Terrorism and trading in narcotics brought a new world order in security checks by all countries on all traveling passengers, to save lives and property as well as the global economy. The energies of governments across the globe was directed at fighting terrorism and trading in narcotics. Little attention was paid to dangerous microbes/viruses that can devastate the entire human race.
In 2005, US President George Bush warned that it would be too late to wait for the next pandemic before we act. Similarly, in 2015, President Barrack Obama also warned and advised the world to prepare globally for a future deadly virus. The world failed to prepare. Now, poor and rich countries are now paying the price.
Spread of COVID-19
COVID-19 pandemic is a product of globalisation. It is a known fact that coronavirus leveled the world, strong and weak, rich and poor, black or white, colored or tainted, no mercy to religions or beliefs.
It is indisputable that the virus was transferred from person to person. It also spreads across the world rapidly by fast modern transport systems.
The world is a global village and it will continue to be. In about nine hours an infected person in Wuhan, China, can be airlifted to Italy. Depending on the level of his interaction inside the aircraft, an infected person can transmit the virus to 10 or 20 people inside the aircraft. Two infected persons inside the plane and connecting to Lagos and New York will be in the two cities in seven and 10 hours respectively. While the other 19 including the primary donor continue the spread exponentially across the globe.
The current strategies to contain the pandemic are reactionary approaches. We failed to learn our lessons from Ebola, Zika, SARS, Swine Flu and a host of others. We were not proactive. We waited until COVID-19 caught us pants down with a colossal loss of lives and investment.
We are not doing enough to prevent future infection outbreaks. We must be more resilient and be prepared to prevent future outbreaks, thinking globally and acting locally.
Pandemic Containment Strategy
To contain the future crisis and spread of similar epidemics, we must nip it locally, taking advantage of a wide range of technologies, such as medical imaging, artificial intelligence for rapid detection of lung infection, non-contact sensing and vital sign assessment, among others.
To achieve this objective, we just need to introduce at all international and local air, land and seaports well-kitted human/body scanners/screening systems that will carry out multiple functions, aside detection of weapons and narcotics.
The human scanner cubicle will be kitted with sensors and non-ionizing radiation that can detect high temperature and carrier of epidemiological dangerous virus. The door of the screening system will open normally for a clean bill passenger to exit from compartment H (for example) and continue his journey, while the door rotates and gently slides the suspected infected passenger to the confined compartment B and the door closes for airport medical team to attend to the passenger for further examination. This will isolate the virus, prevent the spread across local and international borders.
Body scanner/screening machines come in variants. With these new improved security scanners at all international and local airports, the spread of future epidemic would have been detected, contained and quarantined ab initio. The entire world would have been saved and prevented from lockdown, loss of jobs, businesses, and stocks.
All the conspiracy theories and politicisation of the pandemic are not in the interest of humanity and lead us to nowhere but colossal loss. It is also important to note that no amount of human knowledge, preparedness, and technology development deployed to confront nature or natural disasters, nature will always win.
All the same, investment in this improved technology (body scanner) that can detect known and unknown deadly virus and use of same at major ports is a recipe to save the world from future lockdown, unprecedented deaths across the globe, and colossal economic loss.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a lesson for a new world order on urbanisation, globalisation and mobility. We must all act in unison and quarantine politics to prevent future reoccurrence.
By Hakeem Olatunji Badejo (Fellow, Nigeria Institute of Town Planners and Managing Partner, Hob Consult; firstname.lastname@example.org)