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06.04.2020 Opinion

How Social, Economic And Corporate Landscapes Are Changing Amidst COVID-19 & 5G Myths

By Uche Sam
How Social, Economic And Corporate Landscapes Are Changing Amidst COVID-19 & 5G Myths
LISTEN APR 6, 2020

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, conspiracy theories in favour of the claim that Americans actually imported the novel coronavirus into Wuhan Province, where it was first discovered with the sole aim to slow down China’s emergence as the new world economic superpower, but how much do Chinese history, culture, lifestyle and sociopolitical outlook support this position.

In defense of China, this school of thought sees China quietly racing ahead of the United States of America in critical areas such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Space Technology, 5G Communications, Clean & Renewable Energy, etc. which in many ways than one reflects the outlook of the future of humanity, one that will be less dependent on expensive forms of energy such as crude oil, coal, and nuclear energy.

Believers of this worldview, insist that if America had enjoyed a fantastic outing as the ‘Numero Uno’ in economics and science & technology for about 15 decades, they believe that global leadership in these areas is fast shifting to China and that the Americans are not excitedly playing the catch-up game in these areas, hence the coronavirus outbreak.

There is no disputing today, that the US remains the largest global economy ranked by nominal GDP, but when ranked by GDP (purchasing power parity), China appears several trillion dollars ahead and is seriously setting the pace in new economic areas.

In view of the foregoing, the reputation of China as the manufacturer of cheap and sometimes substandard products, including poor human rights record, crackdown on the media, freedom of speech and its cannibal-like eating culture makes it increasingly difficult for China to cement its place as the emerging world leader. Bat eating in several parts of China is another pointer. According to some observers, the virus is claimed to have been contracted through bat eating culture amongst Chinese, as it is alleged that an individual who recently ate virus laden bat began to display covid19 symptoms such as respiratory failure including coughing which was then transferred to members of his community in Wuhan, China.

A look at an article titled "The possible origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus" says the new coronavirus "probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan." Another China Science Communication publication in December 2019 also shows scientists from Wuhan Center of Disease Prevention and Control (with labs within 300m of Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Market) collecting bat samples to test for viruses.

In another separate report, two Chinese scientists published a now-deleted paper on ResearchGate. It claims that covid19/nCoV2019 may have originated from accidental ‘Wuhan Center of Disease Control and Prevention’ leakage due to high-risk behavior and bad operational security.

Still on the issue, a South China University of Technology biologist, Xiao Botao exposed that the COVID19 might have originated from an animal research laboratory 280m away from the epicenter of the outbreak. According to him, the scientists were reportedly bitten by bats used for a test on louse.

It is very easy to concede that these different claims could suitably fall under conspiracy theories, particularly when required to denounce people’s assertions without evidence. Many times, people were silenced using that term only to be proven correct, but noteworthy is the unanimity of Wuhan, China as the point zero of the novel coronavirus, which has barely been disputed by the Chinese authourities.

COVID19: WHAT IS CHINA COVERING UP?

Moving slightly away from possible remote or immediate causes of the covid19, despite reported cases in China reaching about 82,000 coronavirus cases with 3300 deaths in a nation of 1.5 billion people, experts accuse Chinese authourities as clearly not being accurate with the figures. According to a former U.S envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley claims China cares more about its reputation than helping the rest of the world defeat a virus that was started in their country.

The NYT reports that nearly 40,000 people have flown in from China since President Trump imposed the travel restrictions. The restrictions were never actually designed as a complete ban as US corona virus cases have since surpassed that of China.

Recall that on the 14th of January the World Health Organization, WHO reported how preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in Wuhan, China. This in addition to allegations contained in a White House report that China is publishing fake data to deceive countries.

It is on record that the first Chinese doctor who reported large scale deaths arising from the covid19 in Wuhan, China was initially suspended and then subsequently alleged to have died from complications associated with the symptoms of the corona virus.

