By Awa Ann

A series of articles on your run of the mill everyday issues within The Gambia
It’s Monday 7am in Bijilo, a breaking news alert pops up on my phone. I checked and bam “World Health Organization declares coronavirus a pandemic”. I was like whaaaat!!!! No way. It’s only about 192 countries or so affected and in any case so far away from little Gambia, but then another alert comes “Senegal registers first case of corona virus” our neighbours? This thing seems to have the speed of light travelling indiscriminately. I felt a panic attack coming on.

The questions kept floating around my head; what is this menace to society? What can we do to “mucha” from this “thing”? Are we prepared, I mean really prepared to face it? Theifs and buts kept getting bigger and bigger and finally it hit me; oh boy we are doomed!!!
I calmed down and took stock of things, and said to myself let me not listen to the radio kangkangs and do what I know best and find out more; RESEARCH! Yep that was the ticket and I discovered some interesting facts…

COVD-19; such a harmless sounding name right?
This wasn’t just a deadly infectious disease. It was a deadly infectious disease with the singular and terrifying quality of being better at killing the young the old and the infirm.
This was not the flu as we normally think of it. Typically, influenza infects the inner lining of the respiratory tract, damaging the air-filled cells of the lungs known as alveoli. Sometimes it brings on pneumonia. Usually it passes. This was much worse..

The strangest thing about the coronavirusis that we can’t help one another through it. We can’t lay hands, we can only wash them: in fact, the way we’ve been explicitly told to help is to stay away from one another. That makes epidemiological sense, but it also makes us a little crazy: social distancing, quarantine, and isolation go hard against the gregarious instinct that makes us who we are. Alas! Knowing all these, I think to myself: our state of preparedness in Gambia as of yesterday is abysmal. No sensitization campaign on the airwaves, or community preparedness, people are still “huggy- huggy” and being “Muslimy” (if there is even such a word)while the rest of the world is going bonkers… We are taking this “Gambia no problem” to another level; in factlife is normal, fine and dandy. Public gatherings (“hews”, “Ndajeh” and all types of congregations), are ongoing; as usual. I ask myself: am I missing something? What gives? is it that
a) We as a people don’t know because government is not stressing the urgency of the situation enough, or
b) Know but believe in “Yalla” and “bahna”, and the power of prayer and of course “Ndigaliyalla” or
c) Are we above and beyond it; immune to the point of being reckless?
Come on, while we continue to engage in sycophantic behavior and praise for the authorities or powers that be, in fact nations with better health care have ground to a screeching halt. So what are we waiting for? To close the stable door after the proverbial horse has bolted?

So what is this pandemic disease? hmm sounds like a dancehall
A pandemic is basically a global epidemic — an epidemic that spreads to more than one continent.

“A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease. An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges and spreads around the world, and most people do not have immunity. Viruses that have caused past pandemics typically originated from animal influenza viruses” .

So much info and so many headlines of countries not being spared this dreadful menace…my head started spinning.
We cannot say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic. “Some countries are struggling with a lack of capacity. Some countries are struggling with a lack of resources. Some countries are struggling with a lack of resolve.” The number of cases and deaths changes by the hour, topping 171,112with at least 6526 deaths across the world, while 77791 have recovered according to statistics.

One thing everyone agrees on though is that the word “pandemic” describes this as the widespread occurrence of disease, in excess of what might normally be expected in a geographical region.

Outbreaks of these diseases across international borders, were properly defined as pandemic, especially smallpox, which throughout history, has killed between 300-500 million people in its 12,000 year existence. Cholera Pandemic(1910-1911)Death Toll: 800,000, HIV/AIDS Pandemic (at its peak, 2005-2012)Death Toll: 36 million, bubonic plague or The Black Death (1346-1353)Death Toll: 75 – 200 million, and influenza or different types of Flu Pandemics (1968)Death Toll: 1 million ASIAN FLU (1956-1958)Death Toll: 2 millionare some of the most brutal killers in human history.

WHO declares global health emergency. Not very unlike the 1918 strain, COVD 19 and other flu epidemics have no choice of victim. Flu epidemics kill mostly at the demographic fringes—the very old, whose immune systems are the least robust, and the very young. Other adults do get sick, but they rarely die.

The UN’s health arm said the move was to protect countries with “weaker health systems.”Some experts say it is similar to the first known case of Spanish flu reported on March 4, 1918.Unfortunatelyby April the same year, it had spread to most cities in America and had reached Europe, following the trail of the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers who crossed the Atlantic that Spring for the closing offensives of the First World War.

The second wave was recorded on August 22nd, in Brest—a major port for incoming American troops. Within days, it appeared simultaneously in Boston and Freetown, Sierra Leone, carried in this case by returning American soldiers.
And so it continued. The virus crossed Europe in a matter of weeks. It attacked Spain through Portugal, in the west, and across the Pyrenees, in the north, lingering long enough to be dubbed—erroneously, as it turned out—the Spanish flu. Scandinavia was infected by England; Italy was infected by France; and Sicily was infected by Italy.

And continued… European and American ships brought the flu to Iceland, and American ships brought the flu to New Zealand at around the same time. In India, the virus came by sea and raced inland along the country’s railroad lines. As many as half of all those who died in the pandemic died within India’s borders. In America, an estimated six hundred and seventy-five thousand people died.

Charcoal? You have got to be kidding me!
Unbelievably weird Gambian remedies or preventive measures from our so-called ‘experts” across this country are so outrageous; from bathing in charcoal-soaked in salted water, to ground garlic, salt and lime paste. I chuckled when I heard the extremes yes extremes that are being peddled and shared on social media… the hacks.
So many experts …Wait, some would-be religious scholar told me that there is nothing like “faith healing and the power of prayer.” Am like, uh-oh God aint listening in on this one dude; infact it’s more like a case of “God helps those who help themselves… innit”?
My skepticism was obvious and I decided to quote and bombard him with FACTS that have been proven without reasonable doubt by health experts on prevention, not cure mind you.

Prevention and way forward
All of this is wise, of course: the evidence that cutting down on crowds can slow the spread and flatten the curve of eventual infection is clear, dating back to the Spanish flu of 1918. So the countries affected are declaring states of emergency and going into shutdown mode. I mean whole towns, cities are being quarantined to stop the spread.
ü Stop handshakes
Handshakes are the bane of our society for real.

I sometimes wonder aloud at our lackadaisical attitude to cleanliness. Why do we have to “Nuyo” with handshakes for god’s sake? I mean why? Can’t we come up with other modes of greetings? “Namaste” perhaps.
Call me paranoid or over paranoid butI even printed this and stuck them all over the house to be on the safe side. I mean such notices can be done all over offices and public spaces. Without creating offence right…easy peasy!
ü Wash hands with soap and water constantly. This is self-explanatory and should be done constantly (that is if there is water) even without a threat of a virus in the offing. Infact it should be mandatory in school curricula and offices; so Nawec please, tenkung!
ü Travel ban on all: Finally, really welcome news from the office of the president which means no perdiem hunting for a while

ü Quarantine arrivals (be it airport, sea port or border): especially for countries that have the highest numbers and since we can’t stop them from “spreading the love”.Hey if countries like Uganda and America can do it why not us?
ü Suspend tourist Season: The tourist season is almost over and so just declare it closed a month or so early. A healthy nation is a wealthy nation, right?
No public gatherings: capiche, no ifs or buts just STOP all public gatherings. This dispersal of community is a necessary thing be it the hew, a road opening, a rally, agamo or what not. I know isolation comes at a real cost but we just can’t risk it anymore; that is if it ain’t already here.

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