COVID-19: Prioritise truth over propaganda

guest column:Learnmore Zuze

THE coronaviras continues with its whirlwind trail of destruction across the world, with Italy now being at the point of grave impact from the virus. The previous Saturday alone witnessed a colossal death toll of nearly 800 people which is unprecedented anywhere in history. Even the Spanish Influenza of 1918 which oddly hit the world 100 years earlier was not as ravenous as the cruel virus has been. Heart-wrenching images of patients in hospitals in the hardest-hit areas bear testimony of the severity of the pandemic. It should be anathema, given how things have turned out, that anyone would want to cast aspersions and apportion the virus to a particular region.

The reality is that COVID-19 has now knocked on our doorstep. The virus is slowly but surely closing in on all the nations of the world. States that are yet to be affected are now in the minority. Nations are surely alive to the looming disaster.

The virus is unsparing and worse, there seems to be a dearth of consensus on the behaviour of the virus and the prognosis of the ailment. Social media has not helped matters either with its speculative nature. Detail on the disease is still in its nascent stages, hence the pressing need for apt information.

But one thing is apparent: the world is facing something never seen before. No disease has shut down the earth like a mini village as the virus has. It, therefore, becomes imperative for accurate information to be disseminated.

The fight against the virus is still in its embryonic stages but one potent force that we can all have as more light comes to the fore is accurate information. It shouldn’t cost a fortune to simply create awareness and provide accurate figures on the predatory virus.

The chain or severity of all diseases in the past has been broken by the emergence of more light on the progression of the disease. At this juncture, the world needs nothing short of brevity with regards to information on the disease. No erudite tomes and volumes on coronavirus but concise and succinct detail is critical. Leaflets distributed to the public could provide a strong impetus in this battle. Ads

Even more, technology would be faster and more convenient. Isn’t it ironical that some governments are quite creative during election time in information dissemination but seem witless in the face of the virus which needs to be exposed in the earliest possible time. It is encouraging that most nations across the world have taken measures to combat the illness, but some remain astoundingly lackadaisical in their approach.

It must be borne in mind that it’s no longer a case of “if the virus comes” but it is a case of “when it will come,” for any nation. It is of grand pertinence to anticipate the disease rather than seek to uphold an image of wellness to the world.

I conceive that a profound step in the fight against any disease in any case is to have the right information about the disease; this is human life involved. It is indeed a cause for concern when talk abounds on the conservative nature of some governments to provide real figures on things such as the number of infections and deaths recorded so far. It appears to carry traces of truth that China, viewed as the epicentre of the disease has been holding back the facts regarding the ravaging effects of the disease. It simply defies logic how Italy a newly infected country would outnumber China in a matter of days, with close to 800 dying daily. It is most probable that China has been economic with the truth hoping for a short-lived period of the disease.

It is precisely because of such lack of care that countries must be reminded of the overwhelming need to be truthful. More infections do not necessarily point to government failure. This is a global pandemic. Hiding some vital information by countries could be worse than the disease itself. At a time when Namibia proved that one of its first three confirmed cases involved a man who had been in Zimbabwe, we were “reliably” informed there were no known cases in Zimbabwe. How rigorous is the testing being conducted at the border? The case of the German national who passed through Zimbabwe could be a drop in the ocean.

It has always been the case with most governments who feel that accurate figures would be a dent on their image and preparedness. It, therefore, becomes deadly when government opts to promote its image at the expense of the truth. The lethal result is simple: more infections and more deaths. Italy should be credited as it appears to be one country that has not hidden the extent of the damage caused by the virus. Armed with this information the public is fully aware and can protect itself.

The truth should take precedence and all governments must not only be seen to be providing information, but they should fight the disease by action as well.

 Learnmore Zuze is a legal officer and writes in his personal capacity

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