More on COVID - 19
Most frequent COVID - 19 related questions and answers
Throughout history humanity has dealt with various disease outbreaks. For example, the Spanish Flu also commonly called “Ye Hedar Beshita” in Ethiopia was an unusually deadly outbreak that originated in Asia. According to different sources of information, this outbreak caused the death of an estimated 50 to 100 million people worldwide. Many other viruses such as the SARS and the MERS coronaviruses also caused outbreaks that killed thousands and thousands of people worldwide. What makes COVID-19 different is the fact that it has spread out quickly across the globe in a short period. Today, this outbreak has, one way or the other, affected more than 85% of communities worldwide. As of May 20, 2020, except for the country Lesotho, all other African countries have reported cases of COVID-19. Some countries are reporting around 7% death from COVID-19. Besides, its significant social, political, and economic impact globally also makes it different from the past outbreaks.
Most respiratory tract infectious diseases are highly contagious. Viruses causing respiratory diseases can easily be transmitted from one person to the other through small droplets that are project when a sick person coughs or sneezes. The time between exposure to COVID-19 and the moment when symptoms start is commonly around five to six days and this is considered to be a relatively short time. According to some sources, a person infected with the novel coronavirus can transmit the virus 1 to 2 days before showing any symptoms. Additionally, 80% of people who are infected with the virus either do not get sick at all or show mild flu-like symptoms. That said, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 does not discriminate between different ethnicity, race, age, sex, or socioeconomic status. Babies, toddlers, teenagers, younger adults, elderlies can all be infected with the virus. The difference is the recovery rate and the fatality rate. The latter is higher in people who are 60 and older. Moreover, those with serious underlying conditions such as chronic lung disease, serious heart conditions, severe obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, immunocompromised are at high risk for severe illness.
There are many assumption in regards to the origin of the virus. Some spiritual believers say it is a curse or a prophecy bestowed upon humanity by God. Other theories say that it was man-made or biologically modified in a lab.
In regard to the true origin of COVID -19, according to the analysis of evidence, bats appear to be the reservoir of the virus. However, a more in-depth study is being conduct to provide definite scientific evidence on this issue. A Wuhan market, offering live wild animals for sale, may have been the origin of the COVID-19 virus. History suggests that this type of outbreak usually accompanies crashes between different countries government. In this case, China official say U.S. military may have brought COVID – 19 to Wuhan and U.S. official claim that the virus originated from a lab in Wuhan, China. Despite these theories, non are backed-up with scientific evidence.
We have to understand that COVID -19 is not the only crisis Ethiopia is currently facing, there are other health, economic crises to be dealt with. Consequently, any decision that is made by the Ethiopian government takes into consideration these different factors. Early on in the outbreak, Ethiopian higher officials conducted several different discussions on the issue of ceasing international flights. Most countries who have had their airlines suspend their flights have a more resilient economy and are better positioned to sustain a large economic shock than Ethiopia. What’s more, Ethiopian airlines connect Africa to the rest of the world which makes it fundamental in times like this. If Ethiopia had stopped flying completely, it would have been utterly impossible for Ethiopia and the rest of the African countries to receive medical and professional help from China.
Pros and cons were weighed by the Ethiopian government before a decision was made to continue international flights. Some Ethiopian higher officials thought that the decision to cease international flight were made a little too late. However, the most important thing that was done while Ethiopian airlines was still flying overseas is to try and identify individuals who were showing signs of COVID – 19. Unfortunately, most people who were infected with SARS – CoV 2 started showing signs and symptoms of COVID – 19 after they entered the country. When the government decided to cease to flights from and to China, origin of the outbreak, the virus had spread to other countries across continents which made the decision of exclusively closing routes to China meaningless. Regardless, currently, Ethiopian airlines has cut 90% of its international flight in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease.
