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Cry My Beloved Country

MAXWELL MOTHAPELARURI MOATHUDI

I am deeply concerned my brothers and sisters. I am deeply concerned about my country; makes me remember Alan Patton of “Cry my beloved country” novel, during my teenage years at “Swaneng ke Swaneng”. Go diragala eng ka hatshe la rona betsho?

 Since 2014 or there about, I have spent sleepless nights asking myself this very question; albeit with no answers. Our country has been inundated with streams and streams of arguments and counter-arguments aimed at nothing. Nothing because it seems the arguments and counter-arguments are not providing any answers. The newspapers have been choke-filled with articles concerning politics and corruption, with no end in sight, though this is something (kudos my brethren in the private media industry), at least.

We have been busy cultivating corruption and corrupt people and making them part of our culture. Yes! Culture is man-made; but do we have to inculcate corruption into it (our culture)? Our clinics and hospitals are without the requisite drugs, to a point where, in a bid to cover up for our failures, we have started categorising drugs as vital, necessary and so on and so forth.

A drug is a drug, and its purpose is to save and/or preserve human life; no matter how we try to classify it. So! Let there be drugs, vital or whatever, for our people need them. But, is this possible with this rampant corruption? Hardly! The decade up to 2018 saw unabated and unprecedented corruption in our midst. Let us draw a list (even if I tried or anyone tried, the list cannot be exhausted: corruption has been made part of our culture):
 

  1. Morupule B Project (P10 billion +)
  2. Fengue Glass Plant (P500 million +)
  3. National Petroleum Fund (P250 million)
  4. Botswana Public Officers’ Pension Fund (BPOPF) – P400 million))
  5. Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development (MYESC) – BOT50 Independence Celebrations (millions of Pula)
  6. e-Government (P500 million +)
  7. Digital migration (P180 million +)
     

The list goes on and on … and I am not going to attempt to address all the above incidences; I leave it to you to conjure-up what effect this will have on an ordinary Motswana’s livelihood. At the least, these are some of the scandals that made major headlines and have an everlasting impact on the lives of us, the ordinary citizens.

Do we have any recourse? I doubt; for we are a very humble people and believe all will come to pass. Come to pass, my foot, whilst the majority of well-meaning, hardworking citizens die of hunger and disease. Come to pass, my foot, while the majority of our citizens do not have portable drinking water, accommodation, electricity, you name it. What in God’s name happened to this beautiful country and its humble people? The answer lies somewhere in the just past decade.

We need to be reminded that, with the disappearance of the pension funds, and mind you, this affects the whole public service, a hundred thousand (100 000+) and counting; people are going to suffer. Let us remember that these are the very people who the Unions, Medical Aid Funds, Banks and so on and so forth pester during their active life and avoid like a scourge once they are out of work (pensioning).

Some might ask; but what is the direct impact of this on society? The question is very appropriate, and I will attempt, from my lay-man’s point of view, to hazard (just on the surface though) the impact this unabated corruption has or will definitely have on the masses; I take two or three examples.
 

Morupule B Project

How many of us depend on electric energy from Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) for a living? Oh! Is it living or survival? I guess the question should be; how many of us depend on BPC electric energy for survival? You might not recognise it, but for us to just survive, we depend very much on electric energy. How many of you ever considered how life “will be” if there is no telecommunications? Just telecommunications, nothing life threatening.

I am saying “will be” because the electric energy fiasco is far from over, and all because of the rampant corruption. Mascom, be Mobile, Orange and even the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) fixed lines and associated services will go down in the absence of electric energy from BPC. The services will go down since all these entities do not have back-up systems, or if they have, they are entirely unreliable. If you think I am lying, just wait and see.

Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) depends on BPC electric energy to pump the very water the lucky few who have access to portable water rely on and if they have any back-up system to talk about, it is not reliable enough for our survival; just wait and see. The hospitals and clinics; do they have any reliable back-up systems? Just wait and see. What use will be our mobile phones, our lap-tops, desk-tops and all such goodies, in the absence of BPC electric energy? Just wait and see. We still import basics like candles, and they are going to be in demand, and expensive; who can afford paraffin with the ever rising cost of fuel? Another by-product of corruption.