The Guardian reported the death of a whistleblowing Chinese doctor who was punished for trying to raise the alarm about coronavirus. According to the UK tabloid, Li Wenliang, 34, died in the early hours of Friday local time after he was infected during the fight against the outbreak, said Wuhan central hospital, where he worked, in a statement.

Li had warned colleagues on social media in late December about a mysterious virus that would become the coronavirus epidemic and was detained by police in Wuhan on 3 January for “spreading false rumours”. He was forced to sign a police document to admit he had breached the law and had “seriously disrupted social order.”

The question now is, how many lives could have been saved if China had been honest from the start?

Should there be a national resistance against anything coming from China?

ASSESSING NIGERIA, AFRICA’S RESPONSE TO COVID19

The Nigerian government announced a total lockdown on the 31st of April, which gives the Federal Ministry of Health (FMH) and the Nigerian Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC) a 14-day window period to access the extent of contamination nationwide and provide a holistic containment strategy. This is considering the fact that Nigeria and some other African countries have missed the 1st window period to stay ahead of the virus since its breakout in Wuhan, China since late December, 2019.

During this lockdown, workers residing in Lagos and Abuja the countries commercial and Federal Capital Territory respectively are mandated to work remotely from home. This leaves public officials, corporate organizations, entrepreneurs and other public service providers no option other than devising innovative ways to keep the system running effectively without moving from place to place, just as the virus is aided principally via human to human transmission.

Nigeria plans to set up a $1.2 billion coronavirus intervention fund after becoming the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to report infections, but experts are calling for the country’s health authourities to ramp up its daily testing efforts, after it was reported that South Africa had launched Mobile Units for COVID-19 testing, becoming the first African country to hit 50,000 coronavirus tests. Recall that Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance twitter handle recently put out a public appeal to Tesler owner, Elun Musk, begging for 500 ventilators, an action which it later claimed was not authorized after public condemnation.

Botswana is spending a $168 million relief fund on assisting businesses in paying the salaries of workers to make sure they don't lay off any worker during the coronavirus lockdown, while Mauritius is providing food to each poor household during the coronavirus lockdown. The country already has free education, free healthcare and free transportation for old people, physically challenged people and students.

According to reports, Covid-19 is airborne in temperate regions and the best defence against it is wearing facemask followed by thorough handwashing, but in tropical climate like ours it is not airborne as it gets burned and as such the best guard if you are not a caregiver is adopting thorough hand washing.

Be that as it may, the major factors that seriously undermines strategic efforts at tackling or containing the covid19 Pandemic in most African and developing countries are; extreme poverty, dysfunctional health systems, myths and pervasive ignorance (illiteracy).

However, in response to these developments, a member of Nigerian parliament and Professor of Agronomy, Hon. (Prof.) Steve Azaiki, OON. has called on the Nigerian government to consider as part of its responses due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its citizens and the sharp decline in oil prices resulting from low global demand to seek for a rebate on debts Nigeria owe China, considering the origins of the corona virus.

The renowned environmentalist and human rights advocate who hails from Nigeria’s oil rich Niger-Delta also seeks a Coronavirus Compensation Scheme for medical workers and all those who as dedicated and committed professionals, are bravely putting themselves in harm’s way to protect Nigerians. He is also proposing that this will be open to those who die as a result of contracting Covid-19 while performing front-line duties.

In addition, he also proposes that the goodwill of corporate Nigeria who have been responding to the call of the Federal Government to avert the looming humanitarian crisis resulting from COVID-19, especially to the poorest in the society through their coordinated interventions, be recommended for a tax rebate for at least two (2) months. This is in addition to ongoing enlightenment and advocacy constituency engagements he has been coordinating in Yenagoa/Kolokuma-Opokuma Federal Constituency, Bayelsa State, Nigeria.

Apart from his persistent call in the parliament for the countries leadership to join the 1st and 2nd batch of nations who shut their borders early to the pandemic, Prof. Steve Azaiki has equally donated palliative materials to citizens in his constituency, including food, sanitizers and protective face masks to the most vulnerable in his constituency and recently upgraded the Primary Health Centres (PHC) across the wards in the two local government area with alternative sources of energy in a handful of generator sets.

