Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone telegraph: 18 July 2021:
Since the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, the world has stood still. In midst of all the panic, the anger and frustrations lies buried deep, the loss of many lives. Without doubt, the pandemic has left the world and its people needing a big reset button. AS we all know, our lives have ceased to be what they used to be, as working patterns, business dealings, school curricula, relationships and ways of living have been tweaked here and there. While some have given the pandemic biblical interpretations for its prevalence, others have delved into the bowels of the art of conspiracy to promote their own understanding.
Even though it is a common affliction that has no regard or boundaries for race, creed, nationality, class, etc, this pales into significance in the light of the controversies surrounding it. The issue of the pandemic will never be complete without corresponding but different opinions. Despite the differences, some things are certain; Covid is real, and it is deadly.
While procedures, restrictions, preventions and finally vaccinations have been used to combat this global scourge, one is left with the impression that Covid is very reluctant to see the back of us as it continues to mutate into deadlier and more resistant strains. It is as if Covid 19 is saying “since the world has learnt to shoot without missing, I will learn to fly without perching”. The race against time and to save lives have never been more imperative. Evidence shows that this virus has the potential to paralyze the world, if it had not done so recently.
But it is the British “traffic light system” of Green, Amber and Red; a risk assessment and risk management plan that is used to deal with potential covid human vectors, that has caused a lot of furore in the neck of my woods, Sierra Leone. In summary, the covid “traffic light” generally categorises the precautions, restrictions, and conditions that visitors and travellers in and out of the UK must adhere to, under the “Stay in the UK” drive. The UK government implemented the “Stay in the UK” on May 17 this year, to restart but regulate international travel using, the traffic light system. Sierra Leone had comparatively been in the “amber “list but will be downgraded to “red” on Monday 19th July. This is purely down to the covid situation in each country. It is this change of status that has caused a lot of angst, frustration, and anxiety among people and especially Sierra Leoneans.
Below is a snapshot of the latest data WHO dashboard.
|Cumulative total||New Cases in 24hrs||Deaths-Cumulative||Deaths in last 24 hrs|
Looking at the data above and though tempting, it is understandable to see why some might see the UK government’s latest red card…… sorry red list status as punitive. Many in their infinite wisdom, have given copious reasons for the country’s new red list status. But again, others have pointed the finger at President Maada Bio’s government as solely responsible, though some will say for obvious reasons. One social media commentor even said that Bio’s government has been hyping the rate of covid in the country, because it wanted more money from WHO. Interestingly, the red list status is neither managed nor determined by WHO but the UK government. That view is dead on arrival.
But according to the UK, the traffic light system is solely determined by the covid situation in individual countries. By implication, Sierra Leone’s Covid situation has worsened. Many say that since the recently concluded European Nations football competition, the UK has seen a steady rise in the number of cases. It gets more ironical that despite the spike in the number of cases, the UK is ready to relax its restrictions on the same day that Sierra Leone will qualify for the red list. This means that as from Monday 19, masks will not be mandatory, although some settings like hospitals and other enclosed areas will still require it. Some have branded the move as daft.
According to local sources, Sierra Leone has recorded about 1000 cases in the last four weeks. Although this remains unverified, it appears to be comparatively low to that of the UK, which is relaxing its restrictions. So, what is the difference here? According to UK media reports, The UK has one of the highest vaccinated of its citizens in the world. There are eighty million, seven hundred and ninety-five thousand, eight hundred and fifty-two (80, 795,852) people that have received the vaccine. That is a solid percentage there.
In Sierra Leone, a source said that the country has vaccinated just a mammoth 3% of its population. According to a reliable source, the government has over six hundred thousand (600000) vaccines in its possession, and ready to dispense FREE of CHARGE. Sadly, and regrettably, those vaccines are due to EXPIRE AT THE END OF THIS MONTH, JULY. So, if the UK is ready to relax its restrictions in the face of rising cases of a more virulent Delta strain, where is it borrowing that sort of confidence from? It is fair to say that “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on its own wings. The UK’s confidence is in the success of its vaccine drive. But there could be a hidden message here; that Covid is here to stay and we must now learn to live with it.
