New Delhi: There is no evidence yet to suggest that Covid-19 is a temperature-sensitive microbe and if the “virus enters your body, it hardly matters whether you are sitting in the sun or inside a room”, says Dr Samba Sow who has been nominated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the six special envoys on the coronavirus.
“People were saying two to three weeks ago that it would not come to Africa because it is too hot here. Now we are seeing cases in Senegal and Burkina Faso. These are very hot countries,” said Sow in an interaction with journalists from Mali.
There has been speculation on whether the virus, which is said to have its first zoonotic transmission in China, is more virulent in colder countries in the northern hemisphere. Italy has registered the maximum number of deaths in the last month due to Covid-19.
“If you want to win against this virus, you have to make people worry fast. People were not taking it seriously. There was no community sensitisation,” Sown observed when asked about the mistakes Italy made in dealing with the outbreak.
Sow has been at the forefront of fight Ebola in sub-Saharan African nations. The geographical footprint of Covid-19 is much larger than Ebola; he says.
“But Ebola kills very fast, it is a much more severe disease because of the bleeding it induces. You can never forget if you have seen even one case,” he says.
Sow feels every country will have to evolve its own regimen on social distancing based on its socio-cultural ethos.
Asked to respond to indications from the White House that at some point the economic cost of restrictions on movement may have to be weighed in to assess the biological losses due to pathogen, Sow felt that a rigorous lockdown may not work in Africa where countries have porous borders.
“If you make it rigorous, everyone will have a plan B,” he says, adding the government should communicate and educate community leaders and people at large to maintain a safe distance.
The other difference between Covid-19 and epidemics that have afflicted the planet in the recent past is the geographical origin and spread of the disease.
“There is a saying in Africa that the leg is tying the hand, when generally it is the other way round,” he said, adding that Covid-19 has shown that the healthcare system in Europe-America and Asia is still very limited.