By now virtually everyone has heard and been affected in one way or another by this novel disease – COVID 19. There is no shortage of news and updates on what is going on around the world. Looking at the trajectory of this disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) tracks this virus from China to Europe, to America, and now moving slowly but surely to other Asian countries and Africa. This calls for us in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, SID, to ask, what next?
As of 20 April 2020, the world has 2.3million confirmed cases with over 157 thousand dead according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). This is a very swift spread in a space of 1 month from March 20, 2020, at which time we had 234 thousand, with 9840 dead. The shock onto the whole world system is the speed with which the virus is spreading, the rapid rise of death rate, and its general lack of discrimination in victims. Africa in general and SID specifically may seem not to be so severely affected in comparison with other regions, however, the speed of spread still needs to be monitored. On March 20, 2020, Africa had 473 confirmed cases and 8 deaths. As of April 20, 2020, we are sitting at 14,760 cases with 662 deaths.
There are concerns that these numbers, big as they are, do not reflect accurately the extent of the problem since testing for the infected is not widespread in the community, especially in several African countries.With all the above in mind, most of the world is under extreme social distancing, popularly known as “lockdown”. This has brought on new challenges that come with businesses coming to a standstill and people forcibly staying indoors.
The hope and expectation is for all to “go back to normal”. But will there ever be a normal? Yes, sooner or later the people will be allowed to go back to their daily activities. However, experts warn us of the following:
- We will not be able to bounce right back and go back as instantly as we shut down. There will be a need for gradual re-entry. There will still be a risk of infection, possibly more than there was before in that the number of those infected has increased over time. Therefore, we have to pay attention to the guidelines we are being given for going back to free society movement.
- Measures that were put in place for hygienic purposes and lessons learnt should not be abandoned. Like many other viruses that we live with, this Coronavirus is here to stay. The questions yet to be answered include how we are to co-exist with this virus. There is a lot of work on vaccines that would allow us to be immune to the virus. Hopes for finding a treatment are also high to enable those who get sick to get treatment. Tests are being done on those that have been infected to see if any immunity is acquired and for how long. So there are still a lot of questions to be answered before we know for sure how we are to co-exist with this virus without being shut in our homes
- Stigmatization and social segregation of those who have suffered from the virus or lived with victims of the virus are prevalent. We should all know that the virus is indiscriminate and will attack anyone as they are busy doing their normal chores. Therefore there is no justification to stigmatize the victims as if they purposely got infected to make life difficult for everyone else.
- There is a need to increase community testing so that those infected can be identified, isolated, or treated to lower the risk of spreading the infection to other members of society. If any of us is invited to be tested, we should cooperate and if found infected, should follow the given instruction.
TAKE HOME POINTS
- There is still no specific treatment for COVID 19, all patients get is supportive treatment. Best prevent the disease by limiting social contact and effective hand washing. Find out more from www.who.int
- More than 90% of people who get sick do not need hospitalization if they do not have any preexisting diseases. So, keep yourself generally healthy to stand a good chance of recovery if you do get the disease. Use CELEBRATIONS see www.healthministries.com
- Many people who struggle with addictions like smoking now find the need to quit. Be there to assist. Go to www.breathefree2.com and learn how you can help.
- With all the loss of jobs and general income, we can join hands to assist each other in some practical ways. If you would like to assist you can join us in ADRA to put our little bit together and assist www.ADRA.org
By Dr. B. Sikwa – SID Director Health Ministries Department