Compared to Europe and America, several Asian countries including China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan have been relatively successful in containing the outbreak. The rest of the world needs to look to those countries in the Asia Pacific region that have successfully controlled the pandemic to figure out how to save their citizens from his outbreak. Although measures taken by countries who have successfully contained the spread of the virus are more efficient if implemented at the earliest stage, it is still not too late! In Ethiopia, resource constraint makes controlling the outbreak more difficult. Most medical materials including COVID – 19 testing kits are imported. However, compared to earlier days, Ethiopia’s capacity for controlling outbreaks has significantly increased throughout the years. Regardless, the government needs to further strengthen its testing capacity. While for example, South Korea’s testing capacity is 10 000 individuals per day, Ethiopia remains at only about 3000 individuals per day. Strengthening testing capacity will help rapidly isolate the source and reduce the spread. Widening the COVID-19 testing criteria and testing anyone who has symptoms related to respiratory illness would be a different approach to help mitigate the spread.
On the other hand, a critical supply shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health professionals has been one of the major concerns worldwide. Similarly, Ethiopia is facing a shortage of PPE in addition to a poor understanding of the disease among health care workers. Although the Ministry of Health of Ethiopia is doing its best to address these gaps, in Ethiopia the most feasible and effective way of controlling this outbreak is by avoiding having too many individuals infected with the virus. Everyone including leaders, has to take the recommended precautions in their day to day activities.
The Ministry of Health of Ethiopia has been doing its best to increase the countries testing capacity. Masks and sanitizers are largely being produced in the country in order to overcome shortage of supply. Currently, there is a scarcity of PPE in Ethiopia. However, despite the fact that demand of PPE is high worldwide, the government of Ethiopia is taking the right steps and doing everything it can to procure PPE for Ethiopia’s health care workers.
On the other hand, the country has put together different forces and committees to fight COVID – 19. Some of these forces are tasked with creating awareness up to kebele level. The Ethiopia government believes that since its health system is already stretched thin it doesn’t have the capacity and the means to treat a large number of patients at once. Thus, the most efficient method of fighting COVID in Ethiopia is to mitigate the spread and keep people from getting sick. Additionally, in collaboration with the press secretary and the Ministry of Health, the Ethiopian government is disseminating key messages regarding COVID -19 to the population. Every two weeks, the office of the Prime Minister holds meetings with regional leaders to discuss how communities are affected by the outbreak. The regional leaders cascade key information to officials at wereda level. Furthermore, COVID awareness educational speech is given in major markets in rural Ethiopia. Real-time lifesaving information is also provided house-to-house by health workers. Regardless of these efforts, more work needs to be done in educating the rural population about COVID – 19.
Wearing masks and hand washing are preventive measures that are being relatively practiced by the community. Although these practices protect people from introducing the virus to their body (by avoiding indirect contact) by using masks to block splashes and large-particle droplets or by washing it off our hands, physical distancing avoids the virus from completely being picked up by people (avoiding direct contact). Coronavirus is primarily transmitted from people to others who are in close contact through respiratory droplets. Physical distancing will protect a healthy person by reducing the risk of exposure to the source of infection. Thus, the first line of precaution should consist of physical distancing including avoiding handshakes. There is no point of someone avoiding handshakes but yet standing in close proximity to other people. While avoiding handshakes, hand washing and wearing masks are important, physical distancing is fundamental.
80% percent of infected patient may be asymptomatic. Others can transmit the virus before they start showing any signs and symptoms. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to keep a 2-meter distance from each other at all times. Judging by how groups of people in Ethiopia are failing to abide by the social distancing guidelines, government need to work more on helping society understand the consequence of defying these orders. Government officials cannot count on voluntary measures alone. Instead, the entire country must be compelled to do what it takes to support one another and to defeat this pandemic.
An overwhelming amount of downright fake news is being spread in Ethiopia and around the world. However, the Ministry of Health has no reason to hide any information that it has from the public. In regards to the digging of burial sites, this is also one of the false information that is being circulated in the community. There is no treatment nor vaccine for the disease . From However, scientists around the world are helping each other to find a cure and/or a vaccine. Even though scientists do find a cure today, it would take long time to address the public. This type of misinformation distracts people.
Health Care systems in general almost never meet the challenge of outbreaks. During this COVID – 19 pandemic, the world strongest health systems crumbled. When it comes to Ethiopia, we are not adequately prepared to handle the worst. Together with professional association, the Ministry of health is doing its best to bring on board as much as human resource for health as possible. The Ministry is training health professional in the management of COVID-19. However, the lack of adequate intensive care unit beds and respiratory support equipment still pose a problem. Besides, Ethiopia health system is already stretched to capacity threating other non COVID related diseases.