Do not let anyone lie to you that our electric energy problems are about to be a thing of the past. I learnt very recently that the sale of Morupule B is on the cards once again. Will this be in the interest of Batswana or we are just opening another avenue for corruption. “Ke a bona madi a motho a saa berekelang, madi a bogodu, a monate thata”. Are these few ladies and gentlemen permanently wired for corruption? Is corruption part of their DNA? It seems, otherwise how does one start to explain their insatiable appetite to destroy “the people’s lives”. In Phikwe we are left in the dark every time the wind blows or it rains. I assume there is no money to repair the very old electrical infrastructure. And where has the money gone? The corruption route; where else?

Fengue Glass Plant

This is yet another project where we failed as a nation, because of the rampant corruption; and we remained and still remain silent. The loss of a job by the then Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) chief accounting officer was not a solution. A thousand prospective jobs disappeared into thin air. These jobs will have gone a long way in alleviating the growing unemployment and attendant poverty. These one thousand people, who would have been employed at the plant, would have assisted us in fighting the growing poverty; we still depend on the extended family structure mind you, and now more than ever; we just might not realise it.

Botswana Public Officers’ Pension Fund (BPOPF)

This one is really heart-breaking; how exactly does one explain stealing from one-self? I thought maybe we could hide behind a finger and claim the government money we steal is not ours; but stealing pension funds, how absurd! So! We steal from ourselves; how shameful! We are talking of money belonging to more than one hundred thousand people, the majority of whom are innocent, hardworking family men and women. In short we are talking of stealing directly from more than three hundred thousand people; that is a sixth of the population. Re bolaile sechaba! I keep saying we; yes it is us because we are as guilty as those with their hands in the cookie jar. We are not making the right noises and therefore we are as guilty as the real culprits.

I mentioned earlier that we still depend on the extended family structure and as such we need to factor in three or more people per “one” of the more than one hundred thousand plus directly affected and we are talking of more than a sixth of our population. Shameful, isn’t it? But here we are, silent as ever. These corrupt fellas take our silence as motivation. We should be making a lot of noise, this despite the legislation denying us the right to peaceful demonstration.

Geez! Fifty years on and we are still not allowed to go into the streets to protest, and it is as normal as going to sleep on an empty stomach, in a dark, little house without portable water! Yes! We are the real cheer leaders! Go on guys, loot the country, there is no one watching! I do not know, “gongwe re tshaba di-sjambok! A mme gone thupa ea bolaya?” On a serious note though, are we willing to subordinate our rights on the basis of fear of being beaten up? Are we willing to let a few individuals enrich themselves at the expense of more than two million people on the basis of fear? Come on!

This deafening silence is amazing and leads me to think that maybe we are all involved. Are we lurking in the shadows, to pounce, in the event that an opportunity presents itself? Or maybe, just maybe, from the extended family perspective, we all get kick-backs from this incessant corruption. I fail to understand how a people, robbed in broad day light, can afford to sit back and relax and think this milking of our economy will come to an end.

You see, corruption is like an infectious disease, it permeates society to a point where everyone is infected. It seems we might just get to that point, a point where every jack and jill is involved in corruption. I call upon you Batswana, let us stand up against corruption, that is, if we are not all involved. We cannot leave it to state machinery like the DCEC, they cannot fight it alone.

As if the above is not enough, our Chiefs are at it. I wrote in one of my past articles that our Members of Parliament (MPs) will soon be demanding luxury, chauffeured seven series BMWs. Before the ink has even dried on the paper, members of the House of Chiefs (Marara), are up in arms demanding chauffeured seven series BMWs. Come on guys! Where will the money come from? The above list represents roughly P12 billion of wasted/looted public funds and you want to add more to these losses. I have just enquired on the price of a brand new BMW seven series (P1.2 million), and from the top of my head we have roughly forty (40) members in the House of Chiefs. So! Our dear esteemed Marara want to take at least another P48 million from the public coffers, and for what, absolutely nothing!

I wish we could take ourselves more seriously. Where is the P48 million coming from? A total of 46 432 candidates sat for this year’s Primary School Leaving Examination, with a 99.9-% pass. Assuming they will all be admitted to Junior Secondary school, we are looking at nearly 50 000 pupils who will need classrooms, well paid and motivated caretakers (teachers, cleaners, cooks, etc., etc.), stationary and the like. Where do you think the money needed to take care of these poor fellas’ education will come from?

