FORMER UPND vice-president Dr Canisius Banda says people should begin adjusting to live with the novel Coronavirus just like they have adjusted to other diseases because, in his view, COVID-19 is here to stay.

And Banda says much of Zambia is shielded from COVID-19 to some extent seeing that 50 per cent of the country’s population is either 14 years and below and that people of this age are less likely to contract the virus.

In an interview, Banda said it was foolishness to think that a day would come when there would be no COVID-19.

“There must always be a healthy balance between the demands of public health and those of economies. Let us always be wary of science becoming an instrument of tyranny. The future includes proper policing of all scientists in the world who are every day manipulating already existing germs and threatening global health security in the process. But I think what the President has done is commendable; people should go back to work. People will catch a cold, people will go to the clinic and they will heal. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. We can’t just be at home afraid that there is death out there when actually, the statistics don’t show that there is death out there in this country. This is much ado about nothing, so people should go back to work,” Dr Banda said.

“This COVID-19, just like malaria, cholera and other diseases will be with us for as long as we are alive. The [virus] will continue to be with us for as long as we are alive, people will continue to catch the disease and overtime, you and me will develop immunity to it and it will become less severe with time. COVID-19 is particularly dangerous at the moment because it’s a new [virus]. So the COVID-19 [virus] will be with us just like the cholera germ and the malaria germ. Has HIV gone away? What about flu? So you see, we catch colds every year and it heals. That’s the way it will be with this COVID also, it will be with us for as long as we live. It’s foolishness to think that there will come a day when there will be no COVID-19, coronaviruses are found in dogs, cats, in bats and many animals and we live with them. So how we respond to the presence of this new [virus] is particularly important.”

He argued that Zambians were somehow shielded from contracting COVID-19 since much of the country’s population was around the age of 14 years and below.

“The fear created about COVID-19 in citizens is a greater enemy than the pandemic itself. But this is why I am saying the President should be commended for easing the lockdown and for ensuring that the economy is gradually being reopened. People should go back to work, kids are just at home sitting and not everybody has a TV set, so this e-learning can’t work for every family. Statistics will show you that kids [rarely] get it (the coronavirus) and even if they get it, they hardly die,” Dr Banda said. “50 per cent of Zambia’s population is either 14 years old or below, meaning therefore that by age alone, much of Zambia is shielded from COVID-19. So all kids should be in school because nothing will happen to them. The biggest problem we have now is not COVID-19, the biggest problem we have is fear, the fear which has been created by scientists on the continent or globally. So we must fight the fear, the fear is what is keeping us at home, the fear is causing our immune systems to weaken, the fear is creating disease. So that is what we should be fighting.”

Meanwhile, Dr Banda asked the government to work with local herbalists and scientists to find a remedy for Coronavirus and not just wait for the vaccine to come from the Western countries.

“I would also like to emphasise that COVID-19 is a new disease and we should come up with policy mechanisms to fight any more new infections. Let us investigate the herbalists that we have in the country, let’s equip them. There are remedies in our midst that can counter this particular problem. Let’s not threaten them with arrests like I heard [chief government spokesperson] Dora [Siliya] say the other day that they will arrest anyone with a claim of having a cure. Don’t do that! Actually call them and ask what they have and subject that to scientific inquiries,” said Dr Banda. “We need to understand that wherever people are, God has put whatever they need in them, so SADC should have an interest in what a member state has done, Madagascar there. They must investigate the remedy they’ve found and quickly make it available if it works on their citizens. We must not be waiting all the time for a solution to come from France, London or New York. We must create our own solutions as Africans.”