Regardless, the Ministry of Health has been taking some measure in order to keep the already overwhelmed health systems from crumbling in the event that the number of COVID cases increases exponentially. The following are some of the initiative that are under implementation by the MOH:
- As mentioned above, in collaboration with professional associations, the ministry is training and recruiting new health workers
- Volunteers and retired physician are encouraged to joing the fight against COVID-19
- all people entering Ethiopia from another country are strictly being subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated hotels at the traveler’s expense
- the COVID -19 Emergency operation center contact protocol has been fully implemented and continues to effectively detect cases early through active monitoring of peoples exposed to possible risks and rapidly contains the outbreak. Reports of suspected cases by the community are also thoroughly investigated.
- The Ministry of Health also built a makeshift hospital inside Addis Ababa Millennium Hall to help Ethiopia deal with extreme eventualities of the deadly coronavirus.
- There is a plan to use private hospitals as COVID cases increase
- Most regions have also put together quarantines and testing laboratories
- In terms of medical equipment, the emergency purchase of necessary supplies is undergoing. However, the shortage of supply worldwide is making it hard to acquire the necessary items on time. China is helping Ethiopia acquire these supplies as soon as possible. Broken equipment is also being fixed.
Regardless of these initiatives, a community-wide response to the pandemic is the only way we can defeat this common enemy. If individuals suspect being exposed to the virus, they should come forward and not expose others by hiding from authorities. Front line health workers dedication to stop the spread is very encouraging. Every stakeholder including communities, health workers, media government have to take their responsibilities seriously.
As a society that has long been cultivating a culture of caring and compassion for each other, we hold the invaluable key of the past that lets us overcome the many challenges we are facing today. The world has come to acknowledge that the best and most critical way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to stay home. Having said that, doing the best we can to help each other and sharing our resources is critical to the survival of the human race. To some extent, everyone is in the same situation. Being compassionate, understanding, and empathetic for everyone involved is the only way we can collectively overcome this outbreak. Healthcare workers are risking their own lives to save humanity.
As our government is paying people to stay at home, let’s show our gratitude by not leaving our houses. There are different ways of making staying at home worth the while. For instance, use this as an opportunity to spend quality time with your children, undertake home improvement, cozy-up and read a book. While finding the silver lining of being in home confinement and adhering to strict home isolation, you are protecting yourself, your country, and humanity from the virus.
Thoughts such as “Am I going to be infected with the virus causing Covid-19?”, “How much is this outbreak going to spread?” and “How will I spend my time in home confinement?” only lead to an increase in anxiety and affects our mental health. Poor mental health is a risk factor for chronic physical conditions and weakened immune system. Currently, COVID-19 has no cure nor vaccine. Infected people primarily rely on their own body’s capacity of fighting off the virus through symptomatic treatment and supportive care to recover from the virus. Maintaining a functioning immune system by building better mental health is crucial in the fight against COVID – 19. Reading, listening to music, singing, calling your loved ones, cooking, connecting through social media, exercising, dwelling less on the impact of the virus, reflecting on the positives, being hopeful, building a winning mentality, thinking of this situation as temporary, being less stressful but more conscience of the different protective measures and supporting each other while in self-isolation are a few examples of ways you can protect yourself against the psychological risks of isolation.
Currently, COVID-19 has no cure nor vaccine. Infected people primarily rely on their own body’s capacity of fighting off the virus through symptomatic treatment and supportive care to recover from the virus. The Ethiopian government has repurposed schools and hotels for the quarantine of suspected COVID-19 cases. Every 48 hours, these individuals are visited by healthcare workers to assess the development of COVID related symptoms. Ministry of Health has built a makeshift hospital inside Addis Ababa Millennium Hall to help Ethiopia deal with extreme eventualities of the deadly coronavirus. Most regions have also put together quarantines and testing laboratories.
