What does the Coronavirus want? Its name says it all. It is a virus. It means to go viral, perpetuate its species, proliferate through as many hosts as possible. It is programmed to multiply, contaminate swiftly and preponderantly. No stock of human population, race, ethnicity, geography, name, gender, nationality is immune. It will attack wherever and whenever its vehicle, droplets, spread. It has only one match, ultimately. A vaccine.
Because it multiplies exponentially, the virus will subtly overwhelm. Labs all over the planet are hunting for a vaccine. But this takes time. It could take six months or as much as a year. Vaccines have to be first tested. This means that human civilization is now on a dangerous waiting game. We have to wait, and all we can do in the meantime is to mitigate, protect, defend, limit the contamination. This is a virus, not a bacterium. It may not be defeated with antibiotics, though in cases of extreme septic respiratory conditions they have been used as a last resort.
As with any national emergency, a strict national campaign, protocols, have to be developed, explained and executed. Here are some steps:
1. Don’t panic – The population needs to stay calm. Stay resolute. The vaccine will come. But we have to take the requisite measures in the meantime. Panic is not an option. Panic rushing, panic buying, panic messaging only intensifies stress. Stress impairs our immune systems. It is us versus the virus.
We have to be clear-eyed, calm and composed, as far as possible. There are the drills. Follow them. Do the wash hand drills. No handshakes. Avoid tightly crowded spaces. Cough into napkins. Dispose of your used napkins safely. Increase your uptake of fresh fruits, sunlight, your immune-building vitamins. Travel less. This does not mean that you lock yourself indoors. Get out and take your vitamin D sunlight in your yard, rooftop, porch, beachfront, open rural spaces, every day.
2. Fools die – No one is invincible or indispensable. Avoid bravado. By shaking hands and disobeying the drills, thinking, “Don’t worry man, it won’t get here,” or “If I have to dead, I dead,” or “Through the eddoes, through the corn,” or “I is a boss. Them thing don’t touch me,” you are endangering the lives of your families and communities, and ultimately, the nation and species. Substitute handshakes for footsies, or shoes-ies.
3. Outbreak – It should be a lesson to all that some nations with the most developed healthcare clinics and hospitals, epidemiology and virology programmes, have not been able to prevent outbreaks.
Think of an outbreak as a hurricane or tornado. You might be living in the most dilapidated shanty on the island. The hurricane or tornado passes and does not touch you. Yet it smashes into a high-walled, secure, gated community next to you. The virus has its own pathway. It is unpredictable. An outbreak is a surging attack on a particular community causing the social and health systems to break down, so virulent, unexpected and overwhelming the attack. An outbreak overwhelms the healthcare system and leaves everyone stranded and helpless. We have to prepare for these.
4. Emergency clinics – The Government is advised to not solely rely on routine healthcare systems. These systems cannot cope with outbreaks or pandemics. The Prime Minister must assemble a Health Emergency Task Force. One of its tasks must be to establish emergency clinics in each community, separate and apart from hospitals and health clinics which do routine work. These clinics must be equipped with the well-trained professional personnel, personal protective equipment, test kits, masks, decontamination rooms, equipment and facilities to take serums and transport to the established private and public labs, and to diagnose patients (particularly the elderly) for appropriate home or hospital care. Persons must be trained in emergency care, self-protection, diagnosis, and keeping records for tracking of the virus social pathway.
5. Farmers, vendors, fisherfolk – Government must embark on a funding plan for farmers, vendors and fisherfolk to keep the food supply chain running. The viral threat or the virus itself will be around for a while. A fund should be established to stock local produce, in fruit, vegetables, eggs (Vitamin D), fish and provisions in our open, grocery, mini-mart, stall and mall markets. This food chain must not be broken, whatever happens to the global merchant trading economy.
6. Home work – Measures must be taken to have persons who may be able to work or attend school and tertiary level classes from home to do so. government pay should be guaranteed in such cases. First steps should be taken to protect small and medium-sized businesses with tax breaks and low-interest Government guaranteed bank loans. Commerce and trade must keep going and not be broken. If persons are to be at home, they will need to be supplied with water, food, electricity, carbohydrates, proteins, sugar, fats and vitamins.
7. No party politics – Putting party before safety and health will defeat us all. There is a tendency to mock or scoff at politicians, even when they are correct. Avoid this. Obey Government and health and safety directives from the Ministry of Health. Don’t politicize your health, or your survival chances. The civil service, particularly the security forces, must be briefed and prepared for logistical support, transport, communication, engineering services. Each child, adult, public servant must know her/his role and responsibility.