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Reading beyond the ‘Coronaviruscope’

The entire world is familiar with the disease outbreaks. The learned ones, those who belong to the medical profession, bundle all this into epidemics. The rest of us have to pretend to understand, try as much as possible to keep updated and wait for the outcome. It’s time for those who stand to gain to jump on the wagon from their entry tangents. 

 I hate the usual human tendency (tragedy?) of lazily interchanging the concepts of consequence and subsequence. Why? In the end it turns out to be costly and practically in every aspect of human experience.

On a historical note, take the German colonizers in the early 1900s. If they had known the real cause of what they wrongly conceptualized as the Majimaji Rebellion in Tanganyika, chances are they would not have so easily put up with the loss (consequence) of losing their lovely Tanganyika portion of the Deutsch Ost-Afrika. To them, so to say, the difference between consequence and subsequence was the same – the consequence of which was their Deutsch Ost-Afrika exit.  

Why? It is all about information. And, in most cases, when it comes to it, what really matters is not the type. It is who is saying it, about whom, to whom, when, how and for what purpose. 

Viruses and bacteria have been with man since creation. It remains the duty of man to adjust himself (herself) to keep the right balance. Short of than it is man who loses. It’s survival of the fittest at play. Only that, human nature so inclined to do bad things, sometimes what man does contradicts the very purpose for his existence. 

And many times, selfishness or ignorance will be remotely (at worst centrally) at play.  Imagine organizing a global anti-bacteria conference sponsored by a yoghurt supply chain. How about conducting a national anti-malaria campaign sponsored by a confederation of mosquito (not fish) net manufacturers! And, in the mean time, malaria remains a leading killer disease.  

The news of the world today is the Coronavirus outbreak that has ‘emerged’ from China to turn into a World Health Organization (WHO) declared public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). There is so much info surrounding this officially named COVID-19 strain that justifies one to read beyond all the models of the ‘Coronaviruscope’ in use. 

Coronavirus Virus China Flag 1

In the first place is it really Chinese or did it just emerge in China? Those who have done some crude poultry husbandry will remember what is done to make hens go broody. These are Chinese eggs – meaning false. What they do is change hen hormones. So, false as they are, they still deliver goods. After the hen has gone broody, you replace them with real (but fertilized) ones and after three weeks or so you can count the chicks – never before they hatch of course. 

Along these lines, can the world take the Russian version of the COVID-19 story, boiling down to conspiracy of the West, singling out the United States and raising overtones of President Donald Trump involvement?  There are those who say the virus is part of the US “bio-weapon” programme claimed to be working from a laboratory in Georgia and run by US intelligence agencies or supported by American pharmaceutical companies. They claim the virus is even selective – Asian sensitive. The problem here is that while this reads like too big a misinformation package to swallow, some reserved circles still uphold nothing can be ruled out. 

US circles have been quick to blame it all on what they called the Chinese people’s big appetite for a wide variety of dishes like bat and snake soup. 

 A WHO statement said the first cases of COVID-19 occurred in a group of people with pneumonia, linked to a seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, where many fish, reptiles, bats and other live and dead animals were traded. The disease then spread from those who were sick, to family members and healthcare workers.

It adds coronaviruses circulate in a range of animals and can sometimes make the jump from animals to humans, via process known as a “spillover”, which can occur due to a mutation in the virus, or increased contact between animals and humans. It is not yet known how novel coronavirus was first transmitted to humans. : in the case of MERS, it is known that people caught the virus via direct or indirect contact with infected camels, and SARS originated in civet cats. 

The exact way that the disease is transmitted is yet to be determined but, in general, respiratory diseases are spread via drops of fluids when someone coughs or sneezes, or by touching a surface infected with the virus. Chinese scientists say people who get the virus are contagious even before they show symptoms. The incubation period is between one and 14 days.

Speaking at a meeting of the WHO Executive Board, the agency’s chief, Tedros Gebreyesus, explained that the decision to announce a PHEIC was made because of signs of human-to-human transmission outside China, and the organization’s concern regarding what might happen if the virus were to spread in a country with a weaker health system. 

This brings us to Africa. Because this article is not an update on infection, hospitalization and related figures, it suffices to put the majority of African countries on alert. Africa has had some experience with handling cases like those of Ebola. But God knows what would happen in the unlikely event. 

Many African countries have proclaimed their alertness. They have extended their empathy to China. In return the Chinese Government has assured them of the safety of their nationals resident in China. But as I was patching up this dispatch, the first COVID-19 case on the continent was reported in Egypt. God save us could be the best prayer as expressed by Tanzania’s Prime Minister Majaliwa Kassim Majaliwa of the East African country.

COVID-19 is not only a health threat. It has caused real harm on the ground. Tourism and trade with China has been hit. For example, more than half of South Africa’s raw material exports went to China. Being the second biggest economy and responsible for 90% of the entire GDP of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) 16-member countries, the effect is not negligible. African airlines have lost Chinese connections with direct impact on their businesses and their countries’ tourism earnings.  

Lastly, for China itself, considering the trade war it has been through with the US, the consequence of COVID-19 goes beyond imagination. And if this is a man-made virus, it amounts to 100% bio-warfare, which is criminal and qualifies to be one of Mahatma Gandhi’s blunders of the world. That is, science without humanity.

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.

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