As societies seal themselves off and turn inwards, we must not forget to look beyond our borders
There is only one thing as alarming as the steadily rising tally of cases of coronavirus around the world: the low numbers reported in places that it could devastate. They may have less interaction with the worst-hit nations than more developed countries. But it may also be that the countries most at risk are least equipped to monitor its spread. Afghanistan, which has reported 22 cases, has only one hospital which can diagnose the disease, and Covid-19 is ravaging neighbouring Iran. Syria has insisted it is free of the virus, though its five neighbours have all reported cases; there is suspicion that the regime is suppressing bad news.
Coronavirus threatens us all. But poorer countries will suffer more than richer ones. Inevitably people are more susceptible when they are malnourished or already in poor health. Infections spread fast in cramped conditions. Health services which are already failing to meet basic needs will quickly be overwhelmed. “Wash your hands” is great advice, but of limited use to the two-fifths of the world’s population who lack access to soap and clean water at home. Unicef says one in six healthcare sites have no functional toilets or hand-washing facilities where patients are treated.
Link : The Guardian view on the global virus threat: don’t abandon the poor | Editorial