 days after the first case for measures to be taken. In Ivory Coast, the schools and borders were closed five days after the first case. A week later, there was a curfew,” said Jean-Marie Milleliri, an epidemiologist and specialist in tropical public health based in Abidjan.
The leadership in the continent should be applauded for being proactive, and it is also up to the general people to play their part and complement efforts by their governments.