Most people in Ethiopia, especially those living in rural, don’t have a clear understanding of what is going on in the world with this pandemic. Many of us cope with the fear by being in denial. Staying in denial interferes with tackling the challenges and preparing for the worst. By preparing for the worst and hoping for the best we don’t lose anything. However, by adopting an “it won’t happen to me” mentality we take unnecessary risks that could cost ours and our loved once life.
Despite the many advice form international organizations and local authorities to stay at home and to practice social distancing, why are so many of us failing to take notice even after strict measures are introduced?
Each person is born into a social and cultural setting—family, community, social class, language, religion—and eventually develops many social connections. The characteristics of an individual’s social setting affect how he or she learns to think and behave and that cannot be changed overnight. The process of using information to turn it into individual knowledge that brings about change in perception and behavior doesn’t happen very easily especially to those who are highly influenced by cultural norms. On the other hand, people receive several different information from multiple sources which further contributes to factors impending change.
How can we make the best out of the home confinement?
During home confinement two factors can cause Ethiopian to go into a range of psychological and emotional reactions:
- having to adapt to a new way of life for an unknown time frame
- having to lose a job or a source of income.
In Ethiopia, daily low-wage earners make up over half of the population. Robbed of their means of income by COVID – 19, these earners fear hunger, homelessness and destitution more than they fear getting infected by COVID – 19.
That said, there are two key facts that people need to realize to overcome the psychological reactions:
- Realizing that this is a life or death situation and so lifestyle changes are inevitable.
- Realizing that this is not a one-man battle. As COVID – 19 continues to spread fighting in solidarity seems to be the only strategy to winning the battle against a common enemy. Extending a helping hand by providing various forms of support and assistance to those in need fosters greater synergy to fight the virus.
How do we overcome the economic burden caused by COVID -19?
Human beings have 5 basic survival needs: oxygen, water, food, shelter, and sleep. In any case that one or more of the basic needs are unmet, tensions develop, people start losing control, and conflicts arise. Thus, for the sake of our safety and because it is humane, society needs to lend a hand to the ones who are the most economically affected by COVID-19. It is more important than ever to find ways to help each other. In Ethiopia we can utilize our many social platforms such as churches and Edirs to form networks of volunteers and community in need of help.
How are religious believers responding to COVID – 19?
In times of great anxiety and fear of the unknown, religion and faith can be a major source of comfort. Certain religious groups and individuals, especially older people, have been reluctant to conform to the restrictions imposed by the government placing their faith in a higher power, in God. However, ‘God helps those who help themselves” is a Biblical quotation that emphasizes the need for man to identify urgency and take necessary precautions to enhance order and security. Another Biblical verse, ‘give and it will be given unto you’, underlines that giving to others, in little acts of kindness or through a generous attitude of care and concern is one of the basic but fundamental principles of Christianity. The Bible also highlights that living as a peacemaker follows the example of Jesus Himself. Thus, respecting other people’s rights and being at peace with others are basic Christian and other religions values.
What can be done to widely disseminate factual information regarding the pandemic and ways to overcome it?
Today, dangerous lies and false information around the world are causing misconceptions and fear about the new coronavirus.
Since nowadays we can’t come together to discuss or exchange information regarding the current situation in schools, in the workplace, or during religious gatherings we have to rely on online news outlets, television and social media to stay up-to-date about the new coronavirus. TVs and Radios are the most convenient and reliable source of information, especially for people living in the rural part of the country. We need to listen to the experts in the field such as large health organizations like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as doctors and healthcare professionals on the front lines, who deal with coronavirus day today and qualified scientists and researchers from reputable universities and institutions who understand epidemiology, virology and immunology.
Keeping to a routine is the most important thing one can do during home isolation. Try doing the same things you did in normal circumstances, at home. These could be creating a workspace outside your bedroom and getting dressed as if you’re going into the office, or dressing up for a home dinner with your family. Take this opportunity to learn a new skill, get organized, or get ahead at work.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Health has presented a range of different measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus including:
- training health professional on management of COVID – 19
- hiring new temporary health professionals
- increasing intensive care unit capacity and dedicating more ventilators to treatment facilities in Addis Ababa and other regions
- deploying community health workers to do house-to-house surveillance to identify possible symptoms like fevers and coughs and to establish people’s recent travel.
