Grim Covid-19 statistics a sobering reality check

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020 00:00 |
World Health Organisation. Photo/Courtesy

Latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic confirm that the contagion has completely disrupted the way we will live, learn, work and consume.

As the nation and the world come to terms with grim statistics showing high caseloads, we must think and act decisively to deal with the most critical predicament facing humanity today. 

Since the first case was reported in Wuhan, China, on December 31, 2019, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an emergency (upgraded to a pandemic on March 11, 2020), Covid-19 has left a tragic toll of devastation.

Last Saturday, Kenya recorded its highest daily total of people (688) infected with the virus, as experts warned of a lack of preparedness to deal with a looming crisis.

On Sunday the WHO recorded 260,000 new cases of coronavirus in 24 hours – the largest single day increase, as the death toll rose by 7,360 – the largest daily increase since May 10 and a clear indication that the pandemic is far from over and could inflict greater damage.

The biggest increases were in the US, Brazil, India and South Africa, ominously closer home as the total global confirmed cases passed 14 million, according to the tally kept by the US-based Johns Hopkins University.

Interpreting this data requires a hard look at national and global socio-economic agendas to redesign them to better serve humanity, especially the poor and vulnerable weighed down on the wrong side of the scale of justice and equality. 

In the “new normal” of the coronavirus disruption, good governance means configuring lessons learned to reimagine lives, livelihoods and build a better, equal world for all.

Recovery from Covid-19 provides a rare opportunity to shape this “new normal”.

Public health is now top of the political agenda. Last week’s annual United Nations High-Level Political Forum to take stock of the world’s progress in reaching the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs) concurred, warning that the road ahead is steeper because of the virus.

Rethinking the social and economic and development structures demands designing and implementing universal health coverage (UHC) along its three pillars of equitable access to health services, financial risk protection of the most vulnerable and quality of care. 

To heal festering wounds exposed by coronavirus, healthcare systems need rebuilding to provide accessible, affordable primary health, with appropriate interventions and full participation of the people currently exposed to the virus on a massive scale. 

Presently, many countries including Kenya do not have the required International Health Regulations core capacities or health coverage to respond fully to Covid-19. 

Alarmingly, the Independent Accountability Panel (for Every Woman, Every Child, Every Adolescent) appointed by the UN Secretary-General in 2016 last week released a damning report, which notes that newborns, young children and adolescents are losing 20 per cent of their health and social services due to the pandemic. 

Access to life-saving vaccines for children and maternal health services are declining due to closures and movement restrictions, immunisation campaigns are being halted and health workers are being diverted from maternity to Covid-19 units.

Ominously, the global health experts warn of 5.3 million deaths in children under five by pre-pandemic estimates, and over 400,000 additional deaths due to Covid-19-related disruptions in services. 

These grim predictions, should they come to pass, would deal a fatal blow to the SDGs.

Life will not be the same again amid the coronavirus-induced disruption of lives and livelihoods, increased poverty, rising unemployment, food shortages and a dramatic economic downturn. [email protected]

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