Of COVID-19 And Deferred Plans

Maybe the biggest disruption the COVID-19 pandemic has caused in people’s lives and businesses is in the world of travel and aviation.

Emirates aircraft grounded at Dubai international Airport as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic / Photo credit: forbes.com
Emirates aircraft grounded at Dubai international Airport as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic / Photo credit: forbes.com

It has been less than 100 years when Nigerians intending to perform the Hajj planned years ahead because they had to walk all the way to Saudi Arabia.

In those days, it really was a once in lifetime opportunity.

It took them a whole year, sometimes several years to get there.

There were established routes and they would stop over in known towns and cities, spending weeks, even months at each stopover.

And if they survived the journey, they were certain the doors of the Kingdom would be open to them to perform the annual pilgrimage.

Naturally, in later years, intending pilgrim would find their way to the kingdom by other available means; in buses, by sea, planes, trains and automobiles.

Today, an average of two million people perform the Hajj each year.

With that number of people converging on a confined space, the transmission of respiratory infections are not unusual.

As can be expected, the most commonly transmitted respiratory tract infection has been the common cold.

It is not hard to imagine that there are a number of people who save for years waiting to perform the pilgrimage and thinking 2020 would be the year

At the global level, there have been outbreaks, even in the last two decades which raised concerns about the Hajj taking place.

Every year for more than 14 centuries, it has held.

It is not hard to imagine that there are a number of people who save for years waiting to perform the pilgrimage and thinking 2020 would be the year.

The Hajj season is more than two and a half months away, but 2020 could be different.

For the first time in living memory, the Hajj is in doubt.

Suspending it will be a very difficult decision to make but right now, authorities in Saudi Arabia are asking intending pilgrims to put their plans on hold until there is a clearer picture on whether the COVID-19 pandemic can be contained.

And all around the world, in villages and cities in Nigeria, not everyone understands why an invisible enemy should threaten the Hajj.

In truth, it is hard enough for them to understand why they need to stay at home in fear of a virus.

Football is the religion of Europe.

The European football market is worth $30bn.

For the first time in living memory, the Hajj is in doubt

The top five leagues in Italy, Spain, England, Germany and France generate an average of $17bn dollars a year.

The English premier league alone has an estimated $6bn a year.

Then there is the crowd size each league match draws.

Some 11 million people, on average, attend premiership matches every year.

When attendance of other divisions in England are added, the number rises to 18 million.

And every weekend, an average of 36,000 people leave their homes to watch a premiership match live at a stadium.

With 10 matches each weekend, that is, at least 360,000 people every weekend.

In the German Bundesliga, the average attendance is 43,000 for every match.

The highest anywhere in the world. All of these numbers matter.

They determine the wages of players and the players a club can afford to sign.

Every club and football manager uses these numbers as reference before any crucial decision is taken.

And for 80 years now, one club gets be crowned league’s champions.

The last time leagues were suspended for an entire season was in 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, 80 years ago.

The COVID-19 outbreak is having just as big an impact on the world of football as did the Second World War.

Those millions of weekly spectators are now doing nothing but sitting at home, their passions suppressed.

The Euro 2020 has already been postponed until 2021.

The La Liga in Spain, Italy’s Serie A, France’s Ligue 1, English Premier and dozens of other leagues have all been suspended indefinitely, just when most were only a few games away from ending the season.

And whether they can actually bring the season to a close is still an open question.

The last time leagues were suspended for an entire season was in 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, 80 years ago

In Belgium at least, the Pro League was prematurely ended with Club Brugge declared winners.

In the Premiership, clubs that have had a terrible season want the entire season cancelled and declared null and void.

Liverpool on the other hand who were whiskers away from their first title in 30 years couldn’t be more desperate to see it concluded.

That they have waited 30 years doesn’t seem to matter.

The 2019/2020 Premiership season could still be cancelled because of desperate measures being taken to contain the coronavirus.

And yes, there are Liverpool fans that just don’t understand.

Maybe the biggest disruption the COVID-19 pandemic has caused in people’s lives and businesses is in the world of travel and aviation.

Every single day, some 1.4 billion people around the world are traveling from one country to another in more than 100,000 flights.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, those numbers have plummeted.

Some airlines have grounded their entire fleet.

The International Air Transport Association projects revenues in the industry will fall by $252Bn.

Pilots and crews have lost their jobs.

And even for airlines that choose to keep flying, their operations are limited because countless international airports have been shut.

All over social media, people are telling their own personal stories of deferred travel plans.

Many had booked flights and hotels with big summer plans.

For others, it was Easter travel plans.

Couples were looking forward to spending wedding anniversaries in places like Italy, which is now a danger zone.

In the early stages of the outbreak, plans of visiting Europe were replaced with staying within the African continent.

That was before it spread to Africa.

Migrant workers just planned to go back home.
Naturally, millions of people are hopeful their plans for 2020 are still possible if the pandemic is brought under control by September.

Now the realisation is that as long as one part of the world is infected, nowhere and no one is safe from the virus.

Nigeria’s minister of information, Lai Mohammed has warned that the stay-at-home order imposed on some parts of the country could be extended if citizens continue to flout it.

Experiencing what could be considered normal may have to wait until 2021

Judging by what is happening in other countries and the fact that the virus has continued to spread in the country, it is more likely, that not, that the order will be extended regardless of how strictly citizens obey the order.

Two weeks is the incubation period of COVID-19.

Treatment takes another week or two.

At this stage, strict adherence to government guidelines on social distancing and the order to stay at home, will most likely, only influence how many times the order has to be extended in the long term.

From all evidence, and with the degree of disruption the coronavirus has already brought businesses and lives, most Nigerians, particularly those in lockdown areas of Lagos and Abuja don’t think it necessary to make adjustments to their daily routines.

The two-week stay-at-home order is just an inconvenience they can’t wait to put behind them.

The plan is that things will go back to normal after the two weeks are over.

As for the Coronavirus outbreak and the fact that it is still spreading, well, they obviously think that’s someone else’s responsibility.

For them to realise that their lives will not be going back to normal after two weeks, they only need to look at what is happening at the global level.

Experiencing what could be considered normal may have to wait until 2021.

After all, pandemics do respect for plans, borders or time.

Written by Shuaib Shuaib

Shuaibu, a former Editor of the LEADERSHIP Newspapers, is based in Abuja.

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