The Political-Economics of WUHAN (Corona) Virus and Lessons for the Third World

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By: C. P. Anaso

March 30, 2020.

In the wake of the US-China cold war, soon after roundtable and trade deals toward the end of 2019, there emerged a  health crisis which seemed internal to China but soon grew to become a subject of world health concern that would define the political and economic shape of the new world.

At infancy, the Virus which was first detected in Wuhan city of Central China was a storm in the tea cup of the world’s largest populated country but it became an export to other civilised world that even the most sophisticated countries could not find one ready solution to it.

In a recent world press conference, President Donald Trump of the United States of America said the his country did not realise the enormity of the health crisis in Wuhan China because of the way Beijing managed information about it.

According to Trump, China did not tell us the seriousness of the crisis knowing it was a serious challenge they had in their hands but they were secretive about it.

Theories had been advanced as to the origin of the Virus, but two conspiracy theories had dominated discuss among people of the third world.

The first of these is that the current pandemic stemmed from when United States of America, China’s arch economic rivals sent a virus to China in the hope that the Asian Tiger would come to her for assistance.

A recent publication by the Business Insider, “Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan” seems to support the theory.

According to it, a Chinese government spokesman said “it might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” pushing one of several popular coronavirus conspiracy theories in China.

Zhao Lijian, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, called attention to the admission Wednesday by Robert Redfield, the director of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, that some Americans who were said to have actually died from influenza may have died from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The other conspiracy theory holds that it was a biological concoction with which China wished to assert its commanding emergence in the world economic order.

The theorists say China went into their kitchen to prepare the deadly meal which has kept the international community busy with measures to mitigating it in recent times.

According to several U.S cconservative and politicians as quoted in Vox.com, “It probably is a ChiCom laboratory experiment that is in the process of being weaponized.

“Right-wing radio host and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Rush Limbaugh said of the virus on February 24,  “all superpower nations weaponize bioweapons.”

Both conspiracy theories remain mere conjectures as there are no pieces of evidence to support either claim.

However,  medical experts have dismissed such conspiracy theories and attributed the virus to natural occurrences with had undergone series of mutation and developed resistance that human immune system does not have capacity to fight.

Kristian Andersen, PhD, an associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research said by comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes.

Anderson in the article, “Coronavirus epidemic has a natural origin” said it was more of natural selection than genetic engineering.

According to him, these two features of the virus, the mutations in the RBD portion of the spike protein and its distinct backbone, rules out laboratory manipulation as a potential origin for SARS-CoV-2″

With global statistics of about 30, 451 deaths and 657, 140  confirmed infections with Spain, China, Italy, Iran as worst hit by the deadly virus, Wuhan Virus later christened Corona Virus or COVID-19  has proven to be a global health challenge which the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its wisdom declared it a pandemic mid March.

Literatures on COVID-19 say it is a deadly infectious virus that causes cough, fever, tiredness, difficulty in breathing, but in severe cases and could be transmitted through human liquid discharge and air.

According to WHO, coronavirus pandemic is “accelerating” with 100,000 new infections worldwide in just four days. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of WHO, said that was in contrast to the 67 days that it took from the first reported case of COVID-19 to reach 100,000 people infected.

The initial case of COVID-19 was in late December 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan with the first person succumbing on January 11.

Following the 67 days it took to get to 100,000 cases, it then took just 11 days for another 100,00 people to become infected.

“(It was) just four days for the third 100,000 cases. You can see how the virus is accelerating,” Dr Tedros said.

“But we’re not prisoners to statistics. We’re not helpless bystanders. We can change the trajectory of this pandemic.”

“Governments globally needed to work together, pooling resources, to ensure there was enough equipment to fight coronavirus and it was being sent to the places that most needed it.

“To win, we need to attack the virus with aggressive and targeted tactics – testing every suspected case, isolating and caring for every confirmed case, and tracing and quarantining every close contact,” he said

As the situation rages, countries are deeply thinking out of the box on how to contain and reverse the tide of the pandemic. While some are on partial lockdown, especially in sub-Saharan Africa which is yet to experience the full effect of the virus, advanced countries like USA, Britain, Spain, Italy and France have announced total lockdown.

The implications are that both national and international migrations are restricted across the world thus leading to total shutdown of international trade and commerce.

Private firms in these countries have long shutdown operations while public sector workers have been asked to stay and work from home, how effective that would be in terms of productivity is yet to be ascertained but  the obvious reality is that there is no positive productivity going on anywhere.

