Trump and the Covid-19 lockdown

By Carl Umegboro

PRESIDENT of the United States of America, Donald Trump recently classified religious places of worship as essential public places, thereby part of essential services providers in the United States, and ordered governors of all the states to immediately lift lockdown on all churches, mosques and synagogues. Trump went as far as threatening that failure to carry out the order immediately, he would override the governors and make it effective irrespective of objection.

However, it is still unclear how Trump intends to execute such threat considering that the governors are empowered under emergency to put in place any measures that could effectively secure lives of citizens and residents in their domains from any danger. In fact, it is a trite principle all over the world that fundamental human rights may be suspended during emergency for the purpose of saving lives.

Trump’s contention is that religious bodies should be categorized as essential services. No doubt, religious bodies should. However, the issue is that whether classified as essential services or not doesn’t address the crisis that necessitated the lockdown. It must be noted the lockdown is not in place to distinguish essential and non-essential services in the society. Clearly, it was put in place as a precautionary measure pending when cures or vaccines are found against the dreaded Coronavirus pandemic.

Presently, data shows that the world has over 5.31 million confirmed cases, 2.11 million recovered cases and 347,676 deaths of coronavirus epidemics. And the number increases on daily basis. In United States, there are a total number of 1.66 million confirmed cases; 335,000 recovery cases and 97.426 deaths of citizens and residents at the moment.

United Kingdom has 36,675 deaths; Brazil – 22,165 deaths’; Spain 28,678 deaths, Italy -32,854 deaths; France – 28,375 deaths; Belgium – 9,305 and the rest countries fall below Belgium’s record including Africa that has a total number of 3,257 deaths but a total of 107,747 confirmed cases and 42,924 recoveries.

A salient question for President Trump is; where did these figures amounting to a total of 347,676 deaths from across the world come from? If the figures came largely from public places including school, clubs, markets, religious places, it means the coronavirus epidemic doesn’t exclude those on “essential services”. It means it can get hold of anyone that didn’t observe the guidelines and precautionary measures in place by health experts and governments.

Instructively, those in the essential services are adequately equipped with trainings and necessary kits to resist the infection while on duty. They are guided by the precautionary measures including social distancing and others. This attests that the contagion does not exempt anyone but those that abide by the precautionary measures. Thus, the categorized group on essential services are not exempted, but also adhering to measures in place. If this is the case, will religious places be generously opened merely for being essential services without precautionary measures to safeguard worshippers?

It is therefore important at this juncture to note that the precautionary measures are in place objectively to save lives, and not to hinder anyone from daily engagements. And responsibly, Centre for Disease Control in conjunction with government of various nations are having sleepless nights to come up with a remedy to the pandemic. Again, having seen the negative effects of lockdown of the society, governments are working out modalities to relax the lockdown gradually without jeopardizing lives of citizens.

It thus implies that until a definite cure if found on the contagion, the precautionary measures should reasonably, not be subjected to arguments except the opposition will guarantee to replace any lives that may be lost in the process of disregarding the precautionary measures. Some popular churches in the United States lamented following President Trump’s monocratic orders to lift lockdown on religious places without any measures against spread of the pandemic. The pastors voluntarily rejected Trump’s offer to open their churches stating that they have many old people that are vulnerable and had already lost many members to the contagion. It therefore suggests Trump goofed.

Without a doubt, politicians usually play with the intelligence of the electorates any moment an election is around the corner. Nonetheless, human lives are sacred and should not be used to play politics. Lives of people must be of utmost importance to any serious-minded leader anywhere. To arbitrarily open religious places without any precautionary measures in place suggests politics and ulterior motives knowing that the lockdown was objectively to fight the spread of the dreaded coronavirus in the society. One must be alive to cast a vote in an election.

In other words, President Trump owes Americans explanations on the precautionary measures he put in place warranting him to announce the lift except he can substantiate that the Coronavirus is not real. But if it is real and has truly recorded the number of deaths made public, and as a proactive measure, he earlier shut down the airspace, all public places including schools, religious places of worship and markets, what has he put in place to prevent infection to save lives of citizens prior to the reopening order.

On this note, classifying religious places of worship as ‘essential services’ does not address the issues at stake. They are and should be recognized as such. I totally agree with President Trump on his categorization. But does the Coronavirus infection exclude people in religious places of worship? That is the million dollar question. Of course, religious bodies operate in diverse realms and capacities, hence, all cannot withstand the same pressure and issues.

Suffice to say that extreme caution is requisite in the lockdown saga to avoid worseningthe predicament. The order to reopen religious places of worship is commendable but must be regulated accordingly with precautionary measures by the appropriate quarters beyond presidential order until remedy to the contagion is discovered. Yes, we can play politics but not with human lives. America cannot afford to operate like a shithole.

Umegboro, public affairs analyst and Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (United Kingdom) can be reached via: carl@carlumegboro.com

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