Jean-Jacques Cornish

Comoros is the second last African country to acknowledge a COVID 19 case

by Jean-Jacques Cornish

And then there was one.

On the last day of April, Comoran President Azali Assoumani announced that a 50 year old compatriot has contracted COVID 19.

That leaves Lesotho as the only African country free of coronavirus.

The infected Comoran had been in contact with a French-Comoran national with a history of travel to France.

Authorities are at full stretch ascertaining who the infected man has been in contact with.

A nighttime curfew has been imposed. Assoumani says he has not implemented a tougher lockdown because the majority of his one million people live off informal earnings.

Large gathering are prohibited and Mosques were ordered closed. Nevertheless in the holy month of Ramadan people congregated around the time of prayers and police were moved in to disperse them.

The immediate reaction from the Moroni government mirrors that of other African countries that closed their borders and ordered populations to stay at home immediately COVID 19 cases were detected.

So far this  has held at bay the viral onslaught predicated for Africa by the World Health Organization.

Nevertheless the UN  health body persists that Africa, with hundreds of millions crowded into informal housing settlements and notorious weak healthcare infrastructures, is in danger of becoming the COVID 19 nightmare.

Among the reasons for Africa staying behind the curve is the fact that international  correspondents based in capitals like Johannesburg, Nairobi and Addis Ababa have tended to stay put – in their countries if not their capitals – because of the border closures.

They have reported diligently on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s success in handing off mass infections thanks to draconian lockdown regulations.

But they have not been able to answer why other must poorer countries have much lower infection rates.

Is it climactic conditions? Coronavirus spread through Europe, China and the United States in the flu season i.e. the winter months. It has been a warm summer in the southern hemisphere.

Is it African countries experience in dealing with highly infectious diseases like EBOLA, malaria, tuberculosis, measles and SARS?

Is the tuberculosis vaccine BCG administered to African children shortly after birth effective against COVID 19.

Is it the youthfulness of the African population and the growing evidence that, deadly as it might be to the elderly and the medically compromised, COVID 19 barely affects the youth?

Is it – and this is quite terrifying –  because African countries have simply not been equipped to count the number of infections?

Burundi, which came into the game very late, made this admission.through its Health Minister Thadée Ndikumana

To each of these, honest observers must say what any responsible journalists covering  the pandemic should say. We simply don’t know.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.