A Tale of COVID-19 Pandemic and the Effect of Social Distancing and Hand Hygiene

By: Josephus Moses Gray | graymoses@yahoo.com |+231)8800330299 |

J. Moses Gray

To put it more bluntly: The COVID-19 pandemic is a major challenge facing humanity at the beginning of the 2020s. The virus poses a huge threat to the safety of people’s lives, to their mental and physical health, and to the social and economic development of all countries and regions. Unfortunately, no state is immune to the challenge or capacity of avoiding the unprecedented calamity which distresses 182 countries globally.

Governments and policy-makers across the globe are scrambling to find ways out to mitigate the enormous damage with the global economy headed into a deep recession and the numbers of vast unemployment. An Assistant Professor of International Studies at the University of Liberia, Dr. Josephus Moses Gray provides an in-depth analysis of the tale of COVID-19 pandemic.

As coronavirus continues to spread across the country and the globe, there is important information you should know about the disease, what you can do to mitigate its impact, and how you can keep yourself and others safe.

The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a new virus. According to WHO, the disease causes respiratory illness (like the flu) with symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing, but one an individual can protect his or herself by washing  hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and avoiding close contact (1 meter or 3 feet) with people who are unwell.

WHO’s situation report 76 which can be found at www.who.int/docs presents an accurate report on COVID-19 active cases and deaths as well as recovery. Other steps you should take to protect yourself and others before heading to the doctor or emergency room that will also help protect the nation’s health care systems. According to the CDC, coronaviruses are common in camels, cattle, cats and bats. Person-to-person transmissions are thought to occur when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside.” And so it seems at present, as seen the United States is consumed within through its own difficulties, as a result of the unprecedented devastation, but the U.S. will sooner or later sturdily progress from the difficulties.  The COVID-19 pandemic presents the reality of how the “free world” is being destroyed from within as a result of the coronavirus. President Donald J Trump described the virus as a “vicious enemy “and warned Americans to brace for a “very horrendous” number of coronavirus deaths in the coming days.

Trump said, “One day we’ll be standing up here and say, ‘Well, we won.’ And we’re going to say that, as sure as you’re sitting there, we’re going to win, while Turkey president definitively said “No virus is stronger than our social, political and economic measures”. However, President Trump has taken pains over the past weeks to link the coronavirus outbreak to China, calling it the “Chinese virus” at one of the White House daily briefings over objections that doing so unfairly stigmatizes an entire nation and might encourage hostility toward Asian-Americans.  Global deaths from the pandemic have soared past 67,000 and over 1.2 million cases; with Italy, Spain, United States, France and United Kingdom continue to bear the brunt of COVID-19 which has left roughly half of the planet confirmed at home.

As a recap, about a century ago, the Spanish-flu pandemic became the deadliest in world history surpassing the First and Second World Wars in term of human casualties; more people died from the Spanish flu than both wars.  The estimate of the total death toll worldwide was put between thirty million to fifty million, but the coronavirus death toll may not approach Spanish-flu’s death numbers. To a greater extent, some of the leaders wasted precious time accepting reality of the devastation of the coronavirus, resulting to a global pandemic. But, as the world gradually drowns into coronavirus pandemic, the 1918 Spanish flu and the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa are sobering reminders and a wake-up call for civilized leaders, entrepreneurs and political bureaucrats to strengthen preventive measures and guidelines that scientists have identified, such as washing hands and keeping social distancing.

Chairman Mao once said, “Everything under heaven is utter chaos, the situation is excellent.” Practically, it appears that China may be winning the COVID-19 war by advancing forward to provide medical aid to virus-infested nations especially European and African countries. China intervention to assist other countries in the fight against COVID-19, it would look like a repeat of the Marshall Plan also known as the European Recovery Program enacted in 1948 by the United States to provide aid to western Europe after World War Two. The plan was named after the former Secretary of State, George Marshall, while ex-President Wilson’s 14 Points-principles for a peaceful Europe, was the beginning of the United States world order and supremacy.

There was always an argument that the existing world order cannot change because only a momentous war has done that in the past and wars have become impossible, but the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened the current world order, with the emergence of new power from the global south.  The United States as well as other Western European powers prestige is suffering a severe blow on the world stage due to the coronavirus, with people across the globe changing the perception about the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany powers and capacities toward difficult time such as the pandemic.

The COVID-10 started as a calamitous for China where the first case and death were reported, but within two to three months, China was able to shape up to be a movement of strategic opportunity, a great turning point in the flaw of human history and the world order. Most importantly, the virus set in motion a global competition to trim the pandemic. It became apparent that China does have the ability to intervene in other countries’ situation in combating COVID-19.