These are your very own children, your very own grand-children, ladies and gentlemen in the House of Chiefs, please think of them. It is required of you to be selfless. It is required of you to serve this nation, please be reasonable and stop comparing yourselves to Government Ministers. What will happen to this beautiful country and its humble people if everyone else wants to have what others have? If at least you had a reason for wanting luxury chauffeured cars, besides comparing yourselves to Government Ministers, I might just, just might, be on your side, not now! What value does a chauffeured BMW seven series add to the job you do? Absolutely nothing! You will still be expected to carry out your duties diligently even if you had to drive yourself to work in a “MaoFit”.

Some of us are working very hard to acquire such BMWs for ourselves, without asking the tax payer to foot the bill; why can’t you? Some of us are trying very hard not to be wasteful of public resources, because they belong to the future generation. Let us all, dear Batswana, strive to make this, our country, a bastion of selflessness. We have a future generation to think of. A generation of innocent children. Let us think of them!

Maxwell Mothapelaruri Moathudi writes from Selebi-Phikwe 

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The Corona Coronation (Part 10)

9th July 2020

Ever heard of a 666-type beast known as Fort Detrick?

Located in the US state of Maryland, about 80 km removed from Washington DC, Fort Detrick houses the US army’s top virus research laboratory. It has been identified as “home to the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, with its bio-defense agency, the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and  also hosts the National Cancer Institute-Frederick and the National Interagency Confederation for Biological Research and National Interagency Biodefense Campus”.

The 490-hectare campus researches the world’s deadliest pathogens, including Anthrax (in 1944, the Roosevelt administration ordered 1 million anthrax bombs from Fort Detrick), Ebola, smallpox, and … you guessed right: coronaviruses.  The facility, which carries out paid research projects for government agencies (including the CIA), universities and drug companies most of whom owned by the highly sinister military-industrial complex, employs 900 people.

Between 1945 and 1969, the sprawling complex (which has since become the US’s ”bio-defence centre” to put it mildly) was the hub of the US biological weapons programme. It was at Fort Detrick that Project MK Ultra, a top-secret CIA quest to subject   the human mind to routine robotic manipulation, a monstrosity the CIA openly owned up to in a congressional inquisition in 1975, was carried out.  In the consequent experiments, the guinea pigs comprised not only of people of the forgotten corner of America – inmates, prostitutes and the homeless but also prisoners of war and even regular US servicemen.

These unwitting participants underwent up to a 20-year-long ordeal of barbarous experiments involving psychoactive drugs (such as LSD), forced electroshocks, physical and sexual abuses, as well as a myriad of other torments. The experiments not only violated international law, but also the CIA’s own charter which forbids domestic activities. Over 180 doctors and researchers took part in these horrendous experiments and this in a country which touts itself as the most civilised on the globe!

Was the coronavirus actually manufactured at Fort Detrick (like HIV as I shall demonstrate at the appropriate time) and simply tactfully patented to other equally cacodemonic places such as the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China?

THE FORT DETRICK SCIENTISTS’ PROPHECY WAS WELL-INFORMED

 

About two years before the term novel coronavirus became a familiar feature in day-to-day banter, two scientist cryptically served advance warning of its imminence. They were Allison Totura and Sina Bavari, both researchers at Fort Detrick.

The two scientists talked of “novel highly pathogenic coronaviruses that may emerge from animal reservoir hosts”, adding, “These coronaviruses may have the potential to cause devastating pandemics due to unique features in virus biology including rapid viral replication, broad host range, cross-species transmission, person-to-person transmission, and lack of herd immunity in human populations  Associated with novel respiratory syndromes, they move from person-to-person via close contact and can result in high morbidity and mortality caused by the progression to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).”

All the above constitute some of the documented attributes and characteristics of the virus presently on the loose – the propagator of Covid-19. A recent clinical review of Covid-19 in The Economist seemed to bear out this prognostication when it said, “It is ARDS that sees people rushed to intensive-care units and put on ventilators”. As if sounding forth a veritable prophecy, the two scientists besought governments to start working on counter-measures there and then that could be “effective against such a virus”.

Well, it was not by sheer happenstance that Tortura and Bavari turned out to have been so incredibly and ominously prescient. They had it on good authority, having witnessed at ringside what the virus was capable of in the context of their own laboratory.  The gory scenario they painted for us came not from secondary sources but from the proverbial horse’s mouth folks.

