The smallest and deadliest terrorist: Reflections on coronavirus (2)
Put differently, like other pandemics especially since the industrial revolution a plausible conjecture about the current coronavirus disease is that Nature could be using it as a warning to humankind that she cannot be abused with impunity without disastrous consequences. Now, Covid-19 is a highly infectious disease that causes painful respiratory illness with symptoms like dry cough, fever and, in more severe cases, difficulty in breathing. It is very easy to transmit because, as already indicated, the virus that causes the disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when he or she coughs or sneezes.
One can also get infected by touching the eyes, nose, and mouth with infected fingers. To worsen matters, a new research finding suggests that the virus can be transmitted from someone who already has Covid-19 to another person through the mouth or nose of the infected individual while speaking or breathing. At the moment, there is no consensus among experts about how long the virus can survive in the air or on the surface of objects. Nevertheless, doctors, epidemiologists and other infectious disease professionals recommend disinfection of surfaces and social distancing which, in practical terms, means that people should stay at least six feet from one another. Consequently, all social gatherings should be discontinued since they provide fertile ground for the virus to spread quickly among the general population. Covid-19 has brought to public consciousness expressions like ‘ventilators’, ‘Personal Protective Equipment’ (PPE), ‘social distancing’ and so on. Additionally, people are now better informed about proper ways of coughing, sneezing, and improving personal hygiene to avoid spreading pathogens.
Because of its newness world leaders, medical experts, and people all over the globe did not take Covid-19 seriously until it was almost too late. Indeed, China where the virus originated not only underestimated the problem; some local officials silenced the medical doctor who first raised the alarm that there was a new killer virus in Wuhan, and deliberately underreported the extent the disease had spread in the province. Unfortunately, the whistleblower doctor died from the disease.
It was only after thousands of people lost their lives in China and the disease had started spreading quickly to other countries that the authoritarian Chinese government and the world realised that Covid-19 is a very serious public health danger that requires urgent unprecedented painful measures to get it under control. Hence, although initial tardiness in responding to the outbreak might be excused on the ground of nescience or ignorance concerning the new virus and the need not to create mass hysteria or panic, the fact remains that a few precious weeks were lost that could have made a positive difference in combating the pandemic if world leaders had at the very beginning confronted the outbreak as a war situation with an invisible enemy and worked together proactively to nip it in the bud.
Even so, it took the World Health Organisation (WHO) over two months after the earliest reported cases of deaths to declare Covid-19 a pandemic. The initial sluggish trial-and-error response led to accelerated spread of the infection worldwide and high mortality rate in the United States, Italy, Spain, and other countries. Thus far, more than 100,000 people have died already, and the number is expected to increase in the following weeks.
One of the problems arising from the coronavirus pandemic is that in both mainstream and social media, there is a dizzying admixture of accurate information and fake news, misinformation and disinformation about it. I have already alluded to various conspiracy theories about the disease which can trigger dangerous mutual suspicion or mistrust especially between China and the United States, the two most powerful countries in the world. Another issue is the confusing recommendations about how to either prevent or treat the disease.
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In religion-intoxicated countries of sub-Saharan Africa, for example,some people are making outlandish claims about miracles and healing power of certain concoctions. Moreover, some pastors in Nigeria are making statements that should motivate their faithful to start asking serious questions. For instance, Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) informed his listeners that early in the year God revealed to him that the world would go on compulsory holiday, but he did not fully understand how that would come about.
Due to the near-total global shutdown caused by coronavirus, Adeboye is claiming that the pandemic was intended to teach humanity that he is the Almighty and that the disease will remain until the divine purpose is accomplished. But why would a supposedly loving good God showcase his power through disease, death, and economic ruin instead of using a more life-enhancing and loving manifestation? Bishop David Oyedepo, General Overseer of Living Faith Church also known as Winners Chapel, berated Nigeria’s political leaders for allowing what he called the spirit of fear to make them close down churches where people should go to seek divine help against coronavirus disease.
Oyedepo is uninterested in the best scientific advice on how to prevent the spread of Covid-19: after all, if he contracts the disease, he can be flown immediately in one of his private jets to a world class hospital abroad for treatment or import the best medical personnel to treat him at home. On his part, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of Christ Embassy made bizarre claims linking the coronavirus pandemic with the emerging 5G technology and imaginary anti-Christ. His arguments are so unscientific that they can be safely ignored; but his church members would regard them as gospel truth. Prophet T.B. Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations predicted that rainfall will clear the virus from where it originated by March 27, 2020.
When his prediction did not materialise, he tried unsuccessfully to explain away his embarrassing failure by claiming that he was referring to China in the spiritual realm, not the physical! All this is absolutely disturbing and absurd. Now, some pastors have donated money, food items, medical supplies and equipment. But the donations are infinitesimal compared to the vast amounts and assets they have been making from members of their churches all these years. Father Mbaka predicted the outcomes of Nigeria’s presidential election and Supreme Court decision on the contentious Imo State governorship result, but was completely blindsided by coronavirus. Chris Oyakhilome and T.B. Joshua regularly perform miraculous healing in their churches; yet there is no single authenticated case of Covid-19 miracle healing by these men. Surely, faith healers are waiting for scientists to find a cure for the pandemic before they start healing incurable diseases once again.