Nigeria's elite are trapped by coronavirus and now exposed to the squalid hospitals they could previously avoid, Nigeria's elites should have been investing in the public services sector like clinics, hospitals, education and infrastructure. So many of Nigeria's problems are the legacy of decades of poor and predatory leadership.

Nigeria spent about 5 percent of the budget on health in the past decade, falling short of the African Union’s recommended minimum of 15 percent. There has been little capital investment made in this sector over the years, according to BudgIT Nigeria.

However, in sharp contrast, the Nigerian government recently collected a $22 Billion loan from China using the Joint Venture agreements of oil companies as collateral. Recall that the aim was initially to sell the NNPC shares in the land and swamp area JV’s with the IOC’s, but the then NUPENG leadership opposed the idea.

As at the 2nd of April, Africa as a whole has 7,000 confirmed cases, USA has 277,000 cases, Italy has 119,000 cases and Spain, 119,000 cases. The whole of Africa has recorded only 23 corona virus deaths compared to Italy - 13950 deaths, China - 3314 deaths, Spain - 10,935 deaths and USA - 6,099 deaths.

Despite these records, there are reports that DR Congo has agreed to allow coronavirus vaccines from USA, China and Canada to be tested on its citizens, Jean-Jacques Muyembe, a Congolese official is reported to have confirmed this position after two French Doctors were suggesting on national TV that the vaccines should first be experimented on Africans before it is allowed to be clinically approved for use on French citizens.

COVID-19 AND THE CHANGING CORPORATE LANDSCAPE

For members of the corporate community, the emergence of the corona virus pandemic has greatly impacted business operations and interfaces in many ways than one.

A case study is a midstream operator in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, who in setting the very high standard of service delivery has immediately embarked on innovative ways to help cushion the direct economic impact on its business operations by optimizing essential digital work tools through staff trainings, aimed at improving productivity while working remotely to support its clients’ operations in the ever dynamic oil and gas industry.

In view of this, emphasizing its corporate status as a world class business that generates long term value regardless of the times, demonstrates an understanding of the major challenges corporate organizations face at this time, which is maintaining higher performance while working remotely. For the company, while embracing technology, it insists on increasing commitment to established performance objectives as well as creative and disciplined engagement to navigate through these times.

Similarly, there are a few tech tools that corporate organizations are leveraging to maximize activities in these uncharted territories, which further enables staff to collaborate more effectively while working from home. Some of these Apps and their functions include; ‘Slack’ a communication tool used for direct chat & group chat for different units and departments, ‘Google Drive’ for online storage and file sharing, ‘Zoom’ a communication tool used for audio, video calls and conference meetings, ‘Skype’ a communication tool that also provides audio, video calls and conference meetings, ‘Any Desk’ for remote tech support.

CORONA VIRUS IMPACT ON FOREIGN TRADE

One major fall out of the Covid19 pandemic is its impact on Foreign Trade. Post Corona virus, experts have predicted that there will be global financial crises and the multiplier effect may be devastating to many, especially developing nations.

US oil prices soared as much as 35% to $27.39 a barrel after Trump said that he hopes and expects Saudi Arabia and Russia will slash output by between 10 million and 15 million barrels per day. Crude closed with a surge of 25% to $25.32 a barrel. That exceeds the previous one-day record that was set exactly two weeks ago. Brent crude oil now trading at $34.30, the highest in almost 20 days.

Saudi Arabia and Russia have been locked in an epic price war since early March, flooding the oil market with cheap crude just as demand is cratering because of the coronavirus pandemic. Crude has crashed to 18-year lows, crushing American oil companies and energy stocks.

Although Trump suggested the deep cuts would be coming solely from Saudi Arabia and Russia, there are signs that OPEC is looking for other countries, including perhaps the United States, to join in.

