“The world has become a global village.” What a worn out cliche right? The spread of the novel coronavirus that leads to COVID 19 disease proves how true the cliche is. Responses to it though reflect that this might not be as villagy a world as we theorise.
A number of countries around the world including Taiwan, Germany, France, Italy… have banned the export of protective gear like face masks and essential equipment like ventilators to other countries as the COVID 19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc. China is an interesting member of this club because China kinda bought up the world’s supplies when the outbreak was still considered a ‘China problem’ and now they won’t sell too…
This is not unreasonable
As connected as the world is, we still live in nation states which have state specific political structures. Decision makers answer to their nation’s citizens (if they do) or are responsible for only their nation’s citizens. Their decisions will rationally prioritise those citizens and not generic humanity in ‘the global village.’ At the core irrational basis there will always be the tendency to value your own above anyone else and this is not wrong.
The USA is affected big time
There is a shortage of face masks in the US. Doctor associations in California were appealing for households to donate face masks that they may have lying around because they just didn’t have enough and were having to reuse masks. Tech companies in the US have pledged to source and deliver 9 million masks (no one seems to know their supply lines) but still that will be a drop in the ocean. Ventilators are an even bigger problem in the USA.
What of Zimbabwe?
Before we had coronavirus to contend with, Zimbabwean hospitals didn’t have gloves for medical staff. That just tells you how big a problem we have.
Our health care system was overwhelmed by just one case: Zororo Makamba’s family had to source their own ventilator but still Zororo couldn’t use it up to the time he died because they didn’t have wall outlets in his hospital room at the hospital dedicated to COVID 19 treatment!
On Tuesday doctors at Harare Central Hospital withdrew their services because of lack of protective clothing. If doctors have no face masks, what of the general public? These masks have proven to be quite critical in the management of this pandemic in countries like China.
The problem with COVID 19 is that an infected person can be asymptomatic for a very long time (up to 21 days) whilst still transmitting the virus. If everyone is wearing masks it reduces the likelihood that asymptomatic carriers pass it on to others. We should all be moving around wearing masks!
What does all this mean?
COVID 19 has exposed the limitations of globalisation. The reason America is in the boat it is in is because it has been profitable for so long for businesses there to outsource manufacturing. Now in the face of COVID 19, those supply chains cease to exist as nation states serve their own.
Zimbabwe has for decades now been an importer of anything and everything including onions. This has been because of myopic economic policies and selfish politics. This crisis should be a wake up call for the country and its leadership.
Zimbabwe produces ethanol and so we have the capacity to make hand sanitisers but beyond rhetoric there is no action to get going with this immediately. The COVID 19 crisis has not started yet in Zimbabwe and we need to preempt the issues that are coming up along the way (not to say they are not issues even now). Even South Africa has a shortage of hand sanitiser and as far as things look it will, get worse.
There has been calls in the US for the government to invoke its powers under the Defense Production Act which mandates them to demand that businesses produce whatever is needed for the protection of the country. So an air filters manufacturer for example can be ordered to start producing masks (just guessing that such a switch is possible).
In Zimbabwe something like that is needed as well if not more so. The government’s stance so far seems to be just to wait for donations to come. If exports are being banned in these far richer countries and if the USA has serious shortages, where will meaningful donations come from? We need to get in front of this thing and be decisive right now not later.
If action is not taken cheap quality masks and ‘fake’ hand sanitsers will show up on the market and people will wear them thinking they are working. I cannot exaggerate how dangerous that would be.
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