Or should we care about it at all?
The Novel Coronavirus has been gaining more attention over the past few weeks around the world ,causing various degrees of panic while at it. And while western countries as well as any country with regular travelers between it and China are definitely rightfully spooked, the question is whether we should be worried as well back here in Zimbabwe?
Well, let’s start with what the coronavirus actually is. If the Guardian video above didn’t give you enough context, the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is an illness from a family called coronaviruses whose usual symptoms aren’t actually as severe as the current epidemic. However this new coronavirus (hence the term novel) is believed to have originated from animals, specifically a seafood market in Wuhan China, with all cases either having originated from there or from people who came from the city recently and the people they came into contact with. This new strand of the virus has hence caused severe pneumonia in some of the infected patients especially older patients or those with weaker immune systems, hence the current death toll of over 130 people , as well as over 6000 cases in total reported. No treatment exists as of yet as due to being a virus, it cannot be fought by antibodies and current antiviral research has yet to yield a reliable solution.
And now that you’re all caught up, we can go back to our main question: should Zimbabweans be worried? Well, in a word, yes. But seemingly to a limited extent at the moment. For starters, there is of course the fact that since the virus originated in China, it means that we likely can’t encounter the virus in any way that is not directly encountering someone from Wuhan themselves. But of course, China-Zimbabwean correspondence has been going on for years now, and we all know how quite a number of Zimbabweans are located in China at the present moment. In fact it is reported that a recent flight from Wuhan headed to Zimbabwe had at least 22 people on it, as Zimbabwean students in China have been travelling back home as of late, among other people and of course even this flight, among others are a cause for concern. In fact British Airways has already cancelled all flights to China, with other international airways doing the same and a group of evacuated Americans being stopped in Alaska first for examinations and possible quarantine.All while China-Zimbabwe travel has largely been only urged for a delay. No ban, no outright stopping of transit between our countries, just what amounts to a fair warning in essence. And while many may report that to be fair(after all it’s not everyone in every part of China who is infected) , there is at least some warranted concern as obviously this seems like our own government marching to China’s beat rather than deciding to protect its people. All the while reports from the Ministry of health point to the country being “ready for the coronavirus” yet no one in Zimbabwe needs to be told how alarming the current health situation is, thus putting a huge qeustion mark on how ready we could possibly be as a country. Africa in itself is actually in question, and that’s why NGOs like the Bill and Melinda Gate foundation have decided to chip in and help as well, and again this makes one wonder how much we should panic. And even with the chinese government claiming this will be a joint effort and in the end everyone will be safe, the proverbial eyebrow is raised and most Zimbabweans feel their concerns are warranted.
And that’s where this whole argument stands. The coronavirus isn’t as dangerous here as it may be even in Europe, which has even proportionally, much more travelers to China and Asia than Zimbabwe does, but is obviously more equipped to deal with the virus. While here in Zimbabwe our travel to China is less, but the current season and economic situation means more travel to and from China, and more to fear considering our economic and health crises, even if chances of contact are arguably statistically low. In the end it all becomes a game of numbers and competency, how many people versus how competent our government actually is. We have yet to know for sure how it will all pan out. Though we can say that while coronavirus probably shouldn’t be your number one concern especially if you have no one you’re meeting who’s recently come from China, it should still keep you reasonably alert as we see how our country will handle this epidemic and if we should handle it at all.