The world is now almost in a total lockdown. Many countries have placed travel bans on people from other countries. International flights have been grounded. No more movement of people, presidents, diplomats, businessmen, etc., out of their home countries. No more movement of goods and commodities across the globe. Everybody is at standstill. Stock markets have crashed. The world economy has slumped.
Within each individual country, there is equally a total lockdown. People are told to go into self isolation, and to avoid bodily contacts with other people. No more social gatherings. No more relaxation spots. Sports activities have been cancelled. Schools have closed down. Church activities have been restricted. Services are now being held online.
But what happens to our crowded molue commuter buses? They should equally be grounded. What of our open markets? They are also to be closed. We pray, God help us, let this tiny but might disease called coronavirus, currently ravaging the world, and spreading like wild fire across the globe, not get out of hand. Nobody in Nigeria would be spared.
At the last count, coronavirus, also called Covid-19, had spread to more than 152 countries, with more than 243,000 people infected, and over 11,400 deaths recorded. Coronavirus is a negative side of globalization, the world as a global village, the free movement, the unification of peoples, cultures, institutions, etc., across the globe.
In the face of this calamity, the rapid spread of coronavirus across the world, together with its attendant deaths, some people have gone spiritual. They believe coronavirus to be a punishment from God. God was not happy with the world, due to the sinfulness of man, and He decided to send this deadly disease to the world. Unless man repents, unless he changes his ways, God is poised to wipe out humanity from the surface of the earth. Therefore, everybody should go down on his knees, to ask for God’s mercy, they pontificate.
While we have no contention that everybody should be on his knees and begin to do a mea culpa (have mercy), because of man’s sinfulness, we however would want to know why none of our many prophets, seers, pastors, imams, those who see tomorrow, were not able to prophesy the outbreak of this deadly disease, called coronavirus, so that we would have mended our ways, to avert this calamity?
At least, we have read most of their prophecies and predictions for 2020, but none of them was able to prophesy the outbreak of coronavirus or any deadly disease. Or did God close their eyes and prevented them from seeing the coming of coronavirus? Next year, let nobody come to disturb us with their prophesies, that they had seen something we did not see!
But what actually is coronavirus? We have been made to understand that coronavirus is nothing metaphysical, spiritual, or punishment from God. It is simply an infectious disease that came from animals.
According to them, there are seven different kinds of coronaviruses, which are a family of viruses that cause disease in animals, including the present virus, that have jumped to human beings, and most of them cause cold-like symptoms.
They also contended that two other coronaviruses, called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), were much more severe than the present coronavirus, and had killed more than 1,500 people between them since 2002.
The present virus, officially called Covid-19, is also dangerous. So far, around 20 per cent of confirmed cases have been classed as severe or critical, which, according to them, is much lower than the fatality rates for MERS and SARS, but still a significant threat. Scientists in China believe that Covid-19 has mutated into two strains, one more aggressive than the other, which could make developing a vaccine more complicated.
We were equally told that the current outbreak of coronavirus started in a “wet market” in Wuhan, China, which sold both dead and live animals, including fish and birds. Such markets pose a heightened risk of viruses jumping from animals to humans, because hygiene standards were difficult to maintain, if live animals are being kept and butchered on site.
Though, according to them, the animal source of the latest outbreak is yet to be identified, but the original host is thought to be bats. Bats were not sold at the Wuhan market, but may have infected live chickens or other animals sold there. Bats are host to a wide range of zoonotic viruses including Ebola, HIV and rabies.
Among the initial symptoms of coronavirus are fever, dry cough, tiredness and a general feeling of being unwell. So far, more than 243,000 cases have been confirmed since the outbreak started about three months ago, while the death toll has exceeded 11,400, worldwide.
There is no specific treatment for coronavirus, although doctors are trialling existing drugs for viruses such as Ebola and HIV. Early results seem promising but, until full clinical trials have been concluded, doctors cannot be certain that the drugs are effective. Work to develop a vaccine is accelerating, but this work has been complicated by the virus mutating into a second strand.
Like cold and flu bugs, the present coronavirus is spread via droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. The droplets land on surfaces and are picked up on the hands of others and spread further. People catch the virus when they touch their infected hands to their mouth, nose or eyes. It follows therefore, that the single most important thing one can do to protect oneself is keep your hands clean by washing them frequently with soap and water or a hand sanitising gel.
There is some debate about whether the disease is airborne – there is no evidence for it yet, but that could change. Airborne viruses linger for a longer period of time than those spread by droplets and can also be spread in air conditioning and ventilation systems. The current advice is that the disease can only be spread between close contacts – defined as spending more than 15 minutes within two metres of an infected person.
Various conspiracy theories have been circulating that the virus somehow escaped from a Chinese lab, either by accident or design. This could not be said categorically and scientists studying its genetic code have linked it to bats. It probably then jumped to another animal, which passed it on to humans. The number of diseases crossing from animals to humans is growing, and teams of virus hunters are tracking them down.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the death rate in Wuhan is two to four per cent, whereas in the rest of China and the world, it is around 0.7 per cent.
It is unclear why the death rate is higher in Wuhan, but it may be because the health services there had been overwhelmed by patients.
Men are more likely to have a severe form of the disease, as are people with underlying conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
The 1918 Spanish Influenza – or the H1N1 virus – remains the most devastating flu pandemic in modern history. The disease swept around the globe and is estimated to have caused between 50 and 100 million deaths.
A version of the same virus was also behind the 2009 swine flu outbreak, thought to have killed as many as 575,400 people.
Other major influenza outbreaks include Asian flu in 1957, which led to roughly two million deaths, and Hong Kong flu, which killed one million people, eleven years later.