CDC’S RECKLESS ADMISSION

In March this year, Robert Redfield, the US  Director for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  told the House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee that it had transpired that some members of the American populace  who were certified as having died of influenza  turned out to have harboured the novel coronavirus per posthumous analysis of their tissue.

Redfield was not pressed to elaborate but the message was loud and clear – Covid-19 had been doing the rounds in the US much earlier than it was generally supposed and that the extent to which it was mistaken for flu was by far much more commonplace than was openly admitted. An outspoken Chinese diplomat, Zhao Lijian, seized on this rather casual revelation and insisted that the US disclose further information, exercise transparency on coronavirus cases and provide an explanation to the public.

But that was not all the beef Zhao had with the US. He further charged that the coronavirus was possibly transplanted to China by the US: whether inadvertently or by deliberate design he did not say.  Zhao pointed to the Military World Games of October 2019, in which US army representatives took part, as the context in which the coronavirus irrupted into China. Did the allegation ring hollow or there was a ring of truth to it?

THE BENASSIE FACTOR

The Military World Games, an Olympic-style spectrum of competitive action, are held every four years. The 2019 episode took place in Wuhan, China. The 7th such, the games ran from October 18 to October 27.  The US contingent comprised of 17 teams of over 280 athletes, plus an innumerable other staff members. Altogether, over 9000 athletes from 110 countries were on hand to showcase their athletic mettle in more than 27 sports. All NATO countries were present, with Africa on its part represented by 30 countries who included Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Besides the singular number of participants, the event notched up a whole array of firsts. One report spelt them out thus: “The first time the games were staged outside of military bases, the first time the games were all held in the same city, the first time an Athletes’ Village was constructed, the first time TV and VR systems were powered by 5G telecom technology, and the first use of all-round volunteer services for each delegation.”

Now, here is the clincher: the location of the guest house for the US team was located in the immediate neighbourhood of the Wuhan Seafood Market, the place the Chinese authorities to this day contend was the diffusion point of the coronavirus. But there is more: according to some reports, the person who allegedly but unwittingly transmitted the virus to the people milling about the market – Patient Zero of Covid-19 – was one Maatie Benassie.

Benassie, 52, is a security officer of Sergeant First Class rank at the Fort Belvoir military base in Virginia and took part in the 50-mile cycling road race in the same competitions. In the final lap, she was accidentally knocked down by a fellow contestant and sustained a fractured rib and a concussion though she soldiered on and completed the race with the agonising adversity.  Inevitably, she saw a bit of time in a local health facility.   According to information dug up by George Webb, an investigative journalist based in Washington DC,     Benassie would later test positive for Covid-19 at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.

Incidentally, Benassie apparently passed on the virus to other US soldiers at the games, who were hospitalised right there in China before they were airlifted back to the US. The US government straightaway prohibited the publicising of details on the matter under the time-honoured excuse of “national security interests”, which raised eyebrows as a matter-of-course. As if that was not fishy enough, the US out of the blue tightened Chinese visas to the US at the conclusion of the games.

The rest, as they say, is history: two months later, Covid-19 had taken hold on China territory.  “From that date onwards,” said one report, “one to five new cases were reported each day. By December 15, the total number of infections stood at 27 — the first double-digit daily rise was reported on December 17 — and by December 20, the total number of confirmed cases had reached 60.”

TWO CURIOUS RESEARCH HALTINGS

Is it a coincidence that all the US soldiers who fell ill at the Wuhan games did their preparatory training at the Fort Belvoir military base, only a 15-minutes’  drive from Fort Detrick?

That Fort Detrick is a plain-sight perpetrator of pathogenic evils is evidenced by a number of highly suspicious happenings concerning it. Remember the 2001 anthrax mailing attacks on government and media houses which killed five people right on US territory? The two principal suspects who puzzlingly were never charged, worked as microbiologists at Fort Detrick. Of the two, Bruce Ivins, who was the more culpable, died in 2008 of “suicide”. For “suicide”, read “elimination”, probably because he was in the process of spilling the beans and therefore cast the US government in a stigmatically diabolical light. Indeed, the following year, all research projects at Fort Detrick were suspended on grounds that the institute was “storing pathogens not listed   in its database”. The real truth was likely much more reprehensible.

