Fight, Not Flight, Must Be the Strategy for Flattening the COVID-19 Curve

Credit: (Lee Woodgate/Science Source)

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 16 2020 (IPS)

The number of coronavirus cases in Kenya has jumped to three
after the government confirmed two more cases. President Uhuru
Kenyatta
has announced a raft of proactive measures to prevent the spread of
the virus
.

Barely three months into the COVID-19 outbreak, stock markets
have plummeted, and global supply and production systems have
wobbled. Across the world panicked shoppers have cleared shelves of
hand sanitizer, soap and tinned food, as if preparing for a
siege.

The message by
UN Secretary-General António Guterres that ‘as we fight the
virus, we cannot let fear go viral’ is absolutely pertinent. And
the people of Kenya can count on the United Nations Country team as
an ally in this fight.

Global pandemics are the new threat to humanity. The number of
new diseases per decade has increased nearly fourfold over the past
60 years,
and since 1980, the number of outbreaks per year has more than
tripled
.

Factors such as climate change, rising populations and increased
travel have made humans more vulnerable today than they were 100
years ago. An infection in one corner of the world can make its way
to the most distant corner within a day.

In sub-Saharan Africa, there are genuine fears over how health
systems will cope. Most are ill-prepared and ill-equipped to
implement public health measures such as surveillance, exhaustive
contact tracing, social distancing, travel restrictions and
educating the public on hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

These are the basic steps that will delay the spread of
infection and relieve pressure on hospitals, even as support is
sought for costlier solutions such as personal protective
equipment, ventilators, oxygen and testing kits.

For countries in Africa and other areas where health resources
are limited, a little-understood pandemic such as COVID-19 is a
challenge that requires a whole-of-society response. While science
creates the tests and will eventually develop a vaccine, the most
effective immediate responses to pandemics depend more on simple
actions we can all carry out than on pharmaceutical-based
solutions.

Flattening the COVID-19 curve will also be aided by accurate
information. Rising public panic and hysteria is stoked by the
difficulty in sifting fact from rumour, speculation and inaccurate
information. One of the problems of the age of social media and
citizen journalism is that it provides a forum for everyone, and
enables the dangerous fiction that anyone with an opinion is an
expert. In such circumstances a rational, science-driven narrative
is difficult to sustain.

Getting ahead of COVID-19 by ensuring that only accurate
information and scientific guidance takes control of the narrative
is crucial. It is for this reason, the United Nations Country Team
in Kenya is offering communications support – amongst other
initiatives – to the Ministry of Health in its current
commendable response to the problem. Everyone will benefit if they
heed the wise
counsel of CS Mutahi Kagwe
. For example he emphasizes the
importance of frequent and thorough hand washing. Hand washing
saves lives and is the best defence against communicable
diseases.

Though microbes are evolving millions of times as fast as
humans, and humans have little or no immune protection against new
flu strains, the scientific understanding of the risk of pandemics,
and our ability to predict the next pandemic before it even
happens, is better than ever.

It is now known, for instance, that most new infectious diseases
originate in animals, including SARS from bats and some strains of
influenza from birds. Factors that include close proximity to live
animals, poor hygiene in relation to meat and live animals at
markets, overcrowding, and bushmeat consumption can allow pathogens
to jump the species barrier to humans.

These scientific advances are being deployed to find more
comprehensive solutions such as vaccines. Widespread access to such
vaccines confer immunity to individuals and even ‘herd
immunity’ for populations. Vaccines work and have saved countless
lives.

Countries in Africa must also take the fight to the pandemic
through simple but effective measures for detecting, testing,
isolating and mobilizing their people to mitigate transmission.

With simple, fact-informed hygiene measures as the main weapon,
the continent can slow the virus’s spread and flatten the curve.
And the UN family in Kenya is in lockstep with the Government of
Kenya to fight COVID 19 on all fronts.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations
resident coordinator to Kenya.

The post
Fight, Not Flight, Must Be the Strategy for Flattening the COVID-19
Curve
appeared first on Inter
Press Service
.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Fight, Not Flight, Must Be the Strategy for Flattening the COVID-19 Curve