The first case of COVID-19 was detected on November 17, 2019, according to a report. It was weeks later before the Chinese authorities acknowledged the reality of the new virus, according a Chinese media. Initially, China responded to the outbreak by placing Wuhan and its neighboring cities under quarantine, covering about 50 million people in Hubei Province. The virus, which spread very fast to 198 countries and territories around the world, has had 525,297 confirmed cases reported, with 23,700 deaths. Out of those infected, 123,329 are said to have recovered and been discharged. On Thursday, January 30, 2020, WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency as a result of it wide spread and unimaginable consequence that would accompany the outbreak and its aftermath, predicting a global recession similar to that of World War II. In fact, recently, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said that, “The world is at war.” This global pandemic is not only raining unprecedented health challenges in a scale that was never expected globally, it has caused the greatest of all business and economic shutdowns in global history; this is clearly fuelling a global recession. To manage the pains and reduce the economic impact of the pandemic, world superpowers have outlined various stimulus packages to help people, business and corporations navigate the trying times.
The World Bank and IFC’s boards of directors approved an increased $14 billion package to fast-track financing, to assist companies and countries in their efforts to prevent, detect and respond to the rapid spread of COVID-19. IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has increased its COVID-19-related financing availability to $8 billion as part of the $14 billion package, up from an earlier $6 billion, to support private companies and their employees hurt by the economic downturn caused by the spread of COVID-19.
The IFC response has four components: $2 billion from the Real Sector Crisis Response Facility; $2 billion from the existing Global Trade Finance Programme; $2 billion from the Working Capital Solutions programme; $2 billion from the Global Trade Liquidity Programme; and the Critical Commodities Finance Programme. In view of the foregoing, the Dutch government has been praised for one of the biggest stimulus packages of 287 billion DKK (about $2.5 trillion) stimulus package designed to support business and to keep employers at work; the government promised to pay 75% of wages for the first 90 days in a population of 5,792,202 people (2020). In the United States, there is a $2 trillion stimulus package for a population of 330,488,824 people. In the United Kingdom, the Chancellor tossed out a £330 billion stimulus package for a population of 67,886,011 people. In Germany, there is a $600 billion stimulus package for a population of 83,783,942 people. In Switzerland, there is 10 billion Swiss francs ($10.5 billion) stimulus package for a population of 8,654,622 people. In Canada, there is C$27 billion (£15.73 billion) stimulus package for 37,742,154 population.
In Italy, there is €26 billion ($28.3 billion) stimulus package for a 60,484,926 population. In Australia, there is a A$2.4 billion ($1.56 billion) stimulus package for 26 million people. In the Spain, there is a stimulus package worth €200 billion ($219 billion) for 46,754,778 population. In Portugal, there is a €9.2 billion ($10 billion) aid stimulus package for 10,196,709 people, while Thailand announced $12.7 billion stimulus package worth 400 billion baht ($12.7 billion) for 69.80 million population.
Nigeria recorded the first index case on Wednesday, February 26, 2020, through an Italian citizen who came into the country on February 25, 2020, from Milan. Having been confirmed by the virology laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, part of the laboratory network of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Lagos State government responded swiftly to arrest the situation, while the Italian man was transferred to Lagos State biosecurity facilities for isolation and testing. With the combined efforts of the Lagos State ministry of health, they were able to clinically stabilise the man at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos, and he was later discharged, having been confirmed negative and certified fit to mingle with the society. Although Nigeria’s coronavirus has risen to 97 cases (March 29, 2020), the federal government and the Lagos State ministry of health have been strengthening measures to control and contain the situation.
The efforts of the NCDC, in collaboration with Lagos State health authorities, have been tremendously encouraging. As countries across the world are recording new cases and deaths virtually on a daily basis, the low spread of the pandemic with one death in Nigeria has continued to generate divergent views in the global community, while experts are baffled at the situation. A school of thought believes that the low spread of the epidemic could be attributed to Africa’s predominantly hot climate.
But according to Rodney Adam, Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, “There is no current evidence to indicate that climate affects transmission.”
However, Adam, who heads the infection control task force at the Aga Khan University Hospital, believes that it is true that, for certain infections, there may be genetic differences in susceptibility. He, however, states that there is no current evidence to that effect for COVID-19. Also, there is a misleading narrative that Africans, due to their genetic composition and skin, can resist COVID-19. But, Thumbi Ndung’u, director of a Durban-based infectious disease research centre, SANTHE, said: “I don’t think anybody knows” why Africa so far appeared to be unscathed. Is Africa being lucky? This is a question is still baffling experts.