In 2014, there was a mini local pandemic in the US which killed thousands of people and which the mainstream media were not gutsy enough to report. It arose following the weaponisation at Fort Detrick of the H7N9 virus, prompting the Obama administration to at once declare a moratorium on the research and withdraw funding.

The Trump administration, however, which has a pathological fixation on undoing practically all the good Obama did, reinstated the research under new rigorous guidelines in 2017. But since old habits die hard, the new guidelines were flouted at will, leading to another shutdown of the whole research gamut at the institute in August 2019.  This, nonetheless, was not wholesale as other areas of research, such as experiments to make bird flu more transmissible and which had begun in 2012, proceeded apace. As one commentator pointedly wondered aloud, was it really necessary to study how to make H5N1, which causes a type of bird flu with an eye-popping mortality rate, more transmissible?

Consistent with its character, the CDC was not prepared to furnish particulars upon issuing the cease and desist order, citing “national security reasons”. Could the real reason have been the manufacture of the novel coronavirus courtesy of a tip-off by the more scrupulous scientists?

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Masisi faces ultimate test of his presidency

9th July 2020

President Mokgweetsi Masisi may have breathed a huge sigh of relief when he emerged victorious in last year’s 2019 general elections, but the ultimate test of his presidency has only just begun.

From COVID-19 pandemic effects; disenchanted unemployed youth, deteriorating diplomatic relations with neighbouring South Africa as well as emerging instability within the ruling party — Masisi has a lot to resolve in the next few years.

Last week we started an unwanted cold war with Botswana’s main trade partner, South Africa, in what we consider an ill-conceived move. Never, in the history of this country has Botswana shown South Africa a cold shoulder – particularly since the fall of the apartheid regime.

It is without a doubt that our country’s survival depends on having good relations with South Africa. As the Chairperson of African National Congress (ANC), Gwede Mantashe once said, a good relationship between Botswana and South Africa is not optional but necessary.

No matter how aggrieved we feel, we should never engage in a diplomatic war — with due respect to other neighbours— with South Africa. We will never gain anything from starting a diplomatic war with South Africa.

In fact, doing so will imperil our economy, given that majority of businesses in the retail sector and services sector are South African companies.

Former cabinet minister and Phakalane Estates proprietor, David Magang once opined that Botswana’s poor manufacturing sector and importation of more than 80 percent of the foodstuffs from South Africa, effectively renders Botswana a neo-colony of the former.

Magang’s statement may look demeaning, but that is the truth, and all sorts of examples can be produced to support that. Perhaps it is time to realise that as a nation, we are not independent enough to behave the way we do. And for God’s sake, we are a landlocked country!

Recently, the effects of COVID-19 have exposed the fragility of our economy; the devastating pleas of the unemployed and the uncertainty of the future. Botswana’s two mainstay source of income; diamonds and tourism have been hit hard. Going forward, there is a need to chart a new pathway, and surely it is not an easy task.

The ground is becoming fertile for uprisings that are not desirable in any country. That the government has not responded positively to the rising unemployment challenge is the truth, and very soon as a nation we will wake up to this reality.

The magnitude of the problem is so serious that citizens are running out of patience. The government on the other hand has not done much to instil confidence by assuring the populace that there is a plan.

The general feeling is that, not much will change, hence some sections of the society, will try to use other means to ensure that their demands are taken into consideration. Botswana might have enjoyed peace and stability in the past, but there is guarantee that, under the current circumstances, the status quo will be maintained.

It is evident that, increasingly, indigenous citizens are becoming resentful of naturalised and other foreign nationals. Many believe naturalised citizens, especially those of Indian origin, are the major beneficiaries in the economy, while the rest of the society is side-lined.

The resentfulness is likely to intensify going forward. We needed not to be heading in this direction. We needed not to be racist in our approach but when the pleas of the large section of the society are ignored, this is bound to happen.

It is should be the intention of every government that seeks to strive on non-racialism to ensure that there is shared prosperity. Share prosperity is the only way to make people of different races in one society to embrace each other, however, we have failed in this respect.

Masisi’s task goes beyond just delivering jobs and building a nation that we all desire, but he also has an immediate task of achieving stability within his own party. The matter is so serious that, there are threats of defection by a number of MPs, and if he does not arrest this, his government may collapse before completing the five year mandate.

