AS OF March 27, 2020, 10:06 GMT, the World Health Organization made the following situational report on the Covid-19 pandemic: confirmed cases: 465,915; confirmed deaths: 21,031; countries and areas affected: 200. When we thought that World War 3 would be a nuclear holocaust; what we have is World War C fought in every shore as microscopic enemies invade communities without consideration of status, age, sex, religion or ethnicity.
While international humanitarian law defines the conduct of what can and cannot be done during an armed conflict, this war against coronavirus has no set of ground rules. Governments have confronted the situation in different manners. The seeming success of China in containing the virus using Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, as a model, according to a report from the WHO-China Joint Mission was due to its “science-based, risk-informed and phased approach.” An article in the World Economic Forum took note of actions adopted by the city: provide clear guidance about the degree and scope of lockdowns; track implementation down to individuals, apartments, houses, communities, organizations, public facilities and city management; keep essentials like food and supplies flowing through organized, government-controlled arrangements; designate infectious disease care and management facilities to isolate, monitor and treat positive cases; establish electronic recording and tracking systems and local response teams to handle identified cases 24/7; and establish centralized reporting and communication channels to keep citizens informed.
I am not certain if New Zealand, where I reside, was aware of the Hangzhou model, but it has adopted a methodical system in protecting the citizenry from the affliction. To date, there has been no reported death due to Covid-19, yet the country is now in a State of Emergency effectively putting it in lockdown effective March 26 at midnight, with the police ensuring that all stay home, with a few exceptions such as buying grocery and medicine. What is most noticeable is that the government speaks through its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who has given daily updates with the concerned ministers and officials making specific instructions. The opposition leader, Simon Bridges, has set aside politics to support Ardern’s initiatives and directed his party mates to cease campaigning as the parliamentary elections are set this year. Elected local officials have confined themselves to making sure vital public services remain functional.
We must realize, though, that lockout, stay home, self-isolation and border control are meant to contain Covid-19, thereby slowing down mass infection, while our scientists and pharmaceutical companies produce the vaccine. It’s like hiding from the enemy, while the ammunition to kill it has yet to be discovered.