23.04.2020 Feature Article

While We Got Locked Down

While We Got Locked Down
LISTEN APR 23, 2020

“Eventually, everyone will be quarantined

to their houses with no sports to watch… and

in 9 months from now a boom of babies will be born…

and we will call them coronials.”

Kaya Jones in a tweet

WHILE OR WHILST (Never: WHILES) we got locked down (this time not 'locked up'), people had time to do a whole lot of things they had found little time to do early on. The President's speech on Sunday night led to spontaneous jubilation nationwide – the three-week lockdown in Accra, Kumasi, Tema, Kasoa had had a telling effect on social life.

The jubilant crowds did not appear to appreciate the caveats: the country's borders remain closed; the ban on social gatherings, including religious gatherings, funerals, conferences and parties remain in force; there must be adherence to social distancing protocols; all to stay at home – unless absolutely necessary to go out; wearing of face masks in public places must be the norm; district assemblies are to come out with policies and mechanisms to decongest the country's market centres to ensure social distancing. Opportunities offered themselves for us to enjoy the backlog of sleep we had missed. And then go to play with the kids. It was great fun to listen to world leaders and reporters from BBC and CNN. We could hear them pronounce the word 'quarantine' as 'kwar-an-teen- (Note the 'schwa' sound in 'an'). The all-knowing Ghanaians have their own way of pronouncing the word: 'kwar-an-tain' (No schwa sound; 'teen' pronounced as 'tain' like Asiedu-Nketia's constituency).

The literally minded could go back to revive the old reading habits. 'Don Quixote' by Miguel de Cervantes had never been very well appreciated when it was last read some forty years ago. Not the original, El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha (The ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha)… but the translated version by Dr. Walter Starkie. Delightful, how in his delusional quest for fame, lanky Don Quixote, wearing a rusty old suit of armour, combed the countryside on a hungry-looking horse, followed by his loyal squire, Sancho Panza: “Don Quixote, a lanky scarecrow of a man with his withered face and lantern jaw, dons his rusty armour and mounts his ramshackle steed Rozinante. With lance couched he still rides through our lives followed by his pot-bellied squire Sancho Panza. The ill-sorted pair played a prominent part in the world of our grandparents and parents, and we transmit their message to our children and grandchildren”, so reads the introduction. And in the end, “Don Quixote's epitaph”: “Here lies the noble fearless knight, whose valour rose to such a height; when death at last had struck him down, His was the victory and renown. He reck'd the world of little prize, And was a bugbear in men's eyes; But had the fortune in his age. To live a fool and die a sage.”

The religiously inclined sought solace from Heaven, and could quote with Wordsworth the biblical exhortation in Proverbs chapter 1:31-33: “Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” Morality dumped: homo-sexuality, man marrying man: woman marrying woman-Sodom and Gomorrah on our minds!

And as displayed by U.S. President, Trump who has “downplayed, denied and misled the public about the seriousness of the threat”, with 40,000 deaths, the world has now seen the vulnerability and frailty of “earthly power”: Thomas Grey says in “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”: “…The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r, And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Awaits alike th'inevitable hour. The paths of glory lead but to the grave…”

Now, the whole America is quibbling over ventilators! President Trump is exchanging pungent words with New York Governor Cuomo. Trump seems to have committed a number of blunders: He started with the “shutting down of all travel from Europe“ quickly and wittily corrected by the White House: “…the travel ban only applies to human beings, not goods and cargo… the people transporting the goods will not be admitted into the country, but the goods will be.”

It was not clear from the statement whether U.S. citizens were also affected by the ban on travel. And Trump attacked the European Union for not acting quickly enough, the EU President reacted angrily, “The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action.” President Trump threatened to withhold U.S. support for W.H.O. “We're going to put a hold on money spent on the W.H.O. We're going to put a very powerful hold on it and we're going to see”. It was a clever way of shifting blame on W.H.O. for his own failures. Like Disney's Peter Pan, President Trump appears not to grow up. He had accused W.H.O. of being “China-centric”. The U.S. contributed over $5 billion of the W.H.O. budget of $6 billion, and in a crisis of this magnitude, the U.S. threatens to withhold its funding?

France is steeling itself for another lockdown for a month; and hoping to return to “normal life” by 11th May. If citizens were “civic, responsible and respect the rules” Emmanuel Macron, the French President admitted, “There is new hope but nothing is won at the moment… the epidemic is not under control.” In a tone of humility, Macron admits, “Were we prepared? No. Clearly not enough. There were failings, there was a lack of material…” Schools in France may open from May 11, but restaurants, cafes, hotels, museums, and cultural sites shall stay closed; large festivals and events may be allowed after mid-July. With over 14,000 deaths from coronavirus, France must be limping.

At a time, the U.S. is threatening to withdraw aid to W.H.O. Britain is supporting developing nation with over £2m. Unfortunately, Britain's lack of nurses has led to the cancellation of transfer of Covid-19 patients to Nightingale Hospital, but Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, says the NHIS was “preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.” In Germany, Angela Merkel, the leader's scientific background, is said to be propelling the country to face the pandemic with equanimity. Her scientific thinking, probing of each bit of information, cautious consultations with experts are said to be paying off, and easing Germany of this “pandemic of the mind.” So far, we have deaths of a little over 5,000 in Germany. Italy has reported the lowest number of deaths in a week, with over 24,600 deaths and 51,600 recoveries, Italy hopes to be on the mend.

We cringe to hear Australia has joined the U.S. in calling for an investigation into Beijing's transparency in the origin of the coronavirus pandemic. Foreign Minister Marise Payne says, “My trust in China is predicated in the long term. My concern is around transparency and ensuring that we are able to engage openly.”

Meanwhile, as if to do a “mea culpa”, China is circumnavigating the developing world with handouts, to cool our hearts for the calamity of the century, from Wuhan‒ and the wearing of the face mask has, unfortunately, come to stay.

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From Africanus Owusu-Ansah

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