However, many people in Ethiopia are not heeding the advice given by public health officials. Studies show that 80% of the time we can protect ourselves and others by simply washing our hands with soap and water, avoiding social gatherings, practicing physical distancing, and staying at home. Public health officials have been imploring Ethiopians to take these instructions seriously. The government urges that the Ethiopian public learn from the crisis in Italy and recognize the seriousness of the situation. With a much weaker health system than the countries that have been hardly hit by COVID -19, if the situation gets worse, Ethiopia will defiantly struggle to juggle both the pandemic response and provision of essential and routine health services.
Many pharmacies have been profiteering from the coronavirus outbreak by ramping up the prices of hand sanitizer, alcohol, gloves, and mask during the Covid-19 outbreak. Other have been producing and illegally selling sanitizers and masks that have not been approved by eFDA.
Authorities are taking certain measures against these businesses including:
- The city has formed a task force to identify those businesses that are unfairly increasing prices and to shut them down
- The City Administration itself is venturing to sell sanitizers in what seems to be a measure to protect consumers from higher prices
- The Food & Drug Authority drafted a new temporary directive that gives an exclusive license to manufacturers, enabling them to make hand sanitizer, disinfectant, and face masks.
- The government is also encouraging citizens to blow the whistle on unlawful business owner using the following toll-free numbers:
- 8482 and 8867
Countrywide, there is a general shortage of human resources for health. However, in response to COVID – 19 recruitments of new health workers are undergoing at the Federal and Regional levels. In addition, anticipating a surge in patients with COVID-19, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health has called on retired medical staff, in-training medical professionals, unemployed medical school graduates, and other volunteers, to join the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
There are 7 groups of epidemiology, virology, immunology, and public health experts who have gathered up from different universities to tackle the country’s COVID – 19 outbreaks. They develop documents that guide the public health response to COVID-19 at the national level. They also support activities undertaken at the different Isolation centers.
The government has offered life insurance converges to healthcare professionals and members of supporting staff who are battling with COVID 19 pandemic in the country. In collaboration with the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Health has secured means of transportation for exclusively healthcare workers. Dr. Lia, Minister of Heath, together with her close advisors, is discussing other additional means of compensation and encouragement for health care workers who are risking their own lives to save the lives of others.
Specific guideline is currently being developed. This guideline help ensure that the bereaved are treated with sensitivity, dignity, and respect, and mourners and workers involved in the management of funerals are protected from infection.
Funeral and Burial related to death caused by COVID-19
All facilities managing COVID-19 will have dedicated morgue and burial personnel trained on IP and PPE techniques to manage all dead bodies due to COVID-19. The personnel will be involved in preparing the body in the morgue and transporting the body until the burial site. This personnel will be dedicated morgue staff and trained individuals (volunteers or contract hires). Ministry of health and regional health bureaus in collaboration with other sectors will introduce similar dead body handling mechanisms in case of COVID 19 deaths in the community in rural and urban areas.
While most people with COVID-19 develop only mild or uncomplicated illness, approximately 14% develop severe disease that requires hospitalization and oxygen support, and 5% require admission to an intensive care unit. Thus, the Ethiopian government is doing its best to secure as much medical equipment as possible. There was a total of 435 ventilators in the country including some that are no longer functional. The government recently acquired 122 additional ventilators. 400 ventilators have also recently been ordered by the Ministry of Health. As for oxygen supply, 3200 oxygen tanks have been distributed to hospitals throughout the country.
Most international flights have been suspended except for a few. Ethiopian airline is still flying to countries like Dubai, Saudi-Arabia, Djibouti in order to transport Ethiopian workers who are being forced to flee back to their country. In an attempt to contain the spread, the government has imposed on these and other people entering Ethiopia a mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated hotels.