A truce between Saudi Arabia and Russia would aid an oil market that analysts estimate is oversupplied by around 25 million barrels per day. Demand for transport fuels in particular has been decimated by travel restrictions aimed at containing the pandemic.

Some analysts have however described this move as completely unrealistic. The official Saudi Press Agency said in a statement on Thursday that the kingdom is seeking a meeting for members of the OPEC+ alliance, which includes Russia, "and another group of countries" in an attempt to try to reach a "fair solution to restore the desired balance of the oil markets."

It's not clear who would be part of that additional group of countries. The statement said the invitation is part of Saudi Arabia's efforts to support the global economy "and in appreciation of the US President's request and the US friends' request."

Analysts expressed skepticism that Saudi Arabia and Russia would suddenly reverse course and slash production by nearly as much as Trump suggested. "This is a completely unrealistic expectation," said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData. Smith pointed out that even the low end of Trump's touted production cuts, 10 million barrels, amounts to virtually all of Saudi Arabia's output. "From a logic standpoint, from a political standpoint, it doesn't make any sense," he said.

Big cuts by Russia would undermine its goal of drowning high-cost US shale producers in a sea of cheap oil. The recent crash in oil prices to $20 a barrel will likely set off a wave of bankruptcies and job cuts in the US oil industry, hence demand, not supply, is the No. 1 problem.

Considering that we accept that production cuts by Russia and Saudi Arabia would ease a great deal of pressure in the oil market, however, the primary cause of the oil crash is weak demand, not excess supply. The extreme restrictions imposed globally especially in America to fight the coronavirus pandemic have caused an unprecedented collapse in oil demand. Highways are empty. Passenger jets have been parked. And factories are not operating.

US gasoline demand, the No. 1 swing factor for global oil demand, is plunging because most Americans have been forced to work from home. IHS Markit estimates that US gasoline demand could collapse by more than 50% during the coronavirus response period. That would easily surpass the demand lost during the Great Recession. All of these mean that even if there is a truce between Saudi Arabia and Russia, prices may remain under pressure. Source [CNN].

ANY MAGIC MONEY TREES FOR DEVOLOPING NATIONS?

The United Nations have predicted that the world economy will go into recession this year with a predicted loss of global income in the trillions of dollars, a serious concern for developing countries, with the likely exception of China and, possibly, India.

During the year, fiscal and foreign exchange constraints are certain to tighten and UNCTAD estimates there will be a financing gap of $2 trillion to $3 trillion facing developing countries over the next two years.

UNCTAD’s Director of Globalization and Development Strategies, Richard Kozul-Wright said advanced economies have promised to do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop their firms and households from taking a heavy loss of income.

“But if G20 leaders are to stick to their commitment of ‘a global response in the spirit of solidarity,’ there must be commensurate action for the six billion people living outside the core G20 economies.”

If many developing countries don’t have monetary, fiscal and administrative capacity to respond to the CoViD-19 crisis, the consequences of a combined health pandemic and a global recession will be catastrophic for them. It will halt their progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

RISING ECONOMIC DAMAGES

Developing countries have taken a huge hit in terms of capital outflows, growing bond spreads, currency depreciations and lost export earnings, including from falling commodity prices and declining tourist revenues, since the virus began spreading outside of China, according to the UNCTAD report.

A classic case can be seen in Nigeria and its mono-economic status. Crude oil has since crashed globally owing to low demand and the U.S President Donald Trump has called on Russia and Saudi Arabia to both cut down production massively, an action critic continues to describe as unrealistic. For the Largest oil producing nation in Africa, Nigeria. It has since been a tale of ‘two giants fighting while the grass suffers’.

Nigeria’s budgets are bench marked at about $65/barrel, with recent events as induced by covid19 globally prices have fallen drastically to $20/barrel and just recently risen to about $33/barrel, a situation analyst claim spells doom for an economy which has resisted attempts at diversifying to other real sectors. What this portends for Africa’s largest economy, which thrives on foreign loans and debt servicing is unprecedented in many ramifications, a situation that the United Nations Committee for Trade and Development, UNCTAD predicts will impact on Nigeria and other developing nations worse than in 2008.

