In late December, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported cases of a strange respiratory disease in China. The Chinese government confirmed dozens of cases in Wuhan, Hubei Province.
On January 7, 2020, Chinese health officials hinted that the new disease is caused by the novel coronavirus. The authorities imposed a total lockdown in Wuhan. Flights, trains and buses were grounded. Subways and ferries were shut down while more than 11 million people living in the city were confined.
Sometime in February, the WHO unveiled the name of the new disease; COVID- 19. Viruses are named by the National Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (NCTV) based on their genetic structure. This is done in order to facilitate the development of diagnostic test, vaccine and cure.
Today’s world, being a smaller place with unprecedented levels of connectivity and accessibility, the virus was exported to every continent within a short period of time. The situation became dire and scientists got busy trying to establish a better understanding of the disease’s transmission dynamics and the spectrum of its clinical illness.
When the first case in Rwanda was confirmed on March 14, the government acted swiftly and hard decisions were made. A pre-existing inter-institutional emergency response structure was already in place. The best time to plan and mobilize resources needed to respond to a disaster is before it strikes.
It has been a month since the lockdown was instituted in Rwanda. After an initial period of two weeks, it was extended for two more weeks. A second extension, which is underway, will keep us indoors throughout April.
The economy is taking a hit but as Al Jazeera’s Sandra Gathmann said, "We can’t fix our burning house before we extinguish the fire."
In the US, the new epicenter of the pandemic, the first case was reported on January 21. In February, the threat was downplayed as the number of confirmed cases stood at 15. Early March, President Donald Trump held a political rally in Charlotte, North Carolina and bragged that his administration had taken the most aggressive action against the coronavirus.
When the President of the United States gathered thousands of supporters, ignoring social distancing guidelines, the virus was spreading like wildfire. Today, the number of confirmed cases in the US alone is staggering — 728,293.
There is pressure to open up the economy and that’s understandable but we need to extinguish the fire first. At least, we need to ensure the firestorm is reduced to a manageable blaze before we start repairing the damage. Had we not endured a month of confinement, the situation would have been out of hand by now. As illustrated by the curve on the other side of the Atlantic, an explosion is likely if drastic measures are not taken early.
The author is a travel enthusiast whose mission to discover Rwanda’s tourist attractions is suspended until further notice. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on Twitter @ExposureRwanda