Thursday, 19 March 2020


When the news of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China and then, South Korea, hit the rest of the world, the initial response from other countries was poor. Most of them either underestimated the capacity of the disease or saw it as a minor issue restricted to China. They couldn’t really be bothered about it. It just seems so, because the laissez faire attitude that greeted the spread was very obvious and something worrisome.

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The measure earlier taken by these countries in handling the now declared pandemic was, to say the least, not reassuring. This laxity was what gave boost to the wide and massive spread of this deadly virus.

From this failure to act fast in the face of the glaring warning from China, the virus  spread along with vengeful intensity to Italy, France, Iran, Spain, Japan, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, the US, Brazil, Nigeria, Venezuela, Austria, Japan, South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, Serbia, Congo, the Philippines, Australia, and so on, affecting more than 100 countries. This viral inferno continues to burn wildly and the whole world seems to be consumed by it.

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With reality so bold and the cock coming home to roost, some of these countries suddenly seemed to wake from their slumber and they began to introduce strict measures aimed at controlling the spread of the virus. But the big question is what steps were taken by these countries before now? Where was this sense of urgency and protectionism at the initial stage, especially when the World Health Organization had declared the situation a global emergency?

Of great note is how Italy, the US, Iran and the UK left their borders widely open for visitors returning from recognized coronavirus hotspots like China and South Korea. Travellers from these areas were allowed in without isolation, even when they were visibly potential carriers of the virus. We heard of how American and British citizens returning from China were allowed to enter their countries, bearing the virus. Nigeria’s case even beat common sense. It literally and willingly allowed the virus into its shores from Italy, maybe so as to be counted in the list. Just may be! Otherwise what could explain the reckless decision of the people at the point of entry to allow the Italian businessman to come into the country, even when they knew he’d come from Milan?

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The implication was that the closer the virus was home, the more likely it would spread and in the process put the lives of the people in danger. The pathetic situation in both the UK and the US better explains the fears over such home-coming and its negative impact. It is so much an issue to be spoken against, especially considering that the country where it originated from has seen a reduction in cases of infection.

The truth, as can be seen, is that the COVID-19 pandemic would have been better managed than it is currently and the virus would have been restrained from spreading beyond the shores of China. If stringent steps were taken to consciously ask citizens and travellers alike, who have been in China since the outbreak, to remain where they are, the virus wouldn’t have made its way, rather mysteriously, into these countries where it is currently ravaging the populations.

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It is unfortunate that the world acted with so much docility and allowed the virus to move with increased intensity from one country to another. It is so saddening that despite the awareness, these countries didn’t do much to assert a policy that would restrict movement from COVID-19 hotspots and so, stem the tide.

It is also very sad that the world waited for the virus to spread before it realised how such drastic measures as travel restrictions from hotbeds, 14-day mandatory isolation for returnees and lockdowns were necessary. Unfortunately it is too late. (The Punch)

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