The truth of the matter is that the virus is here with us. Whether the hot climate is responsible for the low spread or Africans’ genetic composition, it is inconsequential. What matters now is how the various governments across the world would save the global economy from devastating collapse. For this reason, different countries have been setting up different stimulus packages to curb the effects of the outbreak on the economy. As part of their contributions to support fight the coronavirus and its economic impact, various billionaires and philanthropists around the world have continued to inject billions of dollars into the situation. In the US, Michael Bloomberg, the media billionaire, has launched a $40 million initiative to prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries. Bloomberg Philanthropies is partnering with the World Health Organization and global health organization Vital Strategies. Steve Ballmer the ex-Microsoft CEO’s philanthropic foundation has donated $1 million to community organisations in Los Angeles, including the county’s school district. Ballmer has also donated $3 million to the Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 fund, which will provide one-time operating grants to community organisations that work with vulnerable populations like residents without health insurance or sick days.
He has contributed $1 million to all in Seattle, which benefits local non-profits, and $500,000 to United Way for Southeast MI. In eastern Asia, Jack Ma, the Alibaba cofounder, has pledged $14 million to help develop a COVID-19 vaccine. He is also donating 500,000 testing kits and one million face masks to the US. Li Ka-shing, Asia’s most influential investor, donated $13 million to help Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak. His foundation has also distributed 250,000 face masks to social welfare organizations and homes for the elderly in Hong Kong. In Southeast Asia, Sy Siblings, the Siblings’ SM Prime, Philippines largest property developer, has waived rent charges for all tenants in its SM Supermalls from March 16 to April 14. SM has also allocated 100 million php ($1.9 million) to supply medical front liners with protective equipment such as masks, gowns, visors, gloves and shoe covers. In south-central Europe, Giorgio Armani and 19 other Italian billionaires donated more than $45 million to fight coronavirus in Italy. Some of Italy’s top export industries, including luxury fashion and manufacturing, are taking a sharp hit as residents stay indoors for a second week — but industry leaders aren’t backing down from the fight.
Fashion legend Giorgio Armani donated about $2.2 million to hospitals in Milan, Rome, Bergamo, Piacenza and Versilia as well as to the Italian civil protection agency, which is coordinating the country’s response to the outbreak. Pharmaceutical giant Menarini, owned by billionaire Massimiliana Landini Aleotti and her family, converted part of its factory in Florence to produce disinfectant gel for hospitals. Altogether, Italy’s billionaires have given more than $45 million in donations to hospitals, healthcare facilities and government agencies since the crisis began in February.
Government, banks and wealthy individuals have contributed billions to fight coronavirus in Nigeria. In Nigeria, as usual, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has never failed to defend the economy with monetary programmes. This time around, the apex bank joined with the bankers’ committee to back a N3.5 trillion stimulus package for its 206.14 million people. According to the governor of the CBN, “about N1 trillion would be used to support the local manufacturing sector as well as boost import substitution.” He added that the balance of N100 billion would be used to “support the health authorities to ensure laboratories, researchers and innovators work with global scientists to patent and produce vaccines and test kits in Nigeria.”
Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person, has donated N200 million (approximately $524,000) to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
Also, Nicky Oppenheimer and Johann Rupert, South Africa’s richest people, are each donating approximately $57.1 million (1 billion rand) to help small businesses and affected employees, according to a national address given by President Cyril Ramaphosa. Nigerian industrialist, Abdulsamad Rabiu, donated N1 billion in cash to support COVID-19 response. Joining him in this donation drive is Nigeria’s famous trained medical doctor and Senior Pastor of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Dr. Paul Eneche. United Bank For Africa (UBA) announced that it will provide N5 billion (U$14 million) to COVID-19 relief support across Africa, N1 billion (USD2.8 million) to Lagos State government in Nigeria; N500 million (USD1.4 million) to Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; N1 billion (USD2.8 million) to the remaining 35 states in Nigeria; N1.5 billion (USD4.2 million) to UBA’s presence countries in Africa; N1 billion (USD2.8 million) for medical centres with equipment and supplies; free telemedicine call centre facility. There is no doubt that COVID-19 has presented the opportunity for Nigerians who have the wherewithal to rise to the occasion and help government to reduce the pains caused by the occasion.
Although the responses of the aforementioned Nigerians and companies are encouraging, there is still more to be done, since the pandemic is still here with us. It, therefore, calls for other well-meaning Nigerians, associations, corporate organisations to come to the rescue of the people, especially the vulnerable ones, to ensure that we collectively fight this figth to finish and stabilise the economy, even after the pandemic.
• Prince Samuel is principal partner at Sensale Research Group