I don’t know about you but Novel Corona Virus is worrying me. As a mother and as a human being; I am becoming quite concerned. The rate at which the virus is managing to spread across the world is a cause for concern. The fatalities that it has caused so far from the time we first heard of it are also a cause of great concern.

As of this week close to 20 000 people had become infected with the virus while close to 400 people have died in China and one in the Philippines. Outside of China; infections stand at around 150. Corona virus cases have been confirmed in about 25 countries outside China, according to World Health Organisation reports. In these instances, where the virus has been confirmed; there has been recent travel to China.

It is because of this whole issues of global travel which has seen people travelling across the world in their millions everyday- that the virus is worrying.

While the World Health Organisation has not yet declared this Corona Virus a pandemic (the world wide spread of a disease)- they have declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. And the worrying fact about it is that it seems to be getting picked up in travelers who have come from China at some point between December and now.

With the mount of travel that takes place in different parts of the world at any given time- I feel that we should all be worried no matter where we are. This should not be a Chinese concern alone because today we are all one village.

Millions of people travel between different parts of the world on a daily basis. There are very few places in this world where people from any part of the world will fail to get to. Flights land on foreign land almost every minute across the length and breadth of the world- bringing people together who come from and pass through so many places.

In airports alone; millions of people pass each other, interact, talk and transact on a daily basis.

Air travel has just collapsed the miles between countries.

It is for this reason why it is critical to track developments across the world when it comes to this Virus. This is because whatever is happening in South Africa or Botswana where some suspected cases have been referred to South Africa for confirmation- will surely have an impact on us here in Zimbabwe.

Public Health Emergency

The fact that this novel corona virus has been declared a public health emergency also means we should sit up.

This is because a public health emergency of international concern is declared by the WHO in cases of an extraordinary event, which constitutes a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease and potentially requires a coordinated international response.

Coming to Zimbabwe

Facts on the ground show that due to travel; this Corona Virus, whose symptoms range from a common cold to Pneumonia, is an issue of grave concern.

Just think; if the Corona Virus is confirmed in Botswana; what it will mean to us? How many people travel between Botswana and Zimbabwe on a daily basis? Those buses you see travelling between the two countries daily tell a story of brisk business between the two countries. It is also the same story when it comes to Zimbabwe and South Africa as well as Zimbabwe and China.

Daily you have Zimbabweans travelling between this country and South Africa, which is our biggest trading partner. Traffic between Zimbabwe and China is quite huge. The same may apply everywhere else as the Chinese travel a lot between countries for several reasons ranging from business, tourism to personal. Other nationalities do the same too. People travel. And mix. And mingle.

And that is the way things go. Daily people of different nationalities travel between countries for all sorts of reasons. How then shall we contain this virus to ensure it does not spread especially as it is airborne? Are the masks that we are seeing some travelers wearing enough?

I have been following reports and it seems almost every country is putting in place measures to protect their borders. The Chinese have also put Wuhan the epi-centre of the virus on lockdown to try and control traffic from out of there. In many other countries; those coming from China are being quarantined for a period of two weeks while being monitored. Here in Zimbabwe the Chinese embassy has called on Chinese nationals coming into Zimbabwe to keep themselves at home for a period of two weeks and report to the Embassy at the first sign of a fever and other symptoms associated with the virus. But what if they do not? Is this sufficient control?

We have also heard from the Ministry of Health and Child Care that we have screening processes in place, which are largely to check the temperatures of people under surveillance who have been to countries that have been affected by the virus, taking down their details and monitoring them for 21 days to verify that they do not have the virus. People arriving into the country from China are also reportedly being screened on arrival.

However, Zimbabwe will also need to send any suspected cases to South Africa, should they be picked up. That worries me. It implies that this diagnosis will take time. How much damage would have done in the meantime?

My other worry comes from the challenges that are currently bedeviling our health sector. It is known that the public health system is not functioning at 100 % right now as doctors and nurses are always on some of job action or other. In some instances; the health facilities are just not well equipped. It has become very expensive to be sick today. Many are just dying in their homes because even to get a cough mixture has become next to impossible.

It is for that reason that I worry so much about Corona Virus. Are we ready at individual level as families, communities, churches, workplaces, schools and hospitals to respond to it?

We all saw what happened with Cholera and even typhoid; which surfaces here from time to time because of poor water and sanitation services. People died. We must at all costs avoid such a thing from happening.

Truth be told-some countries have more robust health systems than we do. China itself has a more robust health system than us by a mile. Hence the hope is that China will be able to deal with this public health emergency in the shortest possible time.

In the meantime- if one has to travel, there is need to be very vigilant. Also let us be watchful for children who go to school and people who interact with travelers. If anything alarms, you- its best to go and get checked out. Yu are always better safe than sorry. There is also need for education. People need to be educated about what to look out for. People need to be educated about precautions to take when travelling. In schools- children need to be given information about how to protect themselves. After all some children were in China during the holidays and have since resumed classes which poses a risk to not just pupils but even teachers.

Source: African News Agency