America, wake up.
“There is no shortage of lab tests [for coronavirus] in Africa,” Rosanna Peeling, chair of diagnostics research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told South Africa’s Fin24 a few hours ago. Stated, yet still hard to believe.
But because of this perception together with the widely exposed negligence of America managing the virus, Americans have been banned from South Africa and Kenya as of last night.
The bans are for an indefinite period of time. Many other African countries are likely to follow suit because the number of cases in the continent is rising steeply.
As of a few hours ago South Africa had 61 cases and Kenya only a few. A tiny hotspot is the wine country north of Cape Town, otherwise the cases are spread widely across both countries. The likelihood, of course, is that there are thousands more cases undetected.
It remains unclear if these bans will trigger standard travel interruption and cancellation insurance for American holiday-makers.
The decisions to ban incoming travel from virus “hotspots” were made Sunday after more than 60 cases were reported in South Africa and several in Kenya as well as the first deaths from community transmission in South Africa. The list of countries considered by Africans to be “hot spots” of the virus also include the UK, Italy, Korea, Iran and others.
Kenya has a larger ban which includes any country which has confirmed coronavirus cases.
Both countries have closed all schools and banned groups of more than 100 people. The similarity of the two bans and time of publication suggests they are coordinating their response.
This is wise. South Africa is best prepared to deal with the pandemic, but it will still be a major uphill battle because so much of its impoverished population is squeezed together in very dense public housing or in makeshift shanty towns on the outskirts of its main cities.
Other countries like Kenya are completely incapable of dealing with the pandemic effectively. Their only hope is to try to seal themselves from the rest of the world until the virus abates.
The irony that Africa at this moment seems to have more widespread available testing than the U.S. is for a variety of reasons, but mostly because the African countries – unlike the U.S. – have accepted W.H.O.’s tests which are shipped out pretty quickly. Ethiopia also announced around 200,000 will arrive from Germany this week.
Moreover, Ethiopia struck over the weekend a deal with Chinese billionaire Jack Ma to provide each of the 56 African countries with 10-20,000 test kits and 100,000 masks.
This number of tests is small when compared to what the U.S. is anticipating for itself. The difference is that they appear real and the time frames realistic.
Testing predictions in the U.S. have yet to prove true.
Excepting South Africa and urban Nigeria and Kenya, most of sub-Saharan Africa will have a much different coronavirus experience from the West.
Disease in general is less causative of rural sub-Saharan Africa suffering than it is normative. Modern afflictions like diabetes, cancers and failing joints are often not even diagnosed much less treated. Diarrhea and secondary hygienic infections often balloon out of control, contributing to a mortality from disease that is often not related to the original affliction.
So inject coronavirus into this mess and it’s not going to significantly alter the already serious suffering occurring much less the more unique sufferings caused by unrest and climate change. Rather what we’re hearing now in the news is from the highly educated, mega modern urban areas (where admittedly as much as a quarter to a third of all African societies are).
There may be something very important happening in the world, today as biology demonstrates the even-handed morality that societies have abandoned.