COVID19: What you don’t know can kill you
It is hard to remember that just a few weeks ago, the planet was in motion. There were protests in Delhi (India) and Quito (Ecuador), eruptions against the old order that ranged from anger at the economic policies of austerity to frustration with the cultural policies of misogyny and racism. In Nigeria here, we have suddenly forgotten Emir Sanusi and Adams Oshiomole’s issue.
Whatever it is, as the death toll increases and the number of infected persons hits the roof, we won’t go back to normal because normal was the problem’. Now, in the midst of the novel coronavirus, it seems impossible to imagine a return to the old world, the world that left us so helpless before the arrival of these deadly microscopic organisms. Waves of anxiety prevail; death continues to stalk us. If there is a future, we say to each other, it cannot mimic the past.
Certainly, the coronavirus is a serious matter and certainly its spread is a consequence of its own danger to the human body. But there are social issues here that bear serious thought. Key to any discussion has to be the sheer collapse of state institutions in most of the world.
This is most obvious in the health sector, where public health institutions have been underfunded, where medical care has been transferred to private corporations and where private hospitals and clinics operate without any surge capacity.
This means that there are simply not enough hospital beds or medical equipment (masks, ventilators, etc.) and the nurses, doctors, paramedics, janitors, and others on the front line are forced to operate in conditions of acute scarcity, in many cases without basic protection. It is often the people who make the least who are putting the most at stake to save lives in the face of the rapidly spreading pandemic.
The truth is Nigeria does not have money to fight this disease. And after corona finishes its dance, will our leaders make health an important matter? While these are the issues to confront, we are being exposed by not having fought to maintain and even extend the public health system. We have been exposed now to the fact that our lack of unity, religious facade and lack of organization have hampered our ability to develop a culture of organisation, solidarity, and public action.
Our slowness in enacting measures to trace those infected by the virus through contact tracing’ and testing at transportation hubs has exposed how porous our boundaries are.
President Muhammadu Buhari has another opportunity thrust upon him by fate to provide direction for this country and he should take it or else what we don’t know will kill all of us.
Prince Charles Dickson PhD,