This can be *gleaned* from the activities in the international oil market where price of crude oil has plunged to a recent low of about 25 dollars per barrel from about 70 dollars per barrel, the argument is that the industries and construction sectors where this energy is needed are not having any activities.

All organised sporting events across the world have been put off, the Olympics, football leagues , Cricket championships, Motor GP races, Sports festivals at the country levels among other activities are on hold.

At the moment, countries are drawing down savings or are going to borrow to fund the pandemic era to ensure that there are no job losses or firm extinctions, provide support to the compulsorily idle population and keep the economy from falling into prolonged recession after the plague.

Just last week, China which used to be the epicentre of Wuhan Virus announced that there were no new cases of the virus in the country but it was managing the existing ones; so while other countries still grapple with the global health challenge, China is returning to work.

For the Third World economies that are known for their consumer status in international trade circles, the  fears are more grave than their advanced counterparts that are trying to mitigate death and spread of the disease on the one hand and finding a cure on the other.

In Nigeria, the situation is  a temporary standstill of all facets of societal life, education at all levels is shutdown, public sector  services, flags are flying at half mast, marketers are partially closed, social gatherings are restricted, people have been advised not to get close to each other and public transportation has been declared not too safe.

With 111 confirmed cases and one death as at midnight March 30, tension is brewing in the country, the statecraft is equally on partial shutdown as the federal executive council, state executive councils and national assembly no longer have the luxury to sit as they used to; even Aso Rock, the seat of Nigeria’s Federal Government is on partial lockdown.

This apprehension is exacerbated with the confirmed cases of infection among top government officials at the federal and state levels which has seen most of them going into self isolation.

According to Femi Adesina, Senior Media Aide to Nigeria’s president,  well, things are a bit on a low key, it doesn’t mean that the State House is shut down, it’s just that things are a bit on the low key just like the rest of the country.

“The rest of the country is also on a low key, there is partial lockdown in most parts of the country. So, what is happening at the State House can also be called a partial lockdown but not a complete lockdown.”

Earlier this month, the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) reported that 50 vassels of Nigeria crude are on the sea without anybody willing to haggle or pay as there was at the moment no need for oil.

Mallam Mele Kyari, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, said at a roundtable due to the coronavirus ravaging many countries in the world and the crash in crude oil prices it has caused, about 50 cargoes of Nigeria’s crude have not found landing in the international market.

He further said that the liquefied natural gas, LNG, was equally affected by the price crash in the market, 

According to Kyari, today, I can share with you that there are over 12 stranded LNG cargoes in the market globally. It has never happened before. 

“LNG cargoes that are stranded with no hope of being purchased because there is abrupt collapse in demand associated with the outbreak of coronavirus”. 

The country’s Customs service is lamenting that its revenue projection has nosedived while home income is in hiatus.

The implication is that payment of salary which is hinged on Federal Allocation earned from crude sales and excise shared in Abuja would no longer be possible beyond two months if the situation remains as it is.

Interestingly, these elites who have been confirmed as being down with COVID-19 have no place to go and access medical care outside the country, they now have to make do with how well they have been able to fix the country’s health sector.

These are people who would ordinary fly to USA, Britain, India just to treat headache but in what looks like a top down pandemic, all the sophisticated countries that were destinations for their medical tourism are currently down with COVID 19 challenges that their facilities are over stretched.

As the world waits to see how the COVID-19 era would end, there will be new drivers and new passengers in the bus of world economy, this will be determined largely by who is the first to find a decisive cure for Corona Virus.

If truly China has found a containment and curative formulae going by their recent pronouncement, it means that the world will look up to them for direction and supplies.

Again, they claim that they are returning to the factories, this implies that the country would be the only productive economy in the post-COVID-19 era for a long time.

America which has about 142,873 confirmed cases and about 2,511 deaths from the pandemic so far will maintain its lead if it finds a solution as soon as possible and possibly without seeking assistance of their rivals.

For Nigeria, COVID-19 seems to be resetting the society to its default mode, this is the only time in recent history that the political class are as tripidated and humbled as the common man, a time when the rich and the poor would lie in the same hospital ward without qualms.

After this era, managers of the state craft will realise their duties as elected officials is not to start accumulating money for the next election or stashing it to foreign land when the owners of wealth are abandoned in perpetual squalor.

They will now learn to fix our health sector, position our education system to produce problem solving graduates, they will heed calls to restructure for a diversified economy and become more egalitarian and altruistic in their dealings with affairs of men, if ever they will appreciate the dire need so to do.

C.P Anaso is an Economist/Journalist based in Nigeria.

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