Countries over the world are gripped with apprehension over the coronavirus pandemic. Though such a viral pandemic is not without precedence, the novelty of the Covid-19 virus makes its fight complicated.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends social distancing, washing of hands, wearing of face masks among others to help contain the spread of the virus. Also, because there is no drug or vaccine to fight the virus, medical professionals recommend drugs and food supplements that boost the immune system as survival after being infected with the virus depends on the strength of your immune system.
As effective as these preventive measures on a personal level are, our unique virtues as Ghanaians will also be a key factor in navigating the coronavirus crisis.
A cursory glance at social media or the news from most media houses reveals many people are anxious that their lives may also be touched by the coronavirus. People are already asking about when a vaccine is going to be ready, and even if a vaccine is ready, are we sure it does not contain any technological chip that can monitor and affect our daily lives?
The sad reality about a vaccine is that you cannot just order them like you order pizza from your favourite restaurant or purchase aspirin from a local medicine shop. It takes time to come out with a certified potent vaccine and to even produce on a large scale for international distribution. For this reason, experts project not later than 2021 before a vaccine can be produced in commercial quantities.
To go about our daily lives smoothly despite the threat of infection, we must rely on our basic human virtues for dealing with collective threats. Human beings are blessed with some instinctive virtues which can be collectively harnessed in difficulty. We must put aside negative attitude of panic, anxiety, selfishness and despondency which are detrimental in times like this. Rather, we should ignite habits of positive attitude which are the basis for positive action. Few of these virtues are expounded below:
Altruism; ‘you look out for me, I look out for you’
Altruism is a moral principle of acting out of concern for the well-being of another. This virtue is deeply manifested when people see others and feel empathy and desire to help them.
The preventive measures which must be taken in order to control the COVID-19 infections is usually delegate upon the persons who are already infected. It is important to stay at home when ill, in doing so; you are protecting an aged or a brother who may not have a strong immune system from getting the virus. As it has already been said; the virus does not move, you stop moving, it stops spreading.
Wearing of nose mask is a necessity for all of us. With the face mask on, the infections cannot be projected into the atmosphere when you cough or sneeze, by this, not only are you protecting yourself, but you are looking out for the well-being of others; you protect me and I protect you.
Also, this is not the time to hoard essential items while others are in need of those items. Hoarding could be just as dangerous as the coronavirus itself. Face masks may not be needed if you are home or your job does not require a lot of movement, but these face masks are critical for health workers and those providing essential services. If too many people who do not need face masks in their daily activities hoard them, those who actually need it could be put at risk.
Likewise, prices of hand sanitizers and rubbing alcohol have suddenly spiked, putting these products out of reach of many Ghanaians. This is not the time to be selfish and take advantage of a pandemic to exploit our fellow Ghanaians. I do not think anybody will want to make money at the expense of a brother’s death. If you take care of yourself and you do not look out for a brother, his exposure to the virus is as much a risk to you as it is to himself.
Generosity is the quality to give help or support without expecting something in return. This virtue has shown to be important in the pandemic, especially when lockdown became a necessity.
People are greatly exhibiting this virtue by supporting the needy in our communities with food and other essential items. Corporate bodies such as churches, banks NGO’s and individuals have generously donated towards helping those who have been severely affected by the pandemic. There are a lot of Ghanaians who will die of hunger if we do not give our generous support.
Privately owned buildings have also been donated as isolation and quarantine centres. These have complemented government’s existing structures, giving us varied options to deal with suspected infections and those infected.
Furthermore, generosity applies to how we use our health care. People with non-critical medical conditions should not visit health facilities involved in the COVID-19 treatment to reduce strain on the medical system so more time can be dedicated to helping those infected.
These generous acts should be encouraged in our communities.
Well-to-do homes can in their own little way support the needy instead of being self-centred on your family. You do not need to be a millionaire to be kind to a needy person in your vicinity. The person may not die of the virus, but your generous act can save him/her from dying of hunger. This is a great time to show love and kindness as Ghanaians.
The last critical virtue to be considered is trust. Trust is the assurance that someone is reliable and honest and will not do anything detrimental to you.
Much as we expect our institutions to deliver on their mandate, it is equally important we trust them to do their jobs professionally. It must be admitted that most institutions have leaders who are politically appointed and therefore their allegiance to government can have negative repercussions on the delivery of their duties.
However, now is not the time to cleave along party lines and politicise the work of health officials, second guess government communications or ignore warnings from health experts and researchers. Spreading false information for parochial party interest simply makes fighting the coronavirus even harder while putting your listeners at risk. Coronavirus is a common enemy with no political affiliations or discriminations.
Media houses should also actively resist the temptation to be the first to break news on COVID-19 without thorough verification or report cases as if it is an emergency. They should not be a medium for dissemination of fear and panic. Their statistical analysis of figures should not spell doom or be biased toward the negative. Much as they want people to know the situation at hand, listeners also put different interpretation on whatever they hear, this can be counterproductive to what the media intended to achieve. Their reportage should carry in it the believe that the virus can be defeated by our collective efforts, while warning and encouraging people to strictly adhere to the preventive measures recommended.
It is our obligation as citizens to hold institutions to account, but we should also contribute in them in good faith, promoting facts, spreading calm instead of fear, upholding reason and deliberation over delirium and political expediency.
Our frontline health workers are our ‘soldiers’ in this fight and they need our maximum trust and support.
The painful reality we now face is that no one knows when the coronavirus pandemic is going away. There is currently no cure; neither will a vaccine be available within a few months’ time. However, while we pray and wait on science, we can help save lives by employing our natural human virtues like altruism, generosity and trust.
The writer, Solomon Nana Kwame Ansong, is an educationist with Biochemistry background, who has an interest in educational and social issues.