By Allieu Sahid Tunkara
COVID-19 affected countries in perpetual lockdowns in Asia and Europe are slowly opening up and returning to business to ward off a looming economic disaster.
Lockdowns, whether complete or partial, are a way of restricting the movement of persons from one place to another to ease the work of health officials in contact tracing, surveillance, testing among others.
By so doing, the virus can be effectively contained before it spreads far and wider and affect populations of higher magnitude.
The United States, the worst hit as she accounts for over 50,000 death toll is exploring opening up strategies for the country to return to business.
COVID-19 has caused a reduction of 5% in the American economy, a worrying scenario for the US. By numerical quantification without exactitude, the 5% economic decline could run into billions of US dollars.
Also, New Zealand, one of the worst affected countries in the world, is opening up.
Spain, an European country with the strictest lockdown is easing up restrictions for life to return to return to normal.
Britain is also moving towards that direction as done by other nations.
The move was confirmed by British Prime Minister, Bores Johnson who referred to COVID-19 as a “physical assailant, an unexpected and invisible killer.”
Britain too is working assiduously to ensure that it opens up for business.
However, in some countries, protests and riots are compelling governments to open up owing to welfare concerns.
Similarly, African countries are grappling with the virus and are taking tough measures to neutralise a virus which countries with sophisticated health systems found difficult to handle.
COVID-19, by all accounts, is tragic in nature and devastating in consequence with a capacity to permanently wreck country’s economies.
Professor Karim Bangura is a highly respected Sierra Leonean academic lecturing at Howard University in the US.
He has authored many books on diverse and wide-ranging issues including those in Africa.
In a 30-minute facebook communication, Professor Karim Bangura has called on African states to address their few cases of COVID-19 and not to hope for loans and donations.
“The virus cannot be homegrown in the overwhelming majority of Africa which is blessed with warm weather,” the learned Professor asserted.
Professor Bangura further claimed that the recent COVID-19 results released by The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has shed light on the blessing of warm weather in Africa.
“Even the most recent and reliable CDC experiments in the world whose results were disseminated two days ago have proven the blessing of having warm weather when it comes to the virus,” Prof. Bangura explained.
The Howard Professor also consolidates his arguments about COVID-19 incidents which he referred to as travel-related.
“Most of the very small number of cases across Africa is travel-related and can be addressed at points of entry,” Prof. Bangura suggested.
African countries, no gainsaying, have gained a notoriety for playing magic with numbers during pandemics with the aim to get aid.
Most times, the aid meant for the needy, ends in the deep pockets of politicians while the targeted beneficiaries wallow in abject poverty.
The Howard professor has also not lost sight of political corruption in the face of pandemics.
Prof. Bangura says political authorities divert aid money to their personal benefit, most times, with the aid of some corrupt officials of the global health body, World Health Organisation (WHO).
“We also know that some African countries, with the aid of corrupt WHO, have been fabricating data to get international funding and loans from the IMF all of which the average citizen will never see as those monies will, as in the past, end up in politicians’ overseas bank accounts,” he said.
Prof. Bangura refers to the plethora of lockdowns in African states as “stupid” lockdowns as food and basic necessities are not provided for the people.
Moreover, Prof. Bangura made emphasis about the poor and squalid conditions in African countries.
“For the overwhelming majority of Africans, a house built for 10 people is occupied by 30-50 people with one latrine/toilet,” he said.
The comments of the learned professor on the continent’s squalid and congested condition are an insinuation of the difficulty or the seeming impossibility of enforcing the principle of social distancing.
To Prof. Bangura, the ‘social distancing’ principle is untenable in an African culture.
Sierra Leone, in particular, has experienced two lock downs in the month of April, this year.
The first, complete lock down, while the second is partial and has been extended indefinitely.
The lockdowns are meant to combat COVID-19 and to instill in the people that the virus is real and must take precautionary measures.
However, the lockdowns have come at the greatest economic cost especially for an import-based economy.
Back in 2014 and 2016, the Ebola epidemic plunged the economy of Sierra Leone on the edge of implosion.
The Ebola epidemic terribly reversed the gains made by the then government as an economy that stood at 11.3% was reduced to 3%.
The former Director of Economic Statistics at Statistics Sierra Leone, Abu Bakarr Turay told journalist, in a press briefing, that the country tinkered on the precipice of explosion.
Mr Turay did confirm that the economy, at that time, fell from 11.3% to 3% and predicted that it would contract to 0% if strong effort was not made to tackle the spread of the virus.
The COVID-19 threat is no difference as the signs of sickly economy are clear.
A great many Sierra Leoneans have seen and felt the signs and symptoms of economic collapse with protracted lockdowns.
The economic impact could be quantified only when Sierra Leone opens up, but is too early to open up.
Thus, the article calls on government to do what it can to nip in the bud the few COVID-19 cases and strike a balance between opening up and saving the economy.
By Allieu Sahid Tunkara