According to an unpublished U.N report, with domestic economic activities in these countries feeling the direct effects of the crises, UNCTAD is not optimistic that a rapid rebound will occur for many developing countries like it did between 2009 and 2010 and so recommends an out of the box solution.

Portfolio outflows have surged from main emerging economies to $59 billion in a month between February and March, more than double the outflows compared to the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis of $26.7 billion.

Their currencies values have also fallen between 5% and 25% since the beginning of this year, and faster than the early months of the global financial crisis (see chart below).

Since the crisis began, the prices of commodities; (as in the case of Nigeria crude oil), which many developing countries heavily depend on for their foreign exchange, have also dropped quickly.

According to the report, overall price decline has been 37% this year.

UN INITIATES COVID-19 DEBT RELIEF PACKAGE FOR DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is calling for a $2.5 Trillion support package for developing countries to deal with the coronavirus shock.

The call comes as two-thirds of the world’s population living in developing countries (excluding China) faces unprecedented economic damage from the crisis.

In a press release dated 30 March, the UN stated that $1 trillion should be made available through the expanded use of special drawing rights.

In addition, $1 trillion of debts owed by developing countries should be cancelled this year, and $500 billion is needed to fund a Marshall Plan for health recovery and dispersed as grants.

UN trade and development body, UNCTAD reports that the speed at which the economic shockwaves from the pandemic has hit developing countries is dramatic, even in comparison to the 2008 global financial crisis.

UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi, said the economic fallout from the shock is ongoing and increasingly difficult to predict but there are clear indications that things will get much worse for developing economies before they get better.

ECONOMIC RELIEF PACKAGES

Advanced economies and China have put together massive government packages recently to extend a $5 trillion lifeline to their economies, according to the Group of 20 leading economies (G20).

UNCTAD's initial assessment estimates the packages will see a $1 trillion to $2 trillion boost of demand into the major G20 economies and a two-percentage point turnaround in global output.

COVID-19 AND GLOBAL WARMING

Around the world, seismologists are observing a lot less ambient seismic noise — the vibrations generated by cars, trains, buses and people going about their daily lives. In the absence of that noise, Earth's upper crust is moving just a little less. In addition, Nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) emissions, a major air pollutant, are closely linked to factory output and vehicles operating on the road.

As both industry and transport come to a halt during this pandemic, NO₂ emissions can be a good indicator of global economic activity—and the changes are visible from space.

Images from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), as well as satellite footage from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), show a drastic decline in NO₂ emissions over recent months, particularly across Italy and China. In Italy, the number of active COVID-19 cases has surpassed China (including the death toll). Amid emergency actions to lock down the entire nation, everything from schools and shops, to restaurants and even some churches, are closed. Italy is also an industrial hub, with the sector accounting for nearly 24% of GDP. With many Italians urged to work from home if possible, visible economic activity has dropped considerably.

This 10-day moving average animation (from January 1st—March 11th, 2020) of nitrogen dioxide emissions across Europe clearly demonstrates how the drop in Italy’s economic activity has impacted the environment. The emissions changes above China are possibly even more obvious to the eye. China is the world’s most important manufacturing hub and a significant contributor to greenhouse gases globally. But in the month following Lunar New Year (a week-long festival in early February), satellite imagery painted a different picture. Source: [NASA Earth Observatory]

NO₂ emissions around the Hubei province, the original epicenter of the virus, steeply dropped as factories were forced to shutter their doors for the time being. What’s more, there were measurable effects in the decline of other emission types from the drop in coal use during the same time, compared to years prior.

DEBUNKING MYTHS ABOUT COVID-19 & 5G TECHNOLOGY.

