Our 1st biggest mistake was treating the COVID-19 outbreak as a Chinese problem!

In this Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, file photo, people line up to buy face masks at a cosmetics shop in Hong Kong. Last year, face masks were the signature of Hong Kongs protesters, who wore them to protect against tear gas and conceal their identities from authorities. These same masks are now ubiquitous around the world -- worn by people from China and Iran, to Italy and America, seeking to protect against the coronavirus. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

In what is arguably one of his most inspiring and assuring political addresses to the nation (perhaps in his entire political career), President Ramaphosa said the following on Sunday night about the fear over the Coranavirus(COVID-19)pandemic:

“While we are battling a contentious virus perhaps the greatest dangers to our country at this time are fear and ignorance…We cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by fear and panic.”

The president more than anything chose hope over hopelessness! Unfortunately , by then it was already a little too late to put the entire country into full confidence. The prophets of doom had already began to sound the alarm.

As it were, the first recorded case of the now global pandemic COVID-19 virus according to the South Morning China Post dates as far back as the 17th November 2019. On January 30 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern”. Moreover, On March 11, WHO publicly characterized COVID-19 as a global pandemic.

Instead of giving this pandemic the attention it deserved, providing support to the Chinese government, learning from them and implementing the necessary precautionary measures, most governments across the globe went on about their daily business and treated the virus outbreak as China’s “breaking news”.

For example, it took the South African government about 45 days to finally rise up to the occasion and declare the virus a “national disaster” and as such announcing the necessary reasonable positive steps that will be taken in curbing the spread of the virus. The discussion of what qualifies something into the category of “national disaster” in terms of South African laws is beyond the scope of this article, but it now widely accepted that government’s decision to do so was long overdue.

But we cannot fault the government for dragging its feet on the matter despite repeated warnings and expert advice that the virus will quickly spread to other distant territories, such is the nature of narrow nationalism; the notion that “what doesn’t affect my nation is not my problem! And that something becomes a crisis until it affects me directly.”

One hastens to argue that we would not to be where we are today if countries had opted to adopt an Internationalist approach to COVID-19, that is to say international solidarity could have helped to curb the spread of this deadly virus. But instead, government leaders and their citizens chose to treat the virus as a Chinese or Italian virus and others went as far as arguing that the Chinese should stay in China and deal with “their virus there”.

The irony of it is that the world as the globalists would argue has become more interconnected. People are not only studying or trading accross the boarders, they are also marrying and starting families beyond their national boarders! Without any doubt, the  outbreak of this virus has not only questioned our diplomatic relations and international solidarity, it also stands to expose it for what it is- a facade!

Lehumo Sejaphala is the Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Voiceless (www.thevoiceless.co.za), a blogger (lehumosejaphala.wordpress.com), independent political analyst and final year Law student at University of the Witwatersrand.