Africa: Why Africa Must Be Worried About ‘Origin Tracing’

In many respects, individual countries in Africa escaped the gravest worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, they continue to suffer disease and death, a human cost of precious lives and huge toll on the future.

It is predictable that in the long term, Covid-19 will eventually have a disproportionate impact on the continent and other developing regions where it will take longer to eradicate.

At the moment, there is low uptake of vaccines either because there are no vaccines available to poor people or citizens are not yet ready to accept vaccines for various reasons.

Zimbabwe is among the Africa’s leaders in the fight against the pandemic.

This is because it has had the privilege of steady supplies of vaccines from China – making it one of the leading receivers of the life-saving medicines from Beijing.

Further, Zimbabwe’s own educational campaigns and overall policy in tackling the pandemic, spearhead by Government, are bearing fruit.

Dangers remain

In Africa in general, that the disease could tip the scales towards the worst imaginable, is something that is always lurking.

Given this background, it is worrying that there is current diversionary “origins-tracing” push by the United States of America that will likely complicate the fight against the disease.

In simple terms, the “origins tracing” issue is about the US seeking to put the blame on China as the origin or originator of the Covid-19 virus, although science has shown us that the family of coronaviruses is neither new nor peculiar to China.

In more scientific terms, Covid-19 as it is known may have been transmitted from animals directly (referred to as zoonotic spillover), cold-chain food, an intermediary host species, and a laboratory-related incident.

The fourth cause — which World Health Organisation experts that visited China in January concluded — is extremely unlikely.

However, this is what the US is currently trying to stick on China.

It is a ploy to paint China as irresponsible, without morals and ultimately bearing the blame for the spread and destruction cause by the disease.

This theory ignores that there are a number of laboratory facilities in other countries, including the US itself that could have been the cause of the “leak” however distant the possibility.

These have not been subjected to the so-called origin tracing.

Further, all sites of possible earlier transimission — some that could predate Wuhan in China — have not been scrutinised, including a settlement in US’ Fort Derrick in Maryland, Virginia, where a pneumonia-like disease was first detected. The US has refused to divulge data on this, citing national security concerns.

It becomes clear that the “origins tracing” and its main “lab leak” theory are a clear political gimmick.

Why Africa must be worried

Faced with the danger that the disease is here to stay and that it will eventually stay longer and more dangerous in Africa — the world’s least developed region — therefore causing unflappable damage, the “origins tracing” sideshow is worrying.

First, this diverts the attention of the globe in fighting the real enemy — the virus, which literally, is already “spilled over”. There is little reason to be absorbed with its origins, especially is the aim is just cheap political point scoring.

Secondly, the “lab leak” theory will likely continue to cause pessimism in people, who will refuse vaccination because of perceptions that its all an experiment on humans. Part of the reason why vaccine uptake has been low is because of people being skeptical of being made “guinea pigs” of some experiments involving the novel corona virus. Harping on about the “lab leak” will harden these positions and unfortunately cause the deaths of more people.

Thirdly, and most gravely, the US has used the “origins tracing” gimmick to justify its withdrawal of support for the World Health Organisation and sowing doubt on the world’s body’s ability to lead the fight.

The US is behaving like a petulant child – because its wild claim for political purposes has not found favour with scientists and the world health governing body. It thus withheld funding. What a pity!