Amidst news on the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases sprouting up globally, Webster University Ghana held a campus awareness talk on the virus in partnership with the CDC Global Health Ghana on Feb. 25.
The talk involved a team of CDC representatives from the US and Ghana led by Dr. Chastity Walker, the Global Health Security Director of CDC, and was moderated by Webster’s International Relations Head of Department, Dr. Agnes Khoo-Dzisi. The event focused on presenting the hard facts of COVID-19 to students and staff, demystifying misconceptions about the virus and discussing relevant international relations implications.
Misperceptions and Stigmas
The talk began by establishing the fundamental facts concerning COVID-19, a disease now widely known as the coronavirus, first discovered after investigations into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. Stigmas arise during disease outbreaks when there is a lot that is unknown. Since China first announced the outbreak of COVID-19, people of Asian descent have been assumed to be infected even without showing any symptoms and have become a target of hateful remarks and unfair discrimination. Some countries are not permitting Chinese nationals.
Walker made it clear to the audience that diseases like COVID-19 are not selective and do not target a specific population, ethnicities, racial backgrounds or genders. Such discrimination should not be permitted, as this is a global issue that is quickly affecting and impacting every nation.
Prevention and Control
Though there is no antiviral or vaccine treatment for COVID-19, Dr. Walker advised we all focus on medical prevention; offering several practical tips, including frequent washing of hands with soap and water, carrying an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for daily use, avoid touching mouths, noses, eyes with unwashed hands and general practice of hygienic etiquette.
Ensuring infection control at workspaces is essential as well. Dr. Walker advised wiping down of surfaces with disposable wet wipes and making use of EPA-approved diluted bleach solutions or household disinfectant.
She cautioned the audience to avoid close contact with anyone who may be showing signs of an infection and to hand them a face mask before engaging them.
International Relations Perspectives
At its core, the talk sought to examine the international relations implications following the outbreak of COVID-19, with Khoo-Dzisi leading the conversation. She looked at how countries have responded to containing the virus outbreak, stating case examples of Japan’s response to the Diamond Princess ship case and Italy’s travel ban on China. This later move was ineffective in preventing a case in the country. She explained that in these situations, transparency and timely reporting to the world is paramount, mentioning how China fell short in this aspect initially but quickly made the right changes to correct that.
Khoo-Dzisi shared a few observations and underlying facts that are resurfacing following the outbreak, one of them being the lack of trust in countries with no democracy even in health matters, citing Iran’s outbreak case as an example.
She also pointed out the dependency of the world on the Chinese economy and what that may imply to other world leaders. The US, for instance, has seen an unprecedented plunge in the stock market the past week.
Khoo-Dzisi rounded up by juxtaposing the negatives against the future positives of COVID-19. Among a few includes the loss of jobs and a potential fall in the world’s economy, as well as a great number of people possibly suffering from PTSD, especially those who live in epidemic areas.
Eventually, Dr. Khoo-Dzisi stipulates that humans are survivors and are known to have overcome past outbreaks with stronger immune systems. On the brighter side, this scare will encourage a great number of nations to be more prepared for outbreaks and may lead to newer job creations in the health and technology sectors.
She concluded with a caution to not politicize the issue or turn it into an economic plot, reiterating that disease outbreaks concern human life and we all have a role to play in being vigilant to ensure we control them effectively. Students were encouraged to not discriminate unjustly against groups of people and that we must join forces globally to attack the problem and not people