There is no local transmission

There is not a single reported case of a local transmission in the country as of yesterday. We have, so far, 108 Covid-19 positive cases in the country with 96 having recovered already. All the cases are imported and there are only 12 active cases in the safety of isolation wards.

To prepare for a possible community transmission in the capital city, authorities led by the health ministry conducted a simulation exercise yesterday. Three real case scenarios were presented with details and how all the institutions and groups identified will jump in to control a local epidemic. It was a good exercise to prepare for a local transmission.

Unfortunately, many took it for a real case of a local transmission. By late evening, rumours spread that there is a local transmission and the country is heading for a lockdown. This happened even after those attending the exercise were cautioned about spreading rumours or the possibility of mistaking the exercise as a real event.

However, the powerful rumour mill started rolling that people started calling each other or the mainstream media to confirm. These include those who are aware of the situation. This is not new. Last week, following a similar presentation to parliamentarians, rumours became rife that the country is going under a lockdown. Some even accused the media for hiding information.

What we don’t want today is rumours to create panic among the populace. It is good to be concerned and aware of risks of a community transmission. Knowing the risks will help authorities contain the spread and keep us safe. Panicking is not good. It will, as we have experienced already, inflate the price of essentials, create disturbances and uneasiness.

Should there be a single case of local transmission, it will be announced through the media. There will be press conferences and we could expect the prime minister addressing the people. There is nothing to hide. Hiding would be more disastrous.

Concerned with the risks of a community transmission, the government is trying to put some measures in place if, only if, we have to go for a lockdown. From the exercise, it is coming out that there  is a chain of activities. Roles are designated from securing food supply to monitoring traffic and movement of people to contact tracing and the national referral hospital activating its contingency plan. People are identified and given responsibilities.

Lets not get it wrong. What we are doing is a simulation to prepare for a worst-case scenario. It is better to be prepared.

Rumour, surprisingly, is still the most powerful medium. Before the health ministry could issue its clarification, people from as far as Australia, in the southern hemisphere are calling if we are going for a national lockdown.

There is only one thing that can beat rumours with- being open. What if a simulation exercise was made open to a wider audience? Every additional person knowing the strategy and plan would help us prepare better.

With an increasing number of positive cases in the border areas and illegal border crossing, risk of a local transmission is imminent.  It is better to be prepared and prepared in the right way.

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