It began like one of those usual ailments that blows over in under a little while.
In fact, the story commenced in Wuhan, the sprawling capital of Central China’s Hubei province; a commercial center divided by the Yangtze and Han rivers. It was here in December 2019 that a virus that would come to be eventually declared a pandemic; first reared its ugly head.
It would come to be called a name that would itself strike a chill wherever it berths. Coronavirus…
At least, that was the name until the World Health Organization (WHO) eventually renamed it COVID-19.
As a matter of fact, the novel coronavirus is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It is a virus that has indeed gone viral.
After waiting for several weeks and watching it make a mazy run, spreading across over 70 countries; the WHO, on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, finally declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. In fact, the virus had actually lived up to that status before the WHO’s declaration. By Thursday March 12, 2020, over 135,000 cases have been confirmed in more than 120 countries and territories; with major outbreaks in mainland China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran. Close to 5,000 people have died from the disease. More than 70,000 have recovered.
Currently, there is no other subject that has attracted as much coverage and attention in recent times than coronavirus.
As at press time today, Friday, March 13, 2020; the concerns raised about the coronavirus pandemic have taken on more weighty significance across the globe. The ease with which the virus has caused widespread soci0-political and economic disruption around the world is unprecedented; itself a further proof of the increasingly interconnected nature of the present world order.
Wall Street, the world’s largest stock exchange, was trading at record highs barely three weeks ago. On Thursday, it took a bashing, with investors suffering their biggest losses in three decades. On Friday, it was the turn of the Asian markets to go tumbling. Here in Nigeria, fears have been raised over a possible devaluation of the Naira. This came after excess volatility in the foreign exchange market induced by the coronavirus scourge.
Around the world, coronavirus has disrupted a number of activities, including a coronavirus conference in the Netherlands; called off because of fears of coronavirus.
Italy is on a total lock-down. Daily life has ground to a halt after the deaths of more than 1000 people as a result of coronavirus. In fact, doctors are reportedly facing a choice of determining who lives and who dies.
In the United States, New York City has declared a state of emergency. Schools will close in at least six states. Also, Broadway is going dark and Disney parks are shutting their doors for the first time; since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 sponsored by Osama bin Laden. Even Mount Everest was closed to climbers on Friday.
Almost all sporting activities have been affected.
The NBA, basketball’s numero uno league event, has been suspended in the US. The major U.S. professional soccer and hockey leagues also followed suit in suspending their seasons on Thursday. Serie A, Italy’s top flight league, has been put on hold. In England, the Premier League, English Football League and Women Soccer League have been suspended until April 3; after a meeting held on Friday after Arsenal manager; Mikel Arteta and Chelsea forward, Callum Hudson-Odoi, both tested positive. A number of other players are also being tested for the virus. All England internationals have also been cancelled as well as England team fixtures at every level. Furthermore, matches in Europe’s premier club football event, the Champions League, have also been postponed.
No one is safe or immune.
In fact, the highly-placed seem even more at risk of contracting the dreaded coronavirus. Unlike other plagues in times past, the coronavirus seems to be targeting political leaders and the elite around the world.
Peter Dutton, Australia’s Home Affairs Minister has tested positive for the virus. Days ago, he had met with the daughter of US President, Ivanka Trump and other U.S. officials. Dutton was photographed standing directly next to the president’s daughter; and a few feet away from U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is on self-isolation after his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, tested positive. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro, is awaiting results of his own test after an aide fell ill. Meanwhile, President Trump said he had not been tested for the coronavirus; despite coming into contact with the Brazilian aide who tested positive – Fabio Wajngarten, communications secretary to President Bolsonaro. Actor, Tom Hanks and his wife have also tested positive.
Travel restrictions have also been imposed around the world.
The United States has restricted travel from all European countries, except UK, for 30 days. Belgium on Friday joined the list of nations closing schools. Cafes and restaurants were also ordered to shut their doors at midnight. Elsewhere, countries imposed new travel restrictions and bans on public gatherings. Australia has announced that starting Monday all events with 500 people or more will effectively be banned.
In Africa, where the virus has surprisingly failed to hit the same fatality levels as in other continents; there have also been some concerns.
Three countries have recorded index cases of the disease. They include Ghana, Gabon and Kenya. South Africa is Sub-Saharan Africa’s most impacted country. Others with cases include Nigeria, Cameroon, DR Congo, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Togo and Ivory Coast; as well as Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria.
In Algeria, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Thursday (March 12) ordered the shutting down of schools nationwide; after the country recorded new coronavirus cases and one death. The measure is part of efforts to prevent the spread of the pandemic. The closure will be in place till April 5, according to a statement from the presidency.
Meanwhile, China is pushing a new theory about the origins of the coronavirus. It claims that it is an American disease that might have been introduced by members of the US Army; who visited Wuhan in October 2019.
Fears have been raised in several quarters that the world is yet to see the worst of the coronavirus outbreak. Some have described it as a pandemic that may spell the end of the world.
The world quakes with thudding hearts and bated breaths as its icy chill leaves a trail of deaths and disruption in its wake.