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Precautionary measures essential to fighting COVID-19

Precautionary measures essential to fighting COVID-19

The devastating impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on countries with the best medical professionals, teaching and research facilities, and health infrastructure underscores the vital importance of undertaking precautionary steps. Given Ethiopia’s weak health system its people owe a solemn duty to abide by the simple and yet effective protective measures to arrest the spread of the disease. Coupled with the urgings of official and responsible religious leaders such measures can go a long way towards averting the specter of an unprecedented humanitarian and economic catastrophe for the country. Global and national health authorities recommend that absent a cure or vaccine the surest way by to avoid contracting the contagion or containing its spread is to wash one’s hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub, avoid crowded places, and maintain physical distancing. Failure to comply with these recommendations and the restrictions imposed by the government is bound to exact a heavy toll for the nation and its people. It’s particularly incumbent on each and every citizen to do our part with a sense of grave responsibility in order not to unnecessarily strain health workers, the frontline soldiers in the battle against the pandemic.  

Citizens who pose an active threat to others and themselves by failing to comply, wittingly or otherwise, with the guidelines and instructions issued by the World Health Organization as well as the government and the relevant health authorities need to change their behavior voluntarily and failing that through the force of the law. Individuals who, among others, peddle fake news about the scourge or scorn the precautionary measures and thereby undermine the fight against it;  gather crowds outside places of worship for the purpose of delivering “religious” teachings; purport to have a cure or foretell the future; engage in hoarding, price gouging and generally cause chaos must be brought to justice without delay. At a time wealthy nations are finding it extremely difficult to roll back the disease and turning to China to provide them with help, Ethiopians have an obligation to come together as one and overcome the menace confronting them. Failure to do so only serves to worsen the danger.

Nowadays there is a surfeit of information about COVID-19. Most of the news or articles appearing on various platforms though are neither grounded in science nor factual. Couched in screaming headlines and crammed with data seemingly authentic, they tend to grab the attention of the masses. In particular, individuals and groups which have a large following on social media have an incentive to disseminate false information because the more people follow them the more money they earn. Despite the WHO’s warning to heed the official guidelines and restrictions issued by it or national governments, many continue to fall prey to these merchants of death. The propensity to believe any piece of information without verifying it, ignore protection measures and foolhardy attitude that one is immune to the virus is all attributable to fake news. That is why such characters should be avoided like the plague.

At this most difficult of times people understandably become apprehensive. However, panicking is no solution. The solution is to strictly observe precautionary measures. While the incidence of the pandemic in Ethiopia is limited to urban centers it’s of the essence to ensure that it does not to rural areas where over 80 percent of the population lives and wreck unimaginable havoc. As farmers are the backbone of the nation’s economy no time should be wasted in affording them the protection they deserve. This requires a collaborative effort on the part of the government on the one hand and on the other health experts and researchers who feel they have something to contribute. The two must not exchange ideas over social media though; they ought to come face to face and adopt protocols which can promptly be translated into action. Moreover, both decision makers and health professionals need to desist from making pronouncements not scientifically proven including the discovery of cures, immunity boosters or vaccines lest it lulls the public into complacency. It should not be lost on them that the most effective and least costly tool in the fight against COVID-19 is a rigorous adherence to precautionary measures.

The primary function of a government is to protect the safety and wellbeing of a nation and its people. Protecting the public from acts threatening the security of the country and public health is an integral part of this duty. While it must uphold the rule of law when discharging this responsibility it’s imperative on citizens to stand by it. Though acts testing the government’s patience are occurring here and there, it’s indefensible to kill, assault or intimidate suspected miscreants. The only thing law enforcement agencies should do is to respect the due process rights of the suspects and bring them to justice. Abiding by the rule of law is not the obligation of the government alone though; citizens are duty-bound to respect the law as well in their day-to-day activity. For the sake of themselves as well as their families, friends, the community and the entire nation Ethiopians have to refrain from violating the restrictions imposed by the government during the battle with a stealthy enemy hiding in a friendly population.  At the same time they have to display solidarity with fellow countrymen in helping those who desperately seek assistance due to the outbreak without unnecessarily putting themselves at risk. They need keep in mind that the only and most effective way to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic is to comply with precautionary measures prescribed by the relevant authorities.