Frame global policies to prevent another epidemic
The spike in coronavirus cases across the world, outside mainland China, is finally making governments take Covid-19 seriously and ramp up health facilities for a likely influx of patients. How much time was lost since the first case emerged in Wuhan last December is for the experts to answer, but it’s never too late for communities to fight back. No continent, with the exception of Antarctica, has remain untouched by the strain. Global systems are on alert to screen, detect, and isolate cases. Travel has been curtailed, public events cancelled, and health authorities are warning people to avoid mass gatherings. People also have to play their part in preventing the spread by improving personal and community hygiene. Despite the tragic loss of life caused by Covid-19, there are positives to be gained from this grim experience that is causing great distress to the global economy and on livelihoods. What has this experience of epidemic proportions taught us? The germ is unsparing, it brooks no borders and can unleash disruption on a grand, global scale. It proves that people and wild animals need their personal spaces and it is important to keep surroundings clean. Now, was there a global delay in responding to this viral threat? That’s a question to be answered after this mystery epidemic is brought under control. Truth is, the origins of Covid-19 are indeed a mystery. Some experts point to the bat as the primary host. The pangolin and the snake have been mentioned as intermediary hosts but with scant evidence to nail their role in this spiralling crisis. Humans may have bought and consumed them in a market in Wuhan, China. The alleged zoonotic origins of Covid-19 make it complicated to track down as mutations are common in such cases. How quickly did these changes happen to wreak havoc in frail humans? The aged and those battling diseases have been the main casualties.
Children have been surprisingly spared – small mercies during an epidemic. Fewer women have been sickened than men. Virologists are working in tandem with epidemiologists to get to the bottom of the source of this epidemic. Answers will take time and the World Health Organization is urging patience as it coordinates the global response. What is known is bats are a repository of many viruses that don’t necessarily sicken them. Humans can, however, catch these ‘exotic’ germs when they encroach into forests and other habitats of beasts, or hunt them for food. Intermediary hosts make these viruses more deadly as they spread with greater speed. The rapid movement of this strain across geographies was unexpected; health systems were clearly unprepared for the fallout. What is also known is that the wildlife market in Wuhan has since been shut down. China appears to be getting the situation under control. Cases are falling in the country and mass quarantine measures that put 70 million people under lockdown appear to be working. While China reports fewer cases, Covid-19 has gone global. The local battle at containment is showing results, but the global war is only beginning. The search for a drug is gaining speed and may be out in six months. The race for a vaccine could take longer. Meanwhile, a global policy, a framework to combat epidemics and prevent recurrences in a connected and globalised world should be framed without delay. This is viral and impacts real lives. The response by health systems has been satisfactory so far. They may have just bought us time to prevent the occurrence of a deadlier pandemic if Covid-19 doesn’t turn into one.