The problems extend to the party itself, where Masisi found himself at war with his Secretary General, Mpho Balopi. The war is not just the fight for Central Committee position, but forms part of the succession plan.

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The Corona Coronation (Part 9)

29th June 2020
Michael Mellaham

If we are to go by what I can term as conventional wisdom, the coronavirus arose in China’s Hubei province in the city of Wuhan. According to the WHO, the Chinese government filed the country’s first confirmed Covid-19 case with the international health regulator on December 8, 2019, with the first case outside of China’s boarders reported in Thailand on January 13, 2020.

We now know, however, courtesy of a paper in The Lancet that was authored by doctors from Wuhan’s Jinhintan Hospital, that the first such case was logged on December 1. We have also come to learn that in point of fact, the first patient, the so-called Patient Zero, may have presented with the as yet unfathomed Covid-9 symptoms in a public health facility on November 17. This is according to a report in the South China Morning Post, which claims to have seen classified medical government reports.

The Post report says nine cases of Covid-19 sufferers, aged between 39 and 79, were attended to during the month of November alone and that a total of 266 people officially had the disease by December 31st. Clearly, the disease had been sedately circulating for some time before it exploded towards the end of the year considering that a great number of people do not present symptoms at all.

Yet the fact the disease was first announced in China and even laboratory-spawned in that country does not necessarily mean China was its veritable place of origin. It almost certainly had multiple origins and may have occurred much earlier in other places on the globe.

AMERICA’S FLU ILLNESS TSUNAMI

Unbeknownst to much of the world, Covid-19 struck in Europe and the USA about the same time it did so in China, if not much earlier, it has now emerged. This is not tabloid hogwash or simply idle gossip folks: it was reported by the highly estimable news outlets such as NBC News and The New York Times. Even Newsweek, which along with Time magazine constitute America’s leading two weekly political magazines, was adamant that the coronavirus outbreak must have occurred as early as September 2019 and that Wuhan was possibly not its birthplace as such. For some reason (or is it for partisan reasons?), the globally renowned broadcast media networks like CNN, BBC, and Sky News have chosen to self-gag on the matter.

If there’s one disease which is so notoriously recurrent and even death-dealing in the US, it is influenza – commonly referred to as the flu or common cold. Here in Africa, flu is no much of a big deal: it is so mild I personally do not know – nor have ever heard of – a single one person who died of flu. In the US, flu is some menace. For instance, in the 2017-18 season, over 61,000 deaths were linked to flu, and in the 2018-19 season, 34,200 succumbed to the disease. Every year, 10 percent of the US population, or 32 million people, contract flu, though only about 100,000 end up being hospitalised anyway.

In the US, the flu season ordinarily runs from October to May, straddling three of the country’s four-season set, namely fall (September to November), winter (December to February), and spring (March to May). The disease is particularly widespread in 16 states. Last year, the winter flu season began atypically early and with a big bang that had never been seen in 15 years according to a December 6, 2019 report by Associated Press (AP), a wire news agency. By the beginning of December or thereabouts, 1.7 million flu illnesses, 16,000 hospitalisations, and 900 flu-related deaths had taken place.

The Centre for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) put the number of people already dead from flu-related illnesses as of mid-March 2019 at between 29,000 and 59,000. This was in addition to the misery of hundreds of thousands of flu-related hospitalisations and millions of medical visits for flu symptoms that have raged in the course of the season. Some hospitals in New Orleans have reported the busiest patient traffic ever at their emergency departments.

Health authorities in Louisiana, which was the first to be impinged, said flu-like illnesses began to rocket in the month of October. Said the AP report: “There are different types of flu viruses, and the one causing illnesses in most parts of the country is a surprise.” Dave Osthus, a flu statistician at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was quoted as saying, “This could be a precursor to something pretty bad. But we don’t know what that is.”
Well, maybe we can venture an answer to the conundrum: the flu situation was exacerbated by the coronavirus.

THE CASE OF A NEW JERSEY MAYOR

The story of Michael Mellaham, the mayor of the New Jersey city of Belleville, has been widely reported in the Western world, albeit in the comparatively fringe media houses primarily lest the finger of indictment shift from China to the US. Sometime in November last year, Mellaham came down with an ailment that presented with Covid-19-like symptoms such as aches, high fevers, chills, and a sore throat, the latter of which went on for a full month.
Right at the onset of his diseased condition, Mellaham went to see his doctor, who told him not to worry as it was little more than flu and would peter out in a matter of days. The illness lingered for much longer though he at long last fought it off. It was the sickest he had ever been in his adult life.