Once an individual has been confirmed of having COVID -19, contact tracer who have been assigned in every region of the country, identify and find all persons who have been within one meter of the confirmed case for 15 minutes at any time from two days before symptoms started to the time symptoms resolved. Once these people are identified, those who are not showing any symptoms are encouraged to self-quarantine in their own homes and in some cases in designated schools and hotels. Those who have developed symptoms are taken to the hospital. It used to be that only people who have a history of travel get tested. However, now, having increased testing capacity, designated hospitals are also testing those with no travel history which helps detect community transmission. In order to accommodate the growing number of confirmed cases, officials are distributing 4800 beds to health facilities that are treating patients infected with the new coronavirus. The Ministry of Health has built a makeshift hospital inside Addis Ababa Millennium Hall to help Ethiopia deal with extreme eventualities of the deadly coronavirus. Most regions have also put together quarantines and testing laboratories.
In the beginning, Ethiopia only had 20 rapid response team. Currently that number increased to 55.
Health experts say how a country and its population respond to a pandemic is shaped by cultural factors. COVID-19 is a disease that strictly prohibits people from being too close to each other. If we take a closer look at the countries that are hardly hit by this outbreak (United States, Italy, Spain) we realize that their communities are accustomed to many ritualist and symbolic social activities such as spring break. On the other hand, in countries where social practices, crowd gathering, and festive events are less conventional like the Scandinavian countries there have been much lower count of reported COVID cases. In a country like Ethiopia and most other African countries where being together is a norm, social distancing will be a challenge. With a culture where family gatherings and big crowds go hand in hand, unless stringent physical distancing measures are implemented, Ethiopia is at risk for an increased rate of transmission.
The legitimacy of the government and the degree of trust the population has in its leadership are key to effectively combating Covid-19. Trust in religious leaders, health workers and the media are also important factors that will determine how a country will effectively protect its citizens from the new coronavirus. The Ethiopian governments must commit to the dissemination of accurate information, and to transparency in giving the people clarity into government decision-making. When there is a distrust in the government, people will rely on other sources of information that are not necessarily accurate. Dealing with COVID-19, it is fundamental to follow local authorities’ directions with humility.
Medical anthropology is the study of how health and illness are shaped, experienced, and understood in light of global, historical, and political forces. By definition, illness is a feeling, an experience of unhealth which is entirely personal, interior to the person of the patient. However, some illness-causing diseases might be asymptomatic. In the case of coronavirus, although the disease does not discriminate, the severity of COVID-19 symptoms can range from asymptomatic to very mild to severe depending on patients age and morbidity (the presence of any underlining chronic illnesses). Due to the asymptomatic aspect of the disease, many people have been infected and possibly infected others without knowing it. This in turn causes an uncontrollably fast community transmission putting health systems and their ability to deliver health care services under strain. In 2000, Italy’s healthcare system was regarded, by the World Health Organization’s ranking, as the 2nd best in the world. Today, the same health system is facing a massive burden from the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Ethiopia’s health system is ranked 189th. That said, in Ethiopia, containment and mitigation policies could be the only solution for keeping our health systems from crumbling by lowering the peak in demand for care. The profile of the disease suggests that while 80% of cases are mild, some 15% of people react severely and another 5% become critically unwell (septic shock, respiratory and organ failure). While the 15% require oxygen supply, 5% will need ventilators. Ethiopia does not have the human resources capacity or the supply to handle the same wave of COVID patients as Italy. Epidemics are one of the factors for the collapse of some civilizations. To prevent the Ethiopian civilization from being one of them, people need to austerely follow the preventive measures related to COVID – 19 transmission.
In 1981, AIDS was portrayed as a terrifying, incurable, deadly disease that was spreading fast. In the early days of the HIV epidemic, pervasive stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV were extremely high in far too many countries. In Ethiopia when people fear the unknown, they resort to the things they little know. When people are told that the new coronavirus has no cure, they fall back on the traditional medicines they learned to know combatting Flu and the common cold. Others turn to their religion to get cured. However, if people were transparently explained that rather than the incurability of the disease, the principal concern is the inability of Ethiopia’s health system to sustain impact as COVID – 19 cases grow exponentially, they would act out of logical reasoning instead of fear.
COVID -19 has thought people to switch to a more hygienic and healthier lifestyle. A lot of people realized during this lockout time that their work could be done from home. COVID-19 has also forced us to learn more about how to use technology to stay in touch with loved once and co-workers.