There are signs in turn that the COVID-19  cases in Liberia are gradually growing than anticipated, raising pressure on the Liberian health experts to intensify restrictive lockdown measures including  and social distancing and washing of hands regularly by the population by keeping tougher actions in place but the nation’s huge illiterate rate poses a threat to these measures. Liberia has recorded about ten cases and in numerous instances, some people are refusing to wash their hands or keep social distancing, while commercial vehicles, motorbike regularly violates these measures, despite tougher government’s measures and actions.

 

However, given rate of the spread of the coronavirus across the globe, political leaders and entrepreneurs from Asia to Europe to United States to Africa to South America to Australia and the Middle East, are facing life-or-death decisions to curtail and minimized the global health crisis. The virus has crippled the world at different times and levels with dozens of countries now in some form of lockdown with enormous economic consequences.

 

Daily updated reports illustrating the rising coronavirus death rates in different states present a gloomy hope of the spread of the slowness of the unprecedented calamity cutting across regions and countries. However, countries and regions are different in many important aspects including population density, demographics, traditional practices and beliefs, domestic laws, civil disobedience, partner of social interactions, air quality, genetic and environment. Africa, for example, has the world youthful population than many other continents and regions, while Liberia has Africa’s youthful population density (World Banks, 2018).

 

The United States leads the world with more than 336,851COVID-19 cases, 9,620 deaths and 17,977 recovered as of April 6, 2020 (CDC, 2020).  According to the CDC, New York leads with 123, 018 cases and 4, 159 deaths, followed by  New Jersey with 37,505 cases and 917 deaths; Michigan records 15,718 cases and 617 deaths and California registered 15, 201 cases and 350 deaths while Louisiana cases stand at 13,010 and 477 deaths. Italy in word of deaths leads with 14, 681 and 119, 827 patients; followed by Spain which records 11,744 deaths and 124,736 patients. More than 8,000 Americans have died from the virus, the White house Coronavirus Task Force predicts that about 100,000 Americans may perish if people fail to follow the government guideline for people to constantly wash their hands, keep social distance and stay home.

 

Other affected countries are France over 6, 507 deaths and 82,165 cases; the United Kingdom recorded about 3,605 deaths and 38, 168 cases; Iran more than 3,452 deaths and 55, 743 cases; China has registered about 3,326 total deaths and 81,639 cases, followed by the Netherlands with 1,651 deaths and 16,627 cases or more; Belgium about 1,283 deaths reported and 18, 431 cases recorded while Germany records 1,275 deaths and 91,159 cases (WHO, 2020).  Unfortunately, all the EU Member states have encountered COVID-19 but the severely hardly hit are Italy, Spain, France and the UK.

 

According to statistical breakdown released by WHO, 1,2 million coronavirus cases worldwide as of April 6th cases stood at 1,287,168 while 70,530 deaths have been recorded  and 271,887 recovered from coronavirus worldwide. Currently infected patients or active cases are 944,751 of which 898,706 (95%) in mild condition and 46,045 (5%) serious or critical condition. Closed cases hit 342,417 which had an outcome of 271,887 (79%) recovered or discharged, while 70,530 (21%) deaths; these figures of deaths and infection are not static, they change every minute. The month of March is recorded as the month that saw severe toll of the coronavirus deaths and infection.

 

According to WHO Situation Report –76, globally 1133758 confirmed (82061), 62784 deaths (5798) Western Pacific Region 111396 confirmed (1034) 3838 deaths (29) European Region 621407 confirmed (38266)46416 deaths (4082)South-East Asia Region7816 confirmed (1288) 302 deaths (35)Eastern Mediterranean Region70293 confirmed (4328) 3794 deaths (201) Region of the Americas315714 confirmed (36171) 8187 deaths (1385) and African Region 6420 confirmed (974) 236 deaths (66).

 

The WHO situation report 76 shows that South Africa leads with cases in Africa with 1,585 and 9 deaths while Algeria leads the highest deaths in Africa with 185 and 8,092 cases. Followed by Cameroon555 and 9 deaths; Burkina Faso records 302 cases and 15 deaths; Côte d’Ivoire has 245 cases and two deaths; Senegal 219 cases and two deaths; Nigeria 210 cases and four deaths while Ghana has recorded 205 and five deaths. The report also documented 10 cases and one death for Liberia but the figures from local health experts is under reported as Liberia cases and deaths have increased.

WHO revealed that Due to differences in reporting methods, retrospective data consolidation, and reporting delays, the number of new cases may not always reflect the exact difference between yesterday’s and today’s totals. WHO COVID-19 Situation Reports present official counts of confirmed COVID-19 cases, thus differences between WHO reports and other sources of COVID-19 data using different inclusion criteria and different data cutoff times are to be expected.

