Covid-19 and future responses to infrastructure development

Wednesday April 1 2020

James Elima

James Elima  

By James Elima

The Bible remains a Holy Book of faith, instruction and guidance and in the Leviticus 13:46, ‘And the Leper in whom the plague is…he shall dwell alone, outside the camp shall his habitation be.’ Was this a philosophical classic example of ‘social distancing’ or an effect of law enforcement?

While the coronavirus has been classified as a pandemic, we can learn from structure of our history: Past history, recent history and futuristic epidemic or pandemic preparedness. My previous article on coronavirus in one of the daily of February 21, clearly indicated issues of travel medicine and health and the responsibility of the VIP and VVIP.

The usual lay question is: can epidemic outbreaks shape the future of our physical and fiscal development, especially infrastructure and monetary mechanisms, respectively? How do we get to a cashless economy and condominium housing system in lieu of ‘social distancing’?

How did the previous systems help us come up with policies that have protected the world for the last two millennia? Though some were rudimentary for their time (case of the leper and the bell), they were effective.

What have we learnt about disproportionate outbreaks of plague, leprosy, cholera and the influenza pandemics? There has been the Spanish Flu 1918 (1918-1920), which killed over 50 million people , Asian Flu (1957-1958), Hong Kong Flu (1968-1969), Russian Flu (1977-1978) and the recent H1N1/09 (2009-2010), SARS and MERS.

These have seen to infrastructure improvement and public health enforcements from classic ‘lockdown’ (Hubei Province) to ‘total lockdown’ (Italy) – ironically the home of seaport quarantine Lazarettos isolation facilities, a haunting reality from over 150 years ago.


The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how technocrats need to assert their technical influence over their political masters for future improvements in infrastructure. The millennia old system of lepers alerting the communities have been baptised today with new nomenclature of ‘social distancing’.

However, technocrats need to ask simple support questions to the principle: one such questions would relate to work in overcrowded prisons conditions. Or can this tickle the bureaucrats to enact laws or government contingency plans.

In the case of overcrowded facilities like prisons, will the ‘executive release of prisoners’ change future responses to epidemics or pandemics for early release for petty criminals to reduced sentences as a prison management system?

This, too, could apply to diseases that are too costly to treat such as XDR-TB and MDR-TB. However, in monetary terms and behaviour, will epidemics or pandemics affect our cash transactions?

Remember more than 99 per cent of the population operate businesses on cash-basis whether in the traditional markets, banks or other areas. Cash is counted using sticky saliva-tipped-fingers.

Can this pandemic trigger central banks to suspend tender transactions which is believed to worsen the spread of Covid-19? Or the majority of the population are not credit worthy so there could be fiscal policies to focus on epidemic-prone part of the society?

With the constantly increasing population, there is need to improve on habitation both in rural and urban setting. The best alternative urban planners have often suggested due to land pressure and mobilising the country side for commercial agriculture is to improve on condominium laws. Can Covid-19 shape future policies geared towards infrastructure development?

It’s not too late to allow the technocrats to create a conducive environment, especially in infrastructures e.g. schools, hospitals, markets etc. which responds to a futuristic anticipation of epidemics.

We can learn from the historic 18th Century Lazarettos that reminds us of the need to develop infrastructure for prevention of spread of epidemics and other contagious diseases. Inactivity to coronavirus is like sleeping next to a lion as a guard.

Dr Elima is the director of
Gulu Regional Referral