April 1, 2020
By: Winstanley.R.Bankole. Johnson
Researching for this piece left me completely traumatized. So I should be forgiven for its disjointed presentation. The fact remains though that (very unfortunately) the Coronavirus (Covid-19) is here. And it is as real as it is lethal. That information will now justify the need for earlier government bans on congregational religious fellowships and festivities, and of course for government to consider implementing further movement restrictions including lockdowns when they deem it necessary in an endeavor to contain and eliminate the scourge. Meantime we must continue in prayers both for the speedy recovery of “Patient Zero”, and also for the ultimate success of the Covid-19 National Response Team headed by Defense Minister Brig. (Rtd.) Kellie Hassan Conteh in their new and challenging enterprise and to wish them well.
There should be no surprises that Covid-19 has finally reached us anyway because like President Bio averred in an earlier address, the question wasn’t if it would arrive, but rather when it would arrive. And now that it is here it should be our national priority to address it. So there should be nothing anecdotal or jocular about it, nor should it be politicized to anyone’s advantage, but rather pursued from a life-saving perspective just like government is doing because it will be better for us to collectively address this pandemic and to continue living in perfect health thereafter, than to die unnecessarily through disobedience.
ELEMENTARY FACTS ABOUT COVID-19
ARE THERE MEDICATIONS FOR THE DISEASE?
None to date. No medications. No vaccines. So basically and according to Dr. Duc Cong Vuong, any reference to the effectiveness of Hydroxychloroquine or Acethromycin is unproven. Both drugs were found to have been helpful during earlier outbreaks of the SARS and ARDS, but certainly not for Covid-19. This horrible disease is virtually death staring humanity in the face.
The wearing of protective masks is believed to be more helpful in preventing the wearers from spreading the disease to others than from protecting them from catching it from others. But there is no harm in putting them on and safeguarding others anyway.
SO HOW SHOULD WE ORDINARY CITIZENS COMBAT THE DISEASE
WHAT IS THE BEST RECOMMMENDATION TO GOVERNMENT
Leveraging from the legacy of the National Ebola Response Plan, government is correct to have immediately introduced a National Covid-19 Master Plan. However, with virtually 50% of government activity streams being suspended, consideration must be given to diverting much needed resources to priority areas like the Health Ministry. The Le1billion (One Billion Leones – approximately one hundred thousand US Dollars – US100,000) weekly subvention is inadequate. There is urgent need to resuscitate, capacitate and efficiently staff Holding, Isolation and Treatment centers in all the major headquarter towns. This should be prioritized to avoid overburdening a particular district with cases managements as happened to Kenema during the Ebola outbreak.
I am heartened by news from the Minister of Health that more Ventilators have arrived, but even though they are required only as last resorts prior to patients “tiring out”, we certainly need more. Probably no fewer than ten 10 per treatment center.
But of all above our greatest assets would be the First Responders: Frontline Drivers, Nursing Assistants, Nurses, Intensivists and Doctors etc. most of whom die trying to help save our lives. We should no doubt be having a reliable database to leverage from our last Ebola experience, if only their welfare – many of whom went unsung and unrecognized – and those of their surviving relations was prioritized. This time round they should not only be well catered for, but retained at least on half-yearly subventions as permanent Medical Reservists for the future. No one knows what will come next.
From lessons learnt in other seriously affected countries, we could see that once the disease takes hold its effects can be terrifying and horrible. Initial postulations that Covid-19 isn’t airborne are slowly being discarded because droplets from coughs and sneezes can be airborne and affect those within proximity. So to reduce the prevalence, steps have being taken to decongest crowded centers such as Prisons and Police Cells by releasing detainees remanded for less grievous offences. Perhaps the government may wish to also consider applying the same here.
Also from lessons learnt, one can safely advise that perhaps the very first “virus” to cure under our present situation is the virus of “Fear”. I suppose that’s exactly what the President meant when he urged citizens not to panic, but to continue to observe regular government directives on personal sanitation and hygiene, social distancing, avoiding crowded environments, staying at home and away from potential contact points and to only venture out when absolutely necessary. To enforce social distancing most offices that can afford the space have restructured their sitting arrangements to keeping colleagues’ work stations at a minimum of a meter away. Those that can’t are encouraged instead to work from their homes or on staggered schedules (say 3-day work weeks) just so as to keep each other safe. The wider the spacing, the better the survival chances. Would we like to introduce that here as well while the scourge lasts?
Thankfully I understand schools have already closed sessions, but remain challenged by just one critical issue in the event a lockdown is decided: that is the acute water and sanitation hygiene facilities within the country. So the question is how do we intend to address lockdowns in overcrowded locations over say ten straight days?
Or should government stagger lockdowns as it was done during Ebola days?