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Opinions of Friday, 24 April 2020

Columnist: Stephen Atta Owusu

After Valentine, next stop: quarantine

Quarantine has now become a household word  in the era of COVID-19 Quarantine has now become a household word in the era of COVID-19

The feast of Saint Valentine popularly became known as St Valentine's Day which is celebrated throughout the world every February 14th. Even though the celebration gradually turned romantic, it was still a Christian, cultural and commercial observance.

The significance of Valentine's Day is the celebration of love and affection. During the observance of that day, cards and gifts are sent to friends and loved ones. There is also dating and church services.

In Ghana and in many regions of the world, the celebration of Valentine's Day now centres more on romance and love. February 14 was chosen because it was the day Saint Valentine was imprisoned for preaching to Christians persecuted during the Roman Empire.

Just after two weeks of Valentine's Day this year, the whole world was greeted with sadness and insecurity when COVID-19 reared its ugly head.

According to Webster’s, the word Quarantine means to keep a person or an animal away from others to prevent a disease from spreading. Therefore the practice of quarantine specifically involves the separation of a person or group of people reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease but not yet symptomatic, from others who have not been so exposed, to prevent further spread of the disease. People are put in quarantine not because they are currently sick but because they may have been exposed to a communicable disease like coronavirus.

The word quarantine comes from the Italian word "quarantina" which means a period of forty, derived from the word "quaranta,"(forty). What is so special about 40? It has its roots in history. Quarantine originally refers to a period of forty days imposed on ships suspected of carrying infectious or contagious diseases. This practice started in Venice in 14th century. Are there any connection between quarantine and isolation? Generally isolation is when someone or something is set apart or separated from other persons or things. By all intents and purposes, the word quarantine is synonymous with isolation.

Quarantine has now become a household word which is used internally to keep those who are suspected to be carrying the coronavirus.

Coronavirus was first identified in 2019 when cases of pneumonia were diagnosed in China. It turned out that it was not pneumonia but rather a previously unknown coronavirus which was named after the related Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus. These viruses are large sets of viruses detected on humans and on animals too. They usually cause respiratory infection (shortness of breath), fever, muscle pain, fatigue, diarrhoea, runny nose, sneezing and coughing.

Ever since COVID-19 erupted from China, there are many who have been infected by the disease worldwide, with the largest number of deaths occurring among people who are over 70 years especially those with underlying diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. Only about 2% of children and youth under 19 who had the coronavirus died.

It will be quite misleading to compare the infection and mortality rates in different countries since these change on daily basis.

The countries that have quarantined most people because they are hard hit by COVID-19, are China, the United States of America, Italy and Spain. Ghana as at last week had 566 cases of coronavirus patients, but today the number has gone beyond 1000 with eight deaths. The latest update indicates that United States is leading in coronavirus infection and deaths. They are followed by Italy, Spain and China. The latest update for coronavirus disease throughout the world stands at 2,347,777 worldwide and the number of deaths also stand at 161,126. Many of the deaths occurred while in quarantine. The figures may not be the same tomorrow since infections and deaths occur on daily basis.

It is one particular disease that has spread to almost every country in the world. Despite all efforts to find a vaccine, nothing has come out for testing. The number of deaths in the four major countries is uncontrollable and this unfortunate situation has necessitated mass burials. This is how the situation is now. The bodies are packed in a truck and buried en masse. Very disheartening!

Ghana has been recommended by a foreign journalist who saw how Ghanaian authorities were fully prepared to prevent people with COVID-19 from entering the country without first going through quarantine. He was indeed amazed by the thorough and effective control of passengers arriving in Ghana and subsequently putting them in quarantine. All borders are closed including the airport. This step has reduced the influx of people with coronavirus. Ghanaians have so far expressed satisfaction about the very efficient steps Government is taking to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, Ghanaians were angered when the Chinese plane broke all bounds and landed in Ghana to deliver two million dollar worth of face masks and respirators. These goods were rejected by many European countries. It is alleged that Holland tested the masks and found out that the Chinese had infested them with coronavirus. They returned everything to the Chinese. Is Ghana learning any lesson from this?

It is a common knowledge that the coronavirus pandemic first began in Wuhan. The Chinese are now blaming Black people in Wuhan as being responsible for a new phase of coronavirus. The Africans living in the Wuhan area have been refused entry into their apartments and hotels. The Africans living in other cities are not facing similar problems of ejection and hatred. Besides, a test of coronavirus is forced on them. Africans are running on the streets of Wuhan with their suitcases. Pregnant women with their husbands and children spend sleepless nights on the streets. One Ghanaian living in Wuhan claims that even though he has paid six month’s rent advance it was never refunded to him. Those who try to seek refuge in hotels are chased out. This is a clear abuse of their human rights. This is wrong and should not be tolerated. There are more than ten million Chinese people spread throughout Africa. Most of them get married to Africans in order to enable them to pursue their agenda. The Chinese government is very much concerned about the rate the Chinese population is growing and if drastic steps are not taken, there will be population explosion in China and there will be no place to build houses anymore. It is the agenda and plan of the Chinese to push more of their citizens to Africa and other parts of the world.

Why is no one complaining about Chinese racism? African leaders especially the African ambassadors in China have taken the issue up with the Chinese government and things are gradually returning to normal as far as the issues of the Africans are concerned.