Delicate balancing act of saving lives, economy

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 00:00 |
A laboratory technologist performs a swab test on a patient to test for the coronavirus. Photo/PD/JOHN OCHIENG

Uncertainty has gripped communities across the globe as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt people’s health and economies.

The level of concern over Covid-19 is very high among governments and the people as the virus impacts across all sectors with more severe consequences expected over the coming months.

While the health concern relates to the challenge of emergency preparedness and response strategies to the pandemic, economic uncertainty revolves around the real prospects of negative growth and the threat to livelihoods.

Covid-19 will cause an acute economic crisis in African countries including Kenya who are lagging behind in development and the virus is already threatening to reverse the recent momentum and hard-won gains.

As we approach mid-2020, a year that looked promising, the outlook dims in tighter financial conditions, a sharp decline in key export prices, a plunge in tourist earnings, a near collapse of the hospitality sector and massive job losses.

Governments are grappling with a delicate balancing act addressing the health crisis and the economic implosion, well aware that the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic hitting the vulnerable populations can result in devastating effects.

The health challenge relates to the availability of essential supplies for testing and understanding the epidemiology to guide policy, treatment and actions that promote behavioural measures in society. 

As witnessed in our fragile health systems, the government is suffering from a shortage of ventilators, hospital beds and personal protective equipment, lack of reliable oxygen supplies, ICUs and healthcare workers.

A weak economy and food insecurity will worsen the long-term effects of the virus. 

While lockdowns, border closings and curfews have been imposed to prevent the virus from spreading through densely populated areas, there are fears that the worst is yet to come, as confirmed by the reported rising cases of infections.

Restrictive measures are tricky to enforce in impoverished, heavily populated informal settlements where houses are overcrowded, most people survive on informal work and cannot remain at home. 

It is too early to say the epidemic is slowing down. They also have geo-political implications in the East African region.

GeoPoll, a provider of fast, high-quality research, has just released a report on a study it conducted in 12 African countries on the effects of coronavirus on people.

The study covered the people’s biggest concerns of risk, preventive measures such as social distancing and hand-washing practices, changes in food markets and food security, changes in consumer habits, levels of trust in governments and information on Covid-19.

Revelations from the study demonstrates the high levels of uncertainty and fear around coronavirus and related impacts throughout Africa.

The majority of respondents also believe they are at risk of contracting the disease.

Food security and the economic impacts of coronavirus on struggling economies are at the top of minds of most people, aligning with expert warnings that Africa could experience high levels of food insecurity and an economic recession due to the virus.

Amid the prevailing uncertainty, the people are expressing mixed levels of trust in how government is balancing the economic and humanitarian impact of the restrictive measures against the potential loss of life.

It is a delicate balancing act, considering the high number of cases in the developed world, a lingering reminder that the pandemic could have a devastating effect in Africa. [email protected]

More on News