Firstly, there is an ongoing myth out there that 5G has dangerous radiation. For starters that is completely false. The kind of electromagnetic waves emitted by 5G is basically related to existing radio wave but It is indeed 10times higher than the usual frequency of a normal cellular. The only difference is that its spectrum is still within the normal radio wave which is largely non - ionizing radiation

Secondly, that coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, China because of 5G is also very false. This is because, Wuhan is one of the few places 5G was rolled out at first and places like Shanghai, Beijing, and others had the test rolled out as well and remember that the rolling out didn't happen this year either.

Under Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR), you have the ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation is a type of energy released by atoms that travels in the form of electromagnetic waves (gamma or X-rays) or particles (neutrons, beta or alpha).

Ionizing radiation is only harmful to an organism as a whole when its amount gets too high. We are constantly bombarded with very small amounts of ionizing radiation that occur naturally, and we get along just fine with our lives without being seriously harmed by this radiation.

There are trace amounts of naturally-occurring radioactive atoms in the air, in the rocks, in our food, and inside our bodies. When these atoms radioactively decay, they emit ionizing radiation. By its nature of being ionizing, such radiation can damage individual molecules even at low intensity. But if the amount of ionizing radiation exposure is very low, our bodies can handle a few damaged molecules without any problem, so that there is no harm done to our bodies.

Ionizing radiation can affect the atoms in living things, so it poses a health risk by damaging tissue and DNA in genes. has sufficient energy to affect the atoms in living cells and thereby damage their genetic material (DNA).

Fortunately, the cells in our bodies are extremely efficient at repairing this damage. Non-ionizing radiation is the term given to radiation in the part of the electromagnetic spectrum where there is insufficient energy to cause ionization. It includes electric and magnetic fields, radio waves, microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet, and visible radiation.

The 5G spectrum is considered a radio wave and as such is a non-ionising radiation. Near ultraviolet, visible light, infrared, microwave, radio waves, and low-frequency radio frequency (longwave) are all examples of non-ionizing radiation.

By contrast, far ultraviolet light, X-rays, gamma-rays, and all particle radiation from radioactive decay are ionizing. These are the ones perceived to be dangerous.

Non-ionizing radiation is relatively low-energy radiation that doesn't have enough energy to ionize atoms or molecules. It's located at the low end of the electromagnetic spectrum. Non-ionizing radiation sources include power lines, microwaves, radio waves, infrared radiation, visible light and lasers. Although considered less dangerous than ionizing radiation, overexposure to non-ionizing radiation can cause health issues. Let's take a look at some examples of non-ionizing radiation and the safety issues surrounding them.

Extremely low frequency (ELF) radiation is the radiation produced by things like power lines or electrical wiring. There are health concerns associated with magnetic field exposures near power lines, and this issue is very controversial.

Obviously, ELF radiation surrounds us every day, but hazardous exposure depends on the strength of the ELF at the source, as well as the distance and duration of exposure. Research on ELF radiation focuses on cancer and reproductive issues. So far, no research has proven that there is a definitive link between ELF radiation and illness, but studies have shown some preliminary connections [source: WHO].

Radio frequency (RF) and microwave (MV) radiation come most commonly from radios, televisions, microwave ovens and cell phones. However, both RF and MV waves can interfere with pacemakers, hearing aids and defibrillators, and people should take appropriate precautions. In recent years, concerns about cell phone radiation have made headlines.

Although there is no proven link between cell phone usage and health issues, the potential is there. Again, it's all about exposure. Large amounts of RF exposure can heat tissue, which can damage skin or eyes and raise body temperature.

Some experts recommend using a headset or hands-free device if you use your cell phone frequently and for long periods [source: FCC.]. Our skin and eyes absorb infrared radiation (IR) as heat. Overexposure to IR can result in burns and pain. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation overexposure concerns us because there are no immediate symptoms. However, effects can develop quickly afterward in the form of a sunburn or worse. Nevertheless, overexposure to UV radiation can lead to skin cancer, cataracts and a compromised immune system [source: EPA].

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