Dreaded like thge plague Covid19 appears unrelenting
Dreaded like thge plague Covid19 appears unrelenting |www.livescience.com
Truth Well Told (TWT)

Covid-19 Could Be Conquered With Information Dissemination Aids

"If anything good can be said about the advent of Covid-19, it is that it has probably changed our socio-economic way of life and the way we interface with one another for good", says Lesang Magang

By Lesang Magang


These days, Covid-19 has become all the rage in everyday discourse.It rolls off every tongue, and every time one turns on the telly, a fusillade of reportage on how the dreaded pandemic is laying waste to lives, as if mankind is teetering on the brink of extinction, hits them full-on.Whether it’s CNN, BBC, Sky News, or ENCA, Covid-19 coverage is so persistent it scarcely rivets one’s attention anymore, what with all the familiar programmes have been consigned to the back burner. Even our own BTV news is saturated with the situation and circumstances of the Covid-19 lockdown. As I typewrite this article on my laptop, my second in a mini-series of four, about 1,250,000 cases have been reported worldwide (in 208 countries and territories out of a total of 251 recognised by the UN), with just under 70,000 deaths stemming thereof, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Italy and Spain lead the pack in terms of mortalities registered: both have incurred casualties numbering north of 10,000, with the USA and France close at heel. The tally in China, the springboard, reportedly, of Covid-19, is 82,000 cases and 3,330 deaths. In Africa as a whole, Morocco and Egypt are the worst hit, with 70 and 71 deaths respectively. As for sub-Saharan Africa, the DRC has lost 18 lives, Burkina Faso 17, and South Africa 11. Botswana has to date logged 6 cases altogether, with only one death. Only two countries on the African land mass, namely Lesotho and Sao Tome, boast of zero Covid-19 cases. With only 1 case, South Sudan is the least hit country on our continent of 54 countries.Altogether, Africa has recorded 9,310 cases of Covid-19 to date if we are to go by African Argument’s Coronavirus Tracker and has lost 334 people to the bloodcurdling scourge.Of course, by the time you read this piece, the statistical scenario will have changed, hopefully for the better though that is too sanguine a prospect at this juncture. Hard to bear But Necessary desperate situations, so goes one adage, call for desperate measures.

In a bid to either mitigate the effects of the pandemic or contain it altogether, many a country have responded by imposing what are called lockdowns, quarantines, and isolations, singly or collectively. The figures being bandied about in relation to countrywide or near-countrywide lockdowns globally range from a fifth to a third of the world population.

Countries with huge swathes of their populations subject to restricted freedoms of movement include India, China, France, Italy, and the UK. South Africa is presently on a three-week lockdown, which was announced before the country registered its first case of a Covid-19 death. Botswana joined the fold effective from midnight on April 2nd, en route to a 28-day-long lockdown. In countries such as China and Italy, the lockdowns are confined to particular regions of the country, though Italy announced that it would extend the lockdown to the rest of the country.

Botswana practically shut down the whole country, with both incoming and transiting travellers, not to mention returning citizens and residents, being circumscribed for a couple of weeks at designated places, such as IDM in Gaborone, before being allowed to freely mingle with the rest of the population.A High Court order in due course obliged Government to scrupulously tailor quarantine conditions to every WHO protocol for Covid-19, a proposal which incidentally had earlier been made by the Hospitality Association of Botswana (HATAB) with regard to hotel quarantine settings in the event they were deemed necessary.

In some countries, the lockdown code borders on the draconian. Says one report in relation to the US: “In Chicago, residents are being told they will face jail if found exercising outdoors. In Washington, residents are also being threatened with jail for violating lockdown orders. In Rhode Island, officials are looking for New Yorkers to forcibly quarantine them. ”The odd one out is the outspoken, diligent, and feisty New Yorker Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has made it known that if Donald Trump forced his jurisdiction into a quarantine of sorts, it would amount to a declaration of war by the Federal government on individual states. The wayward and trigger-happy Philippines’ President, Rodrigo Duterte, was his usual bellicose self when he told the nation the security apparatus was under orders to shoot dead anyone “who creates trouble” in the context of the one-month lockdown of the Island of Luzon.

Lockdowns are generally a new fad. What has been typical throughout history in battling contagions are isolation orders, which date back to the Spanish Flu of January 1918 to December 1920, which is estimated to have afflicted 500 million people all over the globe and exterminated 50 to 100 million.

The Korean Benchmark

As the war against Covid-19 rages, the WHO has touted South Korea as the gold standard worthy of emulating elsewhere.

The leaders of France and Sweden each inquired from the South Korean president as to exactly what magic wand his country waved to flatten the curve of Covid-19’s new infections. Maybe Sweden got some cue as it has refrained from imposing an across-the-board lockdown and its social distancing measures are restricted to the most vulnerable cohorts. The result is that it is now experiencing a much-diminished rate of admissions to ICUs and has had only 19 deaths from Covid-19.

The Korean strategy is indeed instructive. In only two weeks between February and March this year, the number of Coronavirus newly-struck victims surged from only a few dozens to several thousands. At its peak, South Korea was reeling from just under 1000 new cases a day. Then, abracadabra, the cases began to halve on a weekly basis till a comparatively negligible stability was attained. At the time of writing this article, the rate of new infections had whittled down to 47 cases per day, the lowest to date. What did the trick?

