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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Testing: the way forward with five years forecast of Covid-19

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By Samsudeen Sarr

Experts and authorities from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) respectively are projecting an eerie probability of an enduring scenario of the coronavirus epidemic, lasting longer than we expect or desire. That, given all the impeding factors from among superpower leaders in particular, essentially disuniting rather than uniting the world into a common endeavor to control the pandemic, they are predicting a worldwide resilient disease estimated to be around for another three to five years even in the wake of a discovered vaccine in 2020. Coupled with the emphasis that a vaccine does not necessarily guarantee hundred per cent effectiveness, multitude of conspiracy theorists are not helping by dogmatically entertaining the misconception that COVID-19 doesn’t even exist and that any attempt of a global immunization will be hazardous to human health and only beneficial to profiteers like Bill Gates, colluding with corrupt epidemiologists and pharmaceutical industries.

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Besides, we seem cursed by powerful leaders like President Donald Trump sending fallacious messages literally trivializing the severity of the pandemic to skeptics and President Xi Jinping who until recently had opposed ventures by foreign independent specialists to visit China and investigate the source of the deadly virus. These leaders seem to be more concerned with their domestic political success than the existential threat posed by the unmanageable disease or than any need for an urgent remedial course.

Mark you, skeptics doubting the existence of COVID-19, are not exclusively American but are indeed spotted all over the world including many Gambians who as a result will never respect basic preventive programs. Even members of our national assembly tend to send unobliging messages about the seriousness of the pandemic when as lawmakers they fail to strictly enforce the simple and very important protocol of every one within the confines of the hall wearing face masks.

In short I simply want to subscribe to the WHO and UN projection that COVID-19 may stay with us longer than anticipated and that some nations, typically the Gambia, need to adopt better sustainable approach of fixing the problem different from what obtain all along.
Sooner rather than later international air, land and sea traveling will have to be reopened in order to resuscitate the sluggish world economy in which infected people will move from one country to another. Mandatory quarantine of travelers with minimal or no testing as prevalent in the Gambia is certainly not effective, economical or sustainable. Rather than paying huge sums of money to hoteliers to quarantine passengers flying into the Gambia, I think, in a long haul, it will be more sustainable and prudent to improve the Gambia’s testing capacity which I understand is totally abysmal. In that case, guests arriving are immediately tested and those found negative allowed to go while the positive ones are advised to go into self-quarantine. Encouraging and not forcing positively-tested people to go home and self-quarantine is what New York City did, now a COVID-19-controlled state, less the trouble of lodging and feeding anyone. Now visitors from states experiencing resurgence of the virus are compelled to self-quarantine and violators fined to pay substantial amount of money.

We have to however bear in mind that there are more asymptomatic than symptomatic infected people, with the former blessed with immune systems that even if quarantined for a whole year will never develop the disease unless and until their immune systems are compromised by mostly preexisting health conditions. That is why young healthy people, identified as the most carriers of the coronavirus are hardly sickened by it but tend to spread it faster than any group of people. Whereas old age, obesity, diabetics, cancer, asthma, sickle-cell anemia, kidney failure and cardiovascular diseases happen to be key ailments exacerbating one’s vulnerability to the pathogen.

The pitiful shortfall of robust testing mechanism in the Gambia undeniably prevents accurate collection of a data base on how many symptomatic and asymptomatic persons are actually infected. Indeed a survey of the pervasive violations of all the recommended protocols, i.e, stringent social distancing, limited or controlled market and beach crowds, reasonable company at traditional and religious ceremonies, wearing face masks and maintaining proper hygiene, demographically illustrates a population overwhelmed with infections. In addition to credible reports of gross under testing in the country, several Gambians exhibiting symptoms of the disease often decline being tested for fear of the uneducated stigma associated with contracting the virus or being diagnosed positive. Typically as in the case of HIV or AIDS infection in its early emergence in the 80s.

But to further buttress the forecast that the pandemic may not go away anytime soon there are evidences of a new strain of the virus discovered again in China, described with potentials of another pandemic. People seem too fatigue to acknowledge or even monitor it closely. Let’s hope and pray that it doesn’t again escape out of the communist enclave.
Since the outbreak of the mysterious coronavirus, the WHO for the first time have secured a permit to visit China and conduct studies on how and when the pandemic exactly started there. My question is will the secretive Chinese government honestly show and tell them everything they need to know? I have my doubts!

But even so, with no end of the pandemic on sight and nations having no choice but to reopen their borders to international business and travel, improvement of massive and rapid testing methods remain the only and best safeguards while scientists continue to search for a vaccine or cure. Authorities in the Gambia need to diligently educate everybody into accepting testing as the perfect way to go and the need to respect most of the preventive measure listed above. The least recommended are wearing face masks and maintaining proper hygiene. Take note Honorable Speaker Mrs. Mariam Denton. Don’t get me wrong, you are by my standard doing an impressive job. Cheers!

People, being tested positive doesn’t mean a death sentence or even getting sick. It fundamentally helps medical personal to help everybody and most importantly to contact-trace infected individuals in order to effectively protect the frail and elderly.
Whether true or false, the role of government to quarantine aircraft passengers arriving in the Gambia has in fact been allegedly attributed to massive corruption, outrageous wastage, practically unsustainable and above all, rather ineffective.

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