The coronavirus spread is faster than governments or hospitals have prepared for, while the  World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and governments across the globe including hard affected nations including the United States, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, China and the United Kingdom have eventually declared a national emergency.   Before the COVID-19 is over, experts predict the pandemic is likely to hit about five million people globally, hospitalized over three million, and killed around one million. However, no one knows the definite period the coronavirus which emerged in December from Wuhan in China is expected to last.

In case of coronavirus, Liberia has been well below the levels seen in other African states and Europe, but it’s too early to ease tougher restrictions such as social distancing and constant washing of hands, as well as lockdowns. From a scientific perspective, people need to humbly act responsibly, while intensive strategy is crucial and that the most restrictive measures imposed by countries need to be strictly observed by people.

There are signs in turn that the COVID-19 cases in Liberia are gradually growing than anticipated, raising pressure on the Liberian government and health experts to intensify restrictive lockdown measures including  and social distancing and washing of hands regularly by the population by keeping tougher actions in place but the nation’s huge illiterate rate poses a threat to these measures. In numerous instances, some people are refusing to wash their hands or keep social distancing, while commercial vehicles, motorbike regularly violates these measures, despite of tougher government measures.

In a more extreme scenario, Liberia could experience the kind of economic shock that leads to economic collapse of government development agenda especially road construction projects just as was the case of the Ebola virus which killed 6, 800 in four West African states including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria, Liberia bears the toll deaths from the Ebola epidemic.

The COVID-19 outbreak has already left many Liberians without jobs and greatly affects development agenda of the government and ordinary people. And the economic effects of the coronavirus will have a social and economic consequence on the nation, as the spread continued to leave some people more permanently unemployed, while some businesses might not be resurrected.

In these trying times, we must unite against the coronavirus, and to avoid the repeat of the Ebola virus, Liberians need to put politics aside and work together as Liberians, the coronavirus doesn’t care if you’re a ruling party member or opposition, this is the time to rally around the leadership, make the necessary suggestions and respect the guideline and use the best approaches. Our domestic laws, cultural practices and beliefs should blind us to the reality; instead, keep focus to defeat COVId-19, No virus is stronger than our measures.

It’s possible that by the time COVID-19 runs its course, it will be more severe than the Ebola which killed about twenty thousand persons Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The economic consequences of the deadly Ebola are still being felt in these hard-hit West African states. But given the rapidity of the spread of COVID-19, I’m troubled that the economic burden on these poor nations will be grave which has the potential to make living unbearable for the poverty-stricken population. Maybe some policies could lessen the burden of combating COVID-19, but given the rapidity of the spread, I’m not sure any policy would make an immediate difference, except paying attention to  the guideline of  washing hands and keep social distancing.

The Spanish-flu infested two-third the world population and infested powerful leaders across the globe including  Britain’s King George V and Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Spain’s King Alfonso XIII along with his Prime Minister and several members of his cabinet, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie . On two separate occasions, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump’s test for the coronavirus was negative. President Donald Trump one day after recommending new health and social guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19 proposed ways to deal with the growing economic harm the crisis is having on business and workers around the world.

However, other world leaders,  government officials  on six continents—cabinet ministers, lawmakers, military leaders, senior policymakers, and health officials  from  United States to Europe, to Asia, South America to Middle East, have been infected with numbing speed by the virus, dozens have gone into quarantine while others have died from the virus.   President Trump’s health became a major issue when Fabio Wajngarten, the press secretary for the Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, came down with COVID-19. On March 7th, Trump stood shoulder to shoulder with Wajngarten and Bolsonaro when they visited Mar-a-Lago. The rapid spread of the coronavirus across the globe leads to the hinge unemployment of millions of people while the social and economic consequences have been profound. Presently, billions of people at home due to the nationwide lockdowns while national health care systems are on the brink of collapse, leaving millions—plural at risk of dying; other businesses might not recovered from the effect of COVID-19.

According to WHO (2020), the sick and elderly most at risk, it also points to the high risk to medical staff, while the worst affected countries of COVID-19 are Italy, Spain, United States, China, United Kingdom, France and German. the Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has revealed that the social and economic consequence of the coronavirus globally will be profound and likely to claim about one million lives if states, governments and political bureaucrats fail to ensure that protective measures are wholly observed and practice by the people.

The COVID-19 new figures of deaths highlight toll on front line medical staff. According to collaborated reports from around the globe, the duties of medical workers at the front are indeed extremely heavy; their working and resting circumstances are limited, the psychological pressures are great, and the risk of infection is high. The COVID-19 outbreak is stretching health-care systems in the hard-hit countries in some cases forcing doctors to choose who should live or die.  According to (BBC, 2020) report, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was criticized for being slow to react to the epidemic, became the first world leader to say he has tested positive. On April 4 was taken at a hospital due to persistent symptoms related to the coronavirus.  Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, also has the virus.  While CNN Chris Cuomo recently tested positive of coronavirus and has since went into isolation. The prime-time host is one of the most visible media figures to come down with the disease. He said Thursday night that he lost 13 pounds in three days as the CNN anchor continues to share his battle with the coronavirus.

