The world is now facing a global crisis. Perhaps, the biggest crisis of our generation. The decisions people and governments take in the next weeks will probably shape the world for years to come. They will shape not just our healthcare systems but also our economy, politics and culture. Most clearly ,Society recalls wartime emergencies in the urgent need to expand production and care. As COVID-19 cases overwhelm intensive care units around the world, we need more test kits, hospital beds, ventilator machines, masks, and protective clothing—lots of them, and we need them fast.

Expanded emergency care capacity is encountering supply bottlenecks, for instance of the chemical reagents used in testing, and the looming shortage of trained medical personnel. The U.S. government’s invocation last week of the Defense Production Act (DPA), a Cold War Law ,allowing it to prioritize and allocate resources to help expand private industries in strategic sectors, is a step on this road to constructing a larger medical mass-production base.

We must act quickly and decisively. We should also take into account the long-term consequences of our actions.
When choosing between alternatives, we should ask ourselves not only how to overcome the immediate threat, but also what kind of world we will inhabit once the storm passes. Beyond the immediate treatment of those infected with coronavirus, however, Western Governments have almost universally shut down rather than ramped up production. As one financial analyst pointed out,
“lockdown economics” is in many ways the exact opposite of the wartime economics of total mobilization. During both world wars, economic mobilization enrolled unprecedented large groups of male and female workers in mass production. The coronavirus’s disruption of supply chains and the social distancing measures of today, however, are currently putting millions of employees in the manufacturing and service sectors out of work, this is as a result of many short-term emergency measures which could become a fixture of life.

That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes, decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours. Immature and even dangerous technologies are pressed into service, because the risks of doing nothing are bigger. Entire countries serve as guinea-pigs in large-scale social experiments. What happens when everybody works from home and communicates only at a distance? What happens when entire schools and universities go online? In normal times, governments, businesses and educational boards would never agree to conduct such experiments. But these are not normal times. 

In this time of crisis, we face two particularly important choices. The first is between totalitarian surveillance and citizens’ empowerment.
The second is between nationalist isolation and global solidarity.  Under-the-skin surveillance In order to stop the epidemic, entire populations need to comply with certain guidelines. There are two main ways of achieving this. One method is for the government to monitor people, and punish those who break the rules. Today, for the first time in human history, technology makes it possible to monitor everyone all the time. Fifty years ago, the KGB couldn’t follow 240m Soviet citizens 24 hours a day, nor could the KGB hope to effectively process all the information gathered. The KGB relied on human agents and analysts, and it just couldn’t place a human agent to follow every citizen. But now governments can rely on ubiquitous sensors and powerful algorithms instead of flesh-and-blood spooks. Despite the atomized nature of life under quarantine, it’s clear that the coronavirus resembles war in one crucial aspect: As a highly infectious virus with a significant mortality rate, it has the potential to cause mass death on a scale unseen in European Societies since the 1940s.

Facing up to this reality is politically difficult but unavoidable. Italian Prime Minister -Giuseppe Conte has asked his compatriots for “60 million small great sacrifices” as they weather the pandemic. Even those who would rightly avoid the language of war, such as German Chancellor -Angela Merkel, acknowledge that the coronavirus demands a level of collective action unseen since World War II. In the battle against the coronavirus epidemic, several governments have already deployed the new surveillance tools.

The most notable case is China. By closely monitoring people’s smartphones, making use of hundreds of millions of face-recognising cameras, and obliging people to check and report their body temperature and medical condition, the Chinese authorities can not only quickly identify suspected coronavirus carriers, but also track their movements and identify anyone they came in contact with. A range of mobile apps warn citizens about their proximity to infected patients.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel recently authorised the Israel Security Agency to deploy surveillance technology normally reserved for battling terrorists to track coronavirus patients. When the relevant parliamentary subcommittee refused to authorise the measure, Netanyahu rammed it through with an “emergency decree”. You might argue that there is nothing new about all this. In recent years, both governments and corporations have been using ever more sophisticated technologies to track, monitor and manipulate people. Yet if we are not careful, the epidemic might nevertheless mark an important watershed in the history of surveillance. Not only because it might normalise the deployment of mass surveillance tools in countries that have so far rejected them, but even more so because it signifies a dramatic transition from “over the skin” to “under the skin” surveillance.
Hitherto, when your finger touched the screen of your smartphone and clicked on a link, the government wanted to know what exactly your finger was clicking on. But with coronavirus, the focus of interest shifts. Now the government wants to know the temperature of your finger and the blood-pressure under its skin. Normally, trust that has been eroded for years cannot be rebuilt overnight. But these are not normal times. In a moment of crisis, minds too can change quickly. You can have bitter arguments with your siblings for years, but when some emergency occurs, you suddenly discover a hidden reservoir of trust and amity, and you rush to help one another.

Instead of building a surveillance regime, it is not too late to rebuild people’s trust in science, in public authorities and in the media. We should definitely make use of new technologies too, but these technologies should empower citizens. I am all in favour of monitoring my body temperature and blood pressure, but that data should not be used to create an all-powerful government. Rather, that data should enable me to make more informed personal choices, and also to hold government accountable for its decisions.  If I could track my own medical condition 24 hours a day, I would learn not only whether I have become a health hazard to other people, but also which habits contribute to my health. And if I could access and analyse reliable statistics on the spread of coronavirus, I would be able to judge whether the government is telling me the truth and whether it is adopting the right policies to combat the epidemic.

Whenever people talk about surveillance, remember that the same surveillance technology can usually be used not only by governments to monitor individuals — but also by individuals to monitor governments.  The coronavirus epidemic is thus a major test of citizenship. In the days ahead, each one of us should choose to trust scientific data and healthcare experts over unfounded conspiracy theories and self-serving politicians. If we fail to make the right choices, we might find ourselves signing away our most precious freedoms, thinking that this is the only way to safeguard our health, however, we need a global plan.

The second important choice that confronts us ,is between nationalist isolation and global solidarity. These war-economic mechanisms of solidarity offer valuable ideas about how to address the current pandemic .

Pharmaceutical corporations and health care middlemen can have their excess profits taxed to ensure they do not reap the exclusive benefit of the common fight against the virus. The Economists estimate that U.S. health care providers make excess profits of $65 billion a year. This is enough to produce 1.3 million ICU ventilators at $50,000 a piece or to fund the hospital stays of millions of people who will require urgent treatment for COVID-19.

In Africa,the least affected Continent,there appears to be Policy flip flops,non preparedness for the effects of the Virus and a lack of empathy by Government for its Citizens. There are Lockdowns and restrictions on Citizens Activities, with out any arrangements for palliative to cushion the attendant loss of revenue and even hunger that is likely to emanate from such unprecedented shutdown of economic activities. There is also out right incompetence, non adherence to established health guidelines, which has made the Virus to thrive amidst a failure to conform to the World Health Organization (WHO) Coronavirus Prevention Protocol, that would have made a lot of difference ,if it was adhered to.

It is my earnest desire that the World overcomes the Coronavirus Pandemic and learns from same in view of the many lapses identified from it in this dispensation.

About the Author:
Isabella James ,is the the President of the Law Students Association of the Benson Idahosa University ,Benin City .