In contrast to many other countries, it is still a surprise to many that until recently, the number of reported covid related deaths or its prevalence in Sierra Leone remained mysteriously low. Alhamdu lilahi for that. When you compare the length to which other countries have gone to tame this virus, you wonder how come our country is still standing. In the absence of a vaccine, we collectively relied mainly on preventive measures. In addition to treatment and isolation centres, it meant that PCR tests, especially for international travellers and “social distancing” were and continue to present a seemingly viable preventive measure. The government has implemented recurrent state of emergencies with night curfews and mandatory mask use. But just like night follows day, a curfew at night, followed by a jamboree at Dove Cot or Kroo Ton road market is as futile to social distancing as putting out a sea tanker fire with a drinking cup of water. Tell that to sisi Marie at Congo ton market.
It goes without saying that Vaccine Hesitancy is one of the main reasons why the uptake is relatively low in our country. Among the numerous factors responsible, myths, conspiracy theories, anti-vaccine preachers, culture, and by some stretch of the imagination religion, to name but a few have all contributed to stemming the vaccine process. There are some people who may want to use the Ebola outbreak, with all its inherently virulent and catastrophic toll on our people as a reference point. Some have been saying that unlike the Ebola, the Covid has comparatively claimed a lesser number of lives.
There are also some who see the case of malaria as more lethal in the country. That should not in any way provide comfort to anyone, and for obvious reasons. If we are going to stand any chance against this virulent delta Covid strain, and if we are to increase our chances of preventing a complete paralysis of our economic and social lifelines, it is imperative that PCR tests and social distancing alone will not be enough. Our vaccine hesitancy could cost unavoidable loss of lives. As for those preaching against taking the vaccine, what are they offering as alternatives? Raw soup or gbangban? Zilch.
The vaccine has shown an infinitesimal number of people have gone on to experience side effects, against the backdrop of medical conditions in some patients. And just like the flu vaccine/jab, people tend to get brief side effects. Some would say that the Covid vaccine may not provide a 100% fail proof, but it is the closest we can come to an INSURANCE policy against the virus. Besides, the vaccine gives an emotional release from the emotional asphyxiation that comes with Covid restrictions: wash your hands, don’t shake hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze, keep two meters apart, wear a disguise, sorry a mask etc.
The fact of the matter is that our collective vaccine hesitancy does not only present our country with the potential for a significant out break and loss of lives, but also the risk of serious threat to many financial services. With the UK leading the way in baptising our country, it only takes a few other European countries to follow suit, hopefully not, to bring our travel industry to a standstill. Even the “jesses” will be forced to stay away; how de Christmas go sweet ba? With our economy on life support machines, it is any body’s guess as to how much strain it can take to survive.
As for those helping to fuel the anti -vaxx theories and in effect vaccine hesitancy, what have the vaccinated got to lose? The UK may not have given specific reasons why Sierra Leone has been added to the red list. As a measure of risk assessment and management, the UK’s standard reason is down to the covid situation in our country. With that known, if our vaccination rate was, let’s say 60%, would Sierra Leone be in the red list? Don’t answer that, but I am sure you know by now what we need to do as citizens to get out of the red zone.
As citizens, we have a collective responsibility to not only prevent the spread of, but to protect ourselves and loved ones from this virus. With our perceived propensity to ignore mask mandates or maintain social distancing, the Vaccine gives us the best chance to carry on with our normal lives. The vaccine is the nearest we can come to a semblance of protection against this pandemic. Getting the vaccine is not only for personal reasons but for the good of us all. Just ask Boris Johnson. Monday 19th is FREEDOM DAY in the UK.
The year 2020? I wont recommend it. GO GET YOU VACCINE MEK WE COMOT PAN LOCK BUSH. VACCINE DE SAVE LIFE. Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.