In April this year, Mellaham took a Covid-19 test and he was found not with Covid-19 per se but its antibodies, which crystal-clearly evinced he had the disease at some stage in the recent past. This is what he told China Global Television Network (CGTN) in May: “We’re told that they (people with Covid-19-like symptoms) don’t have the flu. They just have bronchitis. They just have a bad cough or it’s a bad cold. I think that we just weren’t expecting Covid-19 then, so therefore the doctors didn’t know what to call it or what to expect.”

Of the credibility of the test he took, known as IgM (Immunoglobulin M Test), the first antibody a body makes when it fights a new infection, Mellaham said, “The IgM is the more recent antibody, which would have shown that that antibody is more recent in my system, that my body more recently fought the coronavirus.”

The first publicly admitted case of coronavirus-triggered morbidity in the US was announced in January this year and involved a Californian who had recently returned from Wuhan, but as Mellaham pointedly put it, “that doesn’t mean it wasn’t here (on US soil) before that”.

SUDDENLY “MANY PIXELS”

On May 7, 2020, The New York Times reported of two men aged 57 and 69 who died in their homes in Santa Clara, California, on February 6 and 17 respectively, and this was 23 days before the US announced its first Covid-19 fatality in Kirkland, Washington, on February 29. Their demise was attributed to flu post-mortem but it later emerged that they had been victims of the novel coronavirus. Since they had never travelled outside their community for years, they must have contracted the disease within the locality.

The Santa Clara county’s chief medical office Sarah Cody said the deaths of the two was probably the tip of the iceberg of unknown size. Dr Jeffrey Smith, the Santa Clara county executive, he too a medical doctor, opined that the coronavirus must have been spreading in California unrecognised for a long time now.

Indeed, if we take stock of the fact that passengers on board the Grand Princess cruise ship, which departed California on February 11, developed Covid-19 whilst on board, the odds certainly are that Covid-19 hit much earlier in the US than it hit the headlines. As Cody pointedly put it, “We had so few pixels you could hardly pick out the image. Suddenly, we have so many pixels all of sudden that we now realise we didn’t know what we were looking for.”

THE FRENCH CONNECTION

In Europe, a radiology research team at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Colma, France, has traced the first Covid-19 case in that country to November 16, 2019 according to reports by NBC News and The New York Times. The researchers came to this finding after examining 2500 chest X-rays taken from November 1, 2019 to April 30 this year.

French authorities declared the first Covid-19 case on January 24 having detected it in three nationals who had recently been to China, though it has now transpired that whilst one finger was point to China, four were point back at France itself.

It came to light last month that a sample taken from a French patient with pneumonia on December 27 subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus. “There’s no doubt for us it was already there in December,” Dr Yves Cohen, head of intensive care at the Avicenne and Jean Verdier hospitals in the northern suburbs of Paris, told The New York Times on May 4 this year. “It is quite possible that there were isolated cases that led to transmission chains that died down.”

Weighing in on the matter too, Michel Schmitt, who led the Albert Schweitzer Hospital research, said, “The testimonies are really rich; they show that people felt that something strange was going on, but they were not in a capacity to raise the alarm.”

THE CAMBRIDGE AND UCL FINDINGS

Meanwhile, two independent research projects by two of Britain’s premier institutions of learning have turned up evidence that Covid-19 was in Europe as early as the third quarter of 2019.  Following a study to understand the historical processes that led to the Covid-19 pandemic, the University of Cambridge found that the coronavirus outbreak appears to have started between September 13 and December 7 in 2019.

The University College London’s Genetics Institute (UCL) analysed genomes from the Covid-19 virus in over 7,500 people and deduced that the pandemic must have started between October 6 and December 11 in 2019.
The UCL team analysed virus genomes, using published sequences from over 7,500 people with Covid-19 across the globe. Their report, titled HYPERLINK “https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1567134820301829” \l “s0045” \t “_blank” Emergence of Genomic Diversity and Recurrent Mutations in SARS-CoV-2, was published in the May 6, 2020 edition of the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution.

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