The Korean government went to work just a week after the first Covid-19 case surfaced. Sooner rather than later, the government had imposed radical measures in Daegu, a city of 2.5 million, where the disease made its debut through an evangelical parish. Companies were prevailed upon to straightaway begin mass-producing test kits like they were required yesterday. About 600 test centres swiftly came on-stream to screen as many people as possible, with the screening being mandatory irrespective of the state of one’s health. The testing activity was augmented with 50 drive-through stations, where people were tested whilst ensconced at the wheel.

In the course of the conduct of the fray against Covid-19, Government drew copiously on the gadgets of the Information Age. A complimentary report in The New York Times gushed thus: “At some walk-in centres, patients enter a chamber resembling a transparent phone booth. Health workers administer throat swabs using thick rubber gloves built into the chamber’s walls. Relentless public messaging urges South Koreans to seek testing if they or someone they know develop symptoms.

“Visitors from abroad are required to download a smartphone app that guides them through self-checks for symptoms. Offices, hotels and other large buildings often use thermal image cameras to identify people with fevers. Many restaurants check customers’ temperatures before accepting them.

“When someone tests positive, health workers retrace the patient’s recent movements to find, test — and, if necessary, isolate — anyone the person may have had contact with, a process known as contact tracing. This allows health workers to identify networks of possible transmission early, carving the virus out of society like a surgeon removing a cancer. Health officials would retrace patients’ movements using security camera footage, credit card records, even GPS data from their cars and cellphones.

“As the coronavirus outbreak grew too big to track patients so intensively, officials relied more on mass messaging. South Koreans’ cellphones vibrate with emergency alerts whenever new cases are discovered in their districts. Websites and smartphone apps detail hour-by-hour, sometimes minute-by-minute, timelines of infected people’s travel — which buses they took, when and where they got on and off, even whether they were wearing masks. People who believe they may have crossed paths with a patient are urged to report to testing centers.

“People ordered into self-quarantine must download another app, which alerts officials if a patient ventures out of isolation. Fines for violations can reach $2,500.

“By identifying and treating infections early, and segregating mild cases to special centers, South Korea has kept hospitals clear for the most serious patients. Its case fatality rate is just over one percent, among the lowest in the world.”

Korea stopped the pandemic in its tracks without shutting down the economy. It waged a resoundingly triumphant war on Covid-19 against all odds and by far more effective than the worst affected countries, seven of whom are richer.

Unlike China, which employed unorthodox, strongman methods to turn back the catastrophic outbreak in Hubei province, Korea for the most part relied on the wonders of state-of-the-art informational technology.

Can we replicate that in Botswana? Yes we can within the limits of our present levels of technological capacity.

Information Must Be Effectively Communicated

Let me underscore that information dissemination was key to Korea’s monumental success. Information for its own sake is useless. To be meaningful, it has to be communicated or disseminated and in an effective manner at that. It is not enough to simply relay information: it has to be conveyed using a worthwhile, high-impact mechanism.

As such, when President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced the State of Emergency and the 28-day nationwide lockdown in the face of the globalwide, near-apocalyptic Covid-19 pandemic, he did so live on both radio and television and alternated between Setswana and English, the primary languages of communication in the country.

In his television address, a sign language interpreter was on hand to translate the spoken word into syntactic gestures for particular audiences with special needs. Everybody got the message – the educated and unlettered alike, the young and the aged, the able-bodied and the visually or aurically impaired.

In making the announcement, the President clearly had a purpose and a vision, both of which informed by several parties integral to the effort to crusade against the terrible scourge that has brought the whole wide world to a virtual standstill.

It is hoped that in the course of its implementation, the presidential decree will be validated according to the already established criteria to gauge the people’s adherence to it. And if indeed the number of Covid-19 contractees plummet or the disease completely dissipates, then the decree will have been a resounding success as the envisaged yardsticks will have borne out.

Prolonged Lockdown Only in Worst Case Scenario

If anything good can be said about the advent of Covid-19, it is that it has probably changed our socio-economic way of life and the way we interface with one another for good.

For instance, a sizeable proportion of the workforce in the Western world now work from home. Both Christian Amanpour and Sanjay Gupta, two of CNN’s prima donnas, have been seen anchoring from the familiar ambiences of their respective abodes. Many a private medical practitioner in America are seeing patients and prescribing medication by means of Skype

Here in Botswana, companies have taken full-page adverts in tabloids and broadsheets alike exhorting their clientele to pay for services through online banking. It must be worthy food for thought on the part of Government as time now seems ripe for it to come up with processes that are for the most part automated so that delivery is effected invariably by the mere press of a button.

Meanwhile, President Masisi has hinted at a lockdown possibly spanning months. Although that would be sensible in the event that Covid-19 does not substantially abate or deaths begin to spiral, it could heavily tax the citizenry’s toleration threshold.

As Sweden’s chief epidemiologist pointedly put it in an interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, “The problem with lockdowns is that you tire the system out. You can't keep lockdown going for months — it’s impossible. We can't kill all our services. And unemployed people are a great threat to public health. It’s a factor you need to think about.”

One of Botswana’s foremost business leaders, Mr Lesang Magang
One of Botswana’s foremost business leaders, Mr Lesang Magang
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