The world must move in concert to defeat Covid-19. The virus is super contagious. Within a matter of weeks, the disease which first appeared in China was killing thousands in Italy, a country that is 5,000 miles away.
In January, there were only a handful of cases in the US. That number has now surpassed 800,000. Across the globe, over two million people are now infected.
Quarantine, lockdowns, social distancing, expanding hospital capacity and capability and mass testing, must be strategies every country applies. If one country does not, then the efforts of the rest will come to naught.
As an analogy, if New York institutes these measures and other states do not, those efforts will be an exercise in futility.
It is worrisome, therefore, when Sweden and a few other countries decide to buck the trend in the rest of the world. In Sweden people still mingle in the streets, bars and restaurants. Sweden’s strategy is based on the belief that the population will gradually build up immunity.
The assumption is that those who recover from infection are unlikely to get reinfected. The problem with that theory is that cases of reinfection are being reported in South Korea.
The other issue is the morality and legality of exposing the vulnerable—the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions—to the disease while trying to achieve natural immunity for the rest of the population.
In Africa, Burundi has responded haphazardly to the virus. Statements from high ranking government officials claim that God will protect the country. The government covers up or downplays the extent of infections, just as it did with regard to the re-emergence of Malaria last year.
Critically, the country has failed to stop football matches and attendant gatherings.
Sweden at least can marshal massive financial and technological resources to tackle the disease should their strategy fail.
Burundi’s strategy, on the other hand, is based on prayer and the eccentric character and megalomaniacal ambitions of President Pierre Nkrunziza. Further, Burundi, unlike Sweden, has few resources it can rely on should its non-policy fail.
The failure of Burundi’s quackery will be catastrophic for itself as well as the people of East Africa.
The world should, therefore, apply maximum pressure on countries like Sweden and Burundi to do what the scientists say.
In Africa, the AU must pressurise Burundi to adopt the strategy its neighbours are using. But can we expect much from the AU? It took the organisation forever to put corruption on the agenda of its annual Heads of State summits.
Then, the continental body kept a guilty silence as thousands of Africans drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while fleeing dictatorship and poverty. Perhaps this being an existential threat to Africa, the AU might just get off its fat backside.
Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator.