It’s Corona, Corona, and Corona everywhere. I remember the: “Old MacDonald had a farm” chant in my early days of English language learning more than seven decades ago. The situation on the ground reads very much the same. That was the excellent time for the exotic language. Now we are under the exotic COVID-19 pandemic grip. It has been real shock and distress – Israeli claims of discovery of vaccine notwithstanding.
Faith aside, I seek some comfort in Dr. William Farr’s Law of Epidemics – painting the roughly bell-shaped picture of infections and giving us some hope that the shock will come to pass. I wonder: “Do Infectious diseases have some modeling and, therefore, their control as well?”
For those who care about science, this provides an opportunity to also recall other Farr’s Law accompanying models. These include single equation – incidence decay with exponential adjustment (IDEA) model and solutions of a susceptible-infectious-removed (SIR), which is a differential model equation related to asymptotic limit.
ScienceDirect maybe put it better when it explained this is where disease transmission changes respond to control measures, and not only to the depletion of susceptible individuals. This also suggests that epidemics control through change in behaviour or intervention is as integral to the natural history of epidemics as is the dynamics of disease transmission.
Science and mathematics aside, for every beginning there is an end. To the common man and woman, the question is: “in the present circumstance and global trend of COVID-19, will life ever be the same again after the Coronavirus leveling off?” That is the question.
I am a Christian – Catholic for that matter – though not a very good one. For the first time since I received the first Holy Communion, more than seven decades ago, this year, I celebrate the Palm Sunday without palms; the Holy Thursday without washing of the feet and overnight adoration; the Holy Friday minus the kissing of the crucifix. The Easter Virgil and its subsequent liturgy go without the feel of the ‘Exultet’, greatest hit ‘Confitemini’ and the pure power of John Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’.
At our parish-designate church, on the suburbs of Tanzania’s Commercial Capital in East Africa, Dar es Salaam, the baptizing ceremony of new Christians has to be split into two occasions because of social distancing. The number of choir members occupying one pew has to be cut by half. This I’ll never forget. Terrible!
Working from home, I shed tears on my daily delivering schedule. Just a few examples: My wake-up call was 04:00 every day. Today all I do is just click the “dismiss” option. Depending on work flexibility, my schedule read: “12:30 and 17:00 at St. Joseph’s Cathedral for afternoon or evening Mass; 19:15- 21:11 at the Club and 21:30 home.”
Every other Thursday, I went to the court to attend the trial of a friend in a case that has been under investigation for more than three years. I visited him in prison every third Sunday of the month. These are no longer possible. I am mainly staying indoors; only making walking exercises from 17:30 to 19:00.
I no longer see our office newspaper man. COVID-19 has denied him an income. I read the papers on the internet. I’ve had to register myself on the World Health Organisation (WHO) Media Team. I know more of what is taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, than at the home ministry responsible for health. I communicate with my rear plot neighbour I know very well when he waves a hand at me from his first floor study room.
We’ve had to reset our living room sitting arrangement. Social distancing is at issue. My two-and-half-year-old grandson feels great occupying his own seat. We call him the Maharaja. He recites the Corona. We have taught him to wash his hands. His peers are stranded at home as schools have been closed. He is happy. He doesn’t have to cry for them every morning. He does not know what is taking place.
The others started off as a problem. They did not know what was going on. They were simply told to go home by their school headmasters until further notice. To them, this was their time to enjoy themselves, only to land on all sorts of restrictions. At first they did not like it. But there was no alternative. We gave them some enlightenment on the Coronavirus problem and what we are supposed to do.
We keep the same school going programme under the grandmother’s supervision. They have to wake up early and brush their teeth as usual. Sweep the compound, clean kitchenware and participate in garden work on rotation basis. Take a shower, ready for breakfast in the Corona style and thereafter do homework. They take a short break during which they check on chicken feed and water after which they wash their hands, back to homework.
At noon they break and participate in lunch preparations. After lunch they go to bed to wake up later and check on the chicken feed and water status after which they wash their hands, ready for another session of homework. The evening is relatively quiet – some jokes, news of the day, dinner, prayers and the day is over.
The endless problem is with visitors. We are close to the district hospital. In Africa, we believe – undugu na urafiki ni mguu—literal meaning, kinship and true friendship is the tibia. It is unbecoming for one to go into an area in which a relative or real friend lives and leave without saying “hello”.
What shocked the majority in the beginning was asking them to wash their hands. They had heard of the virus and the disease. But they did not expect this to be demanded by a relative or true friend at home. In Africa, we take things easy—just as we do with time. It is never too late. We normally don’t take action until it is too late. We only see the doctor as the last resort.
Try and make an appointment with anyone. It does not matter whether the rendezvous is at the Caltex, Esso, Total or Agip service station. “Shell” is what you will be told. The message is delivered. The assortment and keeping time are yours.
So come COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2, the normal Tanzanian would not bother to know the difference between them. Corona is enough, which of course is not. COVID-19 transmitting viruses have become so virulent that governments have to ensure the people get to grips with real pending threats and how to get around the problem rather than wait until it strikes.
News about Israeli scientists’ discovery of the COVID-19 vaccine notwithstanding, the world will never be the same again. Not when the SARS-CoV-2, we are also told, has three strains with different severity. And with so much high speed of their mutation, where is the guarantee?
Just consider how world governments failed to think of an alternative explanation for their COVID-19 observations to the extent of throwing the whole globe into total confusion!