SOCIAL UNREST CONCERNS SPREAD AROUND THE WORLD AS PATIENTS WITH OTHER ILLNESSES ARE NOW IGNORED
(Posted 29th March 2020)
While the world stares at the daily or even hourly updates of how the Corona Virus keeps spreading around the globe – reminiscent of the hare staring motionless at the advancing snake – are other pieces of the puzzle largely still ignored, as a whole new spectrum of challenges is coming mankind’s way.
Most countries in the developed world are facing an unprecedented peace time crisis in their health care management. COVID19 patients in critical condition take up the limited number of beds in the ICU departments of hospitals, leaving patients with other diseases or illnesses, like cancer, stroke symptoms, kidney, liver or heart conditions – to name but a few – literally stranded for care.
While emergency services are still responding to 911 calls for heart attacks, strokes or accidents, are response times now way beyond the times recorded prior to the COVID19 outbreaks. Similarly are doctors at the emergency units of hospitals where such patients are admitted, under increasing stress or lack nurses and treatment facilities, which are presently almost exclusively dedicated to the Corona Virus patients.
Elective surgeries as well as radiotherapy and chemotherapy for cancer patients in many countries have been pushed back, a way of saying suspended for now, while those suffering from cancer are, even while COVID19 virus free, becoming victims of this global pandemic, not counted in any statistics, not while alive nor if dying as a result of the lack of care.
But perhaps even more challenging is the growing potential for social unrest, caused by prolonged lockdowns and curfews, not just in the developed world but especially in the developing world, where all systems are nearing overload.
In Southern Italy have gangs started to attack and ransack supermarkets already, to get hold of food and water for their families, the first indication that COVID19 is not just a health threat but an equal if not soon to be bigger threat to social order.
Pictures emerging from South Africa, a country now in its third day of a complete lockdown, are telling the story as residents in the overcrowded townships are refusing to stay in their accommodation. It seems just a matter of time now before water cannons are used, teargas is fired and live ammunition comes into a deadly play of cat and mouse, or of desperate people and those supposed to guard them, contain them and arrest them if all other options fail.
The supply of food and water, in the face of tens of millions of people losing their jobs right now and lacking the money to buy their daily rations, is being worsened by growing failures to pay utilities and facing cut offs for non payment.
Large segments of the population subsequently stripped of daily income, food, drink and sooner or later electricity and water completes the nightmare scenario governments are dreading and which, if not carefully addressed and managed, can result in the kind or doomsday scenario until now only portrayed in Hollywood productions.
In the US was the run on gunshops telling the story and the world is watching what the buyers will eventually do with all those guns and ammunition they now have in their possession. Going by America’s history vis a vis gun violence, are the prospects not friendly at all.
As the virus makes its way into Africa, where compared to the developed world the number of ICU beds is extremely limited – and beyond the financial means of perhaps over 90 percent of the population – are the challenges outlined above rising across the horizon like dark clouds, from which lightning and thunder spread just like the virus itself does.
While Britain, Germany and the US as well as a few others have passed massive bailout laws amounting to already more than 5 trillion US Dollars combined – because they can afford it – are no such concessions expected from governments in the developing world, simply because they just don’t have the resources. Subsequently have calls emerged to forgive developing countries interest payments on loans and even defer repayments of principal amounts of debt service for the time being to free much needed cash, might that not be enough to provide similar social security packages and support for the business community to achieve similar results.
Here in particular is China called upon, as after all it was the source of the outbreak and has therefore a special responsibility to the African countries they have in the past showered with loans and which are now at breaking point to meet repayments due. Should default happen would China be well advised not to foreclose or use other punitive measures agreed to in the case of default, lest they will be accused of waging a biological world war which already brought the global economy to a standstill.
My appeal to the people of Africa is to observe the lockdowns and curfew orders strictly and not give security forces reasons to brutally enforce their orders, like seen two days ago at the Likoni ferry crossing in Mombasa, which was frankly a disgrace for Kenya and put their government on the spot of how they want to handle such situations in the future.
That said, once the moment comes in someone’s life, to either face infection or see themselves and their families starve for lack of food and water, that will be the moment when it will show what one is made of and what one is capable of.
That will be the moment when those most affected will make life defining decisions, and I only hope that those decisions are the right ones in the interest of society at large and for the greater good.