How economies prepare, respond to second wave of COVID-19

*Scientists warn it could take years to control a deadly virus

*Low test/case confirmation numbers should not be misinterpreted to mean we have overcome ─Boss Mustapha, SGF and Chairman, PTF on COVID-19

*US Government commends Nigeria on response to pandemic, donates 200 ventilators

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

As the global community continues to face unprecedented challenges as a result of the first wave of the novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from one continent to another, several economies yet are really concerned about the consequences of suspending people’s lives again.

ConsumerConnect reports that confirmed cases of the pandemic continue to spike in greater numbers in many climes, shuttering businesses, grounding airlines and ordering people to stay home was hard enough the first time at the outbreak of the virus.

Now, the thought of having to do it all over again is something world leaders don’t want to even contemplate.

Agency report also indicates that from Italy to New Zealand, for instance, irrespective of how well the virus was contained, governments acknowledge that fresh waves of the deadly Coronavirus are likely and that the policy tools to mitigate the damage are limited.

The hope is that localising quarantines to towns, cities and regions will be enough to snuff out bouts of infections as they come.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was reluctant to order a lockdown, and then, ended up in intensive care fighting for his life after contracting COVID-19.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Yet, according to reports, he finds the idea of isolating the nation again so off-putting that he compared it to a nuclear deterrent.

Johnson said: “I certainly don’t want to use it.”

“We won’t survive, economically and socially,” French Prime Minister Jean Castex was equally blunt about a fresh lockdown in the economy.

At the other end of the globe, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern has warned that it just takes one mistake to be exposed to the virus again. But even for her, reverting to a nationwide lockdown would be a “measure of last resort.”

It all speaks to the great elephant in the room: while scientists warn it could take years to control a deadly virus that has killed more than 630,000 worldwide, there is no appetite to sustain the hiatus on travel, work and leisure that has upended everyone’s lives in 2020.

United States President Donald Trump

With the world facing its worst recession since the Great Depression and United States (US) President Donald Trump fighting for re-election in November 2020, voters are on edge, report said.

Politicians of all stripes are looking for ways to ease the pain—not add to it—as fear morphs into anger and discontent in recent times.

“Populations can be summoned to heroic acts of collective self-sacrifice for a while, but not forever.

“A lingering epidemic combined with deep job losses, a prolonged recession, and an unprecedented debt burden will inevitably create tensions that turn into a political backlash—but against whom is as yet unclear,” political scientist Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and the Last Man, wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine.

The political calculus is to try and it rides it out. Yet, while efforts to get people back to stores, restaurants, bars and hairdressers demonstrate the urgency among governments of reviving economies, they also show the risks.

Report says Europe’s hardest-hit country, Britain, reopened pubs and is now finding spikes in virus cases.

Johnson, who aims to return to “significant normality” by Christmas, recently said his government was preparing the health service for a second wave of infections over the winter.

Likewise, countries around the Mediterranean Sea pray a glimpse of tourism will get them through the summer before the cold snap drives people indoors and ushers a second chapter to the pandemic.

Italy was the first Western democracy to quarantine the entire population as it became apparent its death toll was going to overtake that of China, where the virus originated.

A person close to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte described that decision as “shock therapy” that can’t be repeated.

The Euro’s weakest economy, of recent, became the biggest beneficiary of the European Union’s $860 billion rescue package.

In Spain, for instance, tourism revival is said to be underway.

According to report, populations have already shown they are restless. Spain had a similar trajectory to Italy and in Madrid the resentment spilled into the streets.

In Serbia, a jump in cases prompted President Aleksandar Vucic, just re-elected in a landslide, to try and impose another curfew only for him to reverse course in the face of violent protests.

The situation is so desperate in Croatia, which relies on tourism more than any other country in the European Union (EU) that it pivoted from lockdown mode to embracing the Swedish model that allows bars and shops to stay open and there is no limit to size of public gatherings.

At one point, the government considered banning all wedding celebrations after a cluster of cases were traced to one event. All it took was some bad press from prospective brides for the plan to be dropped.

Nowhere is the disconnect between the health risk and reticence to lock down more pronounced than in the US, the worst-hit nation with over 140,000 dead and the number of infections soaring in battleground states Trump needs to win. But as far back as May 2020, the US President made his priorities clear.

“Will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes,” Trump said during a factory visit in Arizona, a crucial swing state, that month.

He added a clincher: “But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.”

In spite of the spikes in COVID-19 cases in frontline states, Trump has resurrected his White House briefings on the virus in an attempt to reassure Americans he has the pandemic under control and life is going back to normal.

Yet, he scrapped the highly attended Florida convention for the Republican Party he had been keen to hold for 20,000 ardent supporters.

The approaches have been so different it’s impossible to predict what governments will do when there is an agonising tradeoff between deaths and the economy.

In places like Singapore or South Korea, mass testing and heavy fines were the strategies successfully deployed to stop the spread.

By contrast, in the UK, there was until recently no mandatory use of masks to go into a shop. It was left to “basic good manners,” stated the report.

However unpalatable, the need to shut everything down may ultimately be forced upon leaders.

As life is reportedly still under lockdown in the Melbourne, in Australia for instance, residents of Melbourne have been ordered to stay home for six weeks and South Africa ordered schools to be shut again in view of the spike in Coronavirus cases.

Israel declared victory over the virus only for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to warn another shutdown could be inevitable.

However, New Zealand is unique in having eradicated the virus within its borders. Now it’s on high alert to keep it that way.

Ardern, herself up for re-election this year, has deployed the military to enforce quarantine on anyone entering the country.

“The country is in very good shape, other than if you look south and west—some problems.

“That will work out.”

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, following the recent further ease of lockdown in the national economy, observers said that there was reduction in new cases of Coronavirus cases, particularly during the public holidays.

President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR

In August, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reports indicated that new case numbers have averaged below 500 unlike the situation in June and July when the daily average was over 500 with 745 cases recorded on June 18, 2020.

However, many believe the low numbers are down to low testing in the country.

ConsumerConnect reports that only 319,851 COVID-19 tests were recorded to have been conducted in Nigeria as of August 11.

This juxtaposes with over three million tests in South Africa, which has more than 500,000 confirmed cases.

Referencing the decline in daily numbers in recent times, the Nigerian Government Monday, August 10 warned that such comparatively low numbers of Coronavirus testing should not be misinterpreted as the country has yet to reach the peak of the ravaging pandemic.

Mr. Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, said: “The low test/case confirmation numbers coming out daily should not be misinterpreted to mean that we have overcome.

“We have over time ramped up testing but more needs to be done to raise the quantum of test per million.”

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s battle against the pandemic received a boost Tuesday, August 11, as the United States Government handed over 200 ventilators to the country.

Mary Bert Leonard, US Ambassador to Nigeria, presented the donated items to Dr. Osaige Ehanire, Honourable Minister for Health, in Abuja, FCT.

Leonard said the gesture, which fulfils a promise US President Donald Trump made earlier, reflected a robust diplomatic relationship which both countries have sustained for over 50 years.

The US Ambassador commended the Federal Government’s response to the pandemic, and assured the country of the continued support of the United States.

Leonard said: “Nigeria is now one of just two countries in Africa to have an Oxygen Roadmap that seeks to fight against Harmonia, Hyposmia and now COVID-19.

“While we all continue to face unprecedented challenges as a result of COVID-19, I will like to laud Nigeria’s efforts at taking early action to combat and ameliorate this spread.”

Additional reporting by Gbenga Kayode

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