Apart from Johnson, the BBC revealed that Health Secretary Matt Hancock also tested positive and the government’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said he had symptoms and would self-isolate for a week, and According to the Fox News, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently opted to self-quarantine—and telework—after his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive for COVID-19, after returning from London. The British junior health minister, Nadine Dorries, tested positive shortly after she met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. U.K. infections are doubling every three to four days, Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said.

Associated Press recently reported that two Republican congressmen—Doug Collins, of Georgia, and Matt Gaetz, of Florida—and Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, went into self-quarantine after being exposed to an unidentified person infected with the virus at the Conservative Political Action Conference, in Maryland. In Italy, which has the highest number of cases after China, Nicola Zingaretti, head of the Democratic Party and a co-partner in the coalition government, announced on Twitter that he was infected.

According to the Associated Press, also infested includes the medical chief of the Italian province of Varese, Roberto Stella, dead of COVID-19. The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, opted to self-quarantine after he returned from Italy. In France, President Emmanuel Macron cut back face-to-face meetings after his Minister of Culture, Franck Riester, fell ill with the disease; five French of parliament have also been diagnosed with the coronavirus. According to the New Yorker (2020), in Spain, the lower house of parliament suspended all activities on Tuesday when Javier Ortega Smith, the secretary-general of the far-right Vox Party, tested positive; he had attended a party rally in Madrid with many fellow-legislators. Photographs captured Ortega greeting dozens of supporters with handshakes, hugs, and kisses. Vox apologized and mandated that its fifty-three members of parliament self-quarantine for two weeks.

In Iran, one of the four early hot spots, two vice-presidents, three cabinet officials, nine percent of the members of parliament, the director of emergency medical services, the chief of the crisis-management organization, senior Revolutionary Guard officers, and prominent clerics are on a long list of officials infested. Ali Akbar Velayati, a doctor trained at Johns Hopkins University (2020). While a senior adviser to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, went into quarantine on Thursday. Another senior adviser died the previous week. Velayati, who served as the Foreign Minister for sixteen years, was infested while working with medical staff on ways to contain the disease. The Australian Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, was admitted to a hospital in Queensland after he tested positive. Dutton recently returned from meetings in Washington with, among others.

Some political pundits and academics believe that everything we are seeing and experiencing is politically driven on grounds that unfortunately political correctness has been dictating actions and decisions without the full involvement of private sectors and other major actors. Apparently, apathy, political actions precision and citizens’ refutation to some extent is responsible for the toll of the coronavirus globally. Without doubts, apathy gives tacit approval to what has been emerging is completely acceptable, and that majority of the countries affected instituted no concrete preventive actions until COVID-19 enters and at that point it is too late to correct or reverse.

Despite of the toll of deaths, yet, others people in some countries don’t take COVID-19 pandemic seriously on grounds that the virus doesn’t kill black people and assume they will get over it quickly. International health experts have warned that the consequence of the coronavirus in Africa is likely to be profound in the five regions due to the continent’s enormous uneducated society, multiplexes cultural practices and beliefs.

The coronavirus spread is faster than governments or hospitals have prepared for, while the  World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and governments across the globe including hard affected nations including the United States, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, China and United Kingdom   have eventually declared a national emergency.   Before the COVID-19 is over, experts predict the pandemic is likely to attack about two million globally, hospitalized over one million and killed around 150,000. However, no one knows definite period the coronavirus is expected to last, therefore let us keep observing the strategies by constantly washing hands and keeping the social distancing for good of the population and the country.

About the author: Professor Josephus Moses Gray, Ph.D., is the Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities (Liberia College) of the University of Liberia. He also serves as an assistant professor of International Studies at the IBB Graduate School of International Studies.  He earned his Ph.D. in International Relations and Diplomacy with high distinction (Summa Cum Laude) from CEDS University located on 37 Quai Grenelle, 75015 Paris, Republic of France. Dr. Gray’s Ph.D. dissertation is titled:  “The Effect of Diplomacy: Liberia-U.S.-China’s triangular Relations. He hails from Southeastern Liberia village of Kayken in Barclayville Chiefdom, Grand Kru County.  He has authored and published dozens of peer-reviewed scholarly articles and three scholarly books and over 150 scholarly works in local and international journals. All these scholarly articles and books are all appropriate to academic disciplines and mostly used for class lectures and research by academics and graduate students. Contacts: (+231)880330299 or graymoses@yahoo.com

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About Cholo Brooks 13353 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.