The Coronavirus outbreak which according to official reports is believed and confirmed to have originated in China is a serious global tragedy with dire consequences to the wellbeing of the human race and thus serious informed and collective action is needed in order to tackle it.
Managing it effectively demands that people must be furnished with facts and the truth rather than the display of public relations theatrics which gives people fake assurances and false hope while the marauding epidemic continues to spread and kill people across the world.
This epidemic is real and its consequences are devastating; as such, like what China did, through urgent mass construction of facilities to contain and treat the virus, Africa and other continents must also use resources at their disposal to take rigorous and quick action.
In this context, one of the easiest and quickest ways to do so is to be factual in information reporting, be it on the number of casualties as well as on the health and safety mechanisms that can be adopted by the general public so that all stakeholders can make informed decisions.
In a recent disturbing case, the government of Zimbabwe, through the Ministry of Health and Child Care confirmed attending to a suspected case of Coronavirus in which a woman from Mutare who had visited China died before getting to Wilkins Hospital but tested negative even though she had complained about shortness of breath.
Revelations by Hopewell Chin’ono, an award-winning Zimbabwean journalist has indicated that the said woman is actually a Chinese national and thus raising concern as to why the government had not reported as such in its statement.
While responding to update on the Corona Virus by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Information and Publicity, Chin’ono said “Can you stop this nonsense @InfoMinZW of calling a Chinese national a Mutare woman. This was done to appease the Chinese at the cost of your own citizens knowing the truth! Coronavirus will affect anyone, so the silly idea of hiding identity is foolish. RESPECT your citizens!”
Cases and narratives of this nature raise panic and alarm among the citizenry especially when there have been similar instances of propaganda in the state machinery on other issues like Chinese Aid and proceeds of diamond mining etc. which are of critical importance to people’s welfare of Zimbabweans.
On contrast, a commendable approach of openness that was taken especially in the context of Africa is the quick announcement of a confirmed case and a narration of the related circumstances by the South African government on the 5th of March 2020 through the Ministry of Health.
In his correspondence to the press on the same date, South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, said that “This media briefing is to ensure that the public is immediately kept abreast. A briefing will be held later after the parliamentary debate this evening to shed more light on this issue”.
More so, the president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa further highlighted the importance of timely updates on the issue of Coronavirus to the public.
“So it’s now been confirmed that we have a person within our country who has tested positive to Corona Virus. We would like to applaud the capability of the NICD for having acted very quickly and swiftly and also having informed the Minister who immediately informed me. I informed him that he should go ahead and make the news public in parliament so that South Africans are immediately informed so as to avoid fake news spreading around the country…..” he said.
Even though statistics of confirmed cases in China itself are said to be going down, the spread of the Coronavirus has picked up in other countries with many confirmed cases in Italy and all its schools have been closed and around sixteen million of its citizens are now under quarantine.
According to a recent BBC News report; schools, gyms, museums, nightclubs and other venues across the country have been closed in Italy, a country which has recorded the largest number of confirmed cases in Europe, with the figure of 5 883 have been recorded by Saturday, the 7th of March.
Iran is also among other countries that have been seriously affected by the Coronavirus, with eight (8) percent of its members of parliament and even the vice president having tested positive to the epidemic, according to Australia’s Business Insider.
In the United States of America, there have been declarations of State of Emergencies in some areas including Washington County in order to contain the deadly Coronavirus according to an ABC News report by Morgan Windsor and Ivan Pereira on 2 March 2020.
Besides killing people, the spread of the Coronavirus has brought along many other inconveniences with it including international trade and the global stock market having been badly affected.
As such, without facts and the truth, it will take longer to contain the outbreak since unsuspecting people across the world will succumb to it without taking precautions and thus causing further mayhem across the globe.