COVID-19: The end of bad manners?


 President Magufuli of Tanzania:
Has talked down COVID-19
COVID-19 has shocked the world. Lockdowns, social distancing, wearing masks in public.. all these are new practices in the world.  A global Pandemic... no experts were prepared for such.  That’s why almost everyone is an expert and no one is.

COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerability of such selfish practices as individual democratic rights subordinating them to community rights. For the first time in recent history, economic rights have been subordinated to public health rights. Things we have always taken for granted have forced their way to the front- and they stubbornly refuse to leave.

This disruption has left many a leader in a state of confusion because it rendered old cultures and practices void. Many in the world, including governments, are in a quandary-not knowing the way forward.
 Rising infections, deaths, and lockdown, loss of jobs, poverty. These are major concerns for governments and citizens alike, but leadership is lacking.  All have felt the pandemic’s wrath and there is no telling when it will end.
The world is now at a crossroads not knowing what to risk between the economy and public health. This dilemma proves that there is no trade-off between the economy and lives. 
Given the new environment, Epidemiologists have taken the limelight away from politicians and Businessmen. They had to. The world was confronted with a new, unseen enemy and there were no known effective defenses. So the medical profession recommended the only available response: Lockdowns, and loss of individual freedoms and rights.
 The IMF gloomy View
 Where the preventive measures were enforced early and completely, the COVID-19’s murderous streak was slowed down: laggards reaped deaths in tens of thousands in a matter of weeks.
The Choices were stark- and they still are. Either the economy or public health. Public officials are at a loss: What is the trade-off, where will it be, when? Experts have no answer.
One thing is certain: The world economy has been hit hard. The IMF estimates that this year and the next, the world economy will lose US$12.5 trillion in new output.  GDP will shrink by 4.9 percent, perhaps the severest recession since the great depression of the last century. This means that GDP per capita will also shrink leading to rising numbers of poor.
Now, this is every politician’s nightmare, growing numbers of the poor for it means increased insecurity. Hence the call to re-open the economies in some countries. But has the Pandemic been contained? The disappointing answer is NO- until a cure for COVID-19 is found! We are not safe. That is the message Epidemiologists are sending and Economists are beginning to buy into that.
Yet there are mouths to feed and no income to feed them with. COVID-19 shaved off so many jobs so suddenly, presenting governments with a problem they don’t know how to deal with. We can appreciate governments’ dilemma: To open or not to open.
 Decision making in a situation of heightened uncertainty is frustrating. No choice is certain. Therefore, we just have to toe the Epidemiologists line- Lockdown and self-discipline until we are certain that the worst is over. How long will that be? No one knows. Containment measures so far have worked. It is the only feasible weapon for the time being.
The Mortality rate is nearly 5 percent worldwide.  And it seems consistent everywhere. To date, more than half a million people have died from the disease. This suggests that five percent of any new infections reported will die” If the cases rise to 20 million, one million will die, and so on.
Apart from the Spanish Flu, no other epidemic has killed so many people in a matter of months.  There is thus a clear need to step back and ask how far can it go? As it is spreading to under 40s, it could prove lethal.
 Presidents Kenyatta of Kenya and Trump of  the US:
Have taken different measures to contain COVID-19
In the US where there was a stampeded to open states, this month, the pandemic has gained new momentum.  Others should learn from this case scenario and begin to think outside the box. How do we reopen with endangering Public health?
 That should be the mantra, meaning either re-opening goes digital so that those who can, work from home. Physical space means fewer workers.  Most employers could just choose to send workers home or they could choose to create several shifts in order to accommodate physical distancing.
 High-risk businesses such as restaurants and nightspots should be the last to re-open fully. Unconfirmed reports indicate that measures put in place to contain COVID-19, such as washing and sanitizing hands, have reduced diseases associated with poor hygiene. It has also reduced diseases associated with entertainment spots such as food poisoning and STIs, road accidents caused by drunken driving have declined too. Is the end of Bad manners?
 In effect, COVID-19 has enforced self- discipline resulting in lower medical bills. This is supported by complaints in the US where the surge in COVID cases is be blamed on indiscipline in high-risk places such as entertainment spots and beaches.
All these are not a consolation for politicians facing an election this year such as “the ignorant and unwilling to learn” POTUS, Donald Trump. Trump is banking on economic recovery to win his second term. We think he has misplaced his hope. Economic recovery, when it comes, is unlikely to be V-shaped. If anything, it will be U shaped, meaning recovery will pick up speed probably in 2021 and beyond.
 In Africa, Trump has a soulmate in one Pombe Magufuli, President of Tanzania, POT, who is also facing an election this year. He says “economy comes first” but, with reports of exponential growth in COVId-19 infections, that is likely a pipe dream.  However, unlike Trump, Magufuli is likely to be elected due to a naïve electorate and his dictatorial tendency. The opposition has been intimidated and emasculated. The media is gagged. The election to his second term will be a formality.

Whatever the case, to eliminate fear and get the economy back to life, one of these two things must happen: Find a cure or extend the duration of the preventive measures.
How long should the measures be in place? Until fear subsides. One thing is certain though, the world’s economy will get a battering!


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