April 26, 2020

Lockdown: A new way to a healthy earth

Morak Babajide-Alabi

By Morak Babajide-Alabi

The prevailing situation in the world, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic has once again highlighted our resilience. It is also testing our patience and ability to survive in a different set-up. As a result of the forced lockdown all over the world, we have conditioned ourselves to do many things differently as we adjust to the challenges that these throw at us.

To many, if not all, it is a strange world to the one we were in about three months ago. In the present circumstances, we have learnt to do everything differently. We are advised that gestures such as shaking hands, hugs and displays of affection to people outside our households are unhygienic. It does not matter if these represent age-old actions. At the start, we invented the elbow shaking, but this did not last long, as the lockdown defeated the purpose. For effective social distancing, there must be a gap of 2 meters between you and a stranger. Therefore, how do you manage the crazy elbow shaking?

Also read: COVID-19: OYTRMA commences free distribution of face masks to motorcyclists, tricyclists, drivers

The social distancing measure has turned us into new creatures. It is no surprise or something to be offended by when people run to the other side of the road to avoid walking past others. We shop with exaggerated distance nowadays, as we float away from other shoppers. Gone are the days when you ask the opinion of fellow shoppers before deciding on which item to put in the trolley. The shops and supermarkets look more like hospital wards nowadays as we wear our gloves and masks. And like hospital porters, we push the trolleys round and round, and as fast as we could, so, we can get back to the safety of the four corners of our homes.

This is a great plus to the global environment. There are few vehicles on the roads, as journeys and runarounds are kept to the minimal level. The loss of the economy is the gain of the environment as only a few essential types of factory machinery are allowed to operate at this time. There is less pollution in our cities as would have been at any time of the year. The skies are clear while the air is gentler on noses. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that air pollution kills seven million people worldwide annually. The gain of the lockdown cannot be overemphasised as we learnt that 9 out of 10 of us breathe polluted air daily.

Ironically, the 50th Anniversary of the Earth Day, with the focus on climate action was celebrated last week. It was an ideal time to remind ourselves that the earth is fragile, and we should handle it as such. We may not believe in the works of campaigners like Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough and more, but we know we have to make a few changes to save the earth for the generations to come. Impressively one of the fiercest critics of global warming, the United States of America President Donald Trump, accompanied by his wife, Melania, planted trees to mark this year’s Earth Day. We may not know how sincere this action was.

Comparative pictures of some cities before and during the lockdown show how much pollution we are exposed to. New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world managed a sixty per cent reduction in pollution during the lockdown. The residents breathe easy, and their hope of living longer is much than it was before the lockdown. It is doubtful if this record will ever be achieved again as it is impossible to keep the vehicles off the roads or stop the factories from manufacturing. The world has to move forward, however, we must at individual and governmental levels deal with whatever we need to do to keep the earth clean.

At the start of the Coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, it was a bit of far away news item that we never imagined would be a bother to us in other parts of the world. We felt protected, like the virus in Wuhan, thousands of miles away, would take ages to travel to wherever we were holed up. As a result, we did not give the virus a second thought. When the city of Wuhan was placed on lockdown, we laughed at the Chinese leaders and termed the move as “extreme.” That laughter would later turn to “had we known?” Because instead for us to secure an early start to preventing the spread of the virus, we made fun of the Chinese.

The western governments identified it as a Chinese issue and made preparations to evacuate citizens from Wuhan. The scramble started in earnest as planes lined up on the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport (WUH) tarmac. The mission was to get as many western citizens out of Wuhan before the city disappears “just” like that. They huddled into aeroplanes and off they were hurled out of Wuhan to various parts of the world. Barely did these leaders think of the virus emigrating on any of these planes.

We called the Chinese various names for their seemingly barbaric actions. We pretended as if we might not have eaten bats as a part of the Chinese buffets we love so much. “That serves them right,” a friend of mine commented under one of many Chinese videos he shared with me. The ever-present unqualified armchair commentators began theorising on how the Coronavirus pandemic would help China in her population control.

While they were roasting China, the leaders promptly swung into action to curtail the further spread of the lethal virus. They came up with a way to make history. It started and completed in ten days the 1000-bed facility, Huoshenshan Hospital – built to accommodate and treat infected patients. The move was swift, and before you could say “Jack,” the Chinese pursued the brilliant journey to banish the virus. Deaths were recorded daily from the pandemic, but the recovery rate improved.

This prompted the unpredictable Trump to praise the efforts of the Chinese government. He tweeted on January 24: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well.” Are you wondering what informed Trump’s current stance on China?

Trump’s 360-degree turnaround and describing China in uncomplimentary remarks lately is not a surprise to many. More so, he is just one of the rising numbers of conspiracists. He also successfully assumed the role of the official mouthpiece of the conspiracy theorists on the platform of the Presidency of the most powerful country. Trump’s support has emboldened many more theorists to come to the public with outlandish claims.

One theory that will haunt China for years is the virus was a Wuhan-laboratory experiment that went wrong. China and experts dismissed this as incredible proving that the virus originated from bats. We know that China has not been upfront with accurate figures and data related to the virus. These constant manipulations make some of these conspiracy theories seem like the golden truth.

Stepping up to mounting criticisms last week but dressed as a principle of “being responsible for history, the people and the deceased,” China revised its COVID-19 figures for Wuhan, upward. The official Xinhua news agency reported 50,333 as the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wuhan. This is an upward review by 325 cases, while the number of fatalities went up by 1,290 to 3,869. This brings China’s overall death toll to 4,632. It was a far cry from the figures initially claimed by the Chinese.

It is too early to clear China of any “malpractices” in this pandemic, as the country has not come to equity with clean hands.

M. Babajide-Alabi,

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