Just yesterday, Nigeria, the most populous black nation on earth, recorded the first death resulting from COVID-19. This is coming on the heels of the infected cases hitting 42. So far, only one death has resulted with two patients discharged while the others are receiving treatments.
On the surface, it would seem that everything is under control because of the relatively few cases being reported. Nevertheless, at the risk of being described as a pessimist and prophet of doom, it appears that there are more gloomy days ahead for Nigeria in the fight against COVID-19.
The above prediction becomes necessary because Nigeria has unfortunately failed to learn from the examples of China, Europe, and America. By the time COVID-19 took off in Wuhan and started ravaging Europe and then America, the government of Nigeria did nothing, ignored the impending doom by doing nothing. The airport, seaports, and land borders were left open to visitors from infected countries.
Although Nigeria, in a move that can best be described as belated, has now totally shut all her borders, COVID-19 has crept into the country like a thief in the night and the cases are rising by the day. It is therefore not surprising that after the index case involving a French national who is now discharged, the reported cases has reached 42 as at press time.
At this point, it is no exaggeration to assume that the number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria far exceeds the officially reported cases. In a country without a reliable data base and where alternative medicine still very much holds sway, it becomes almost impossible to track all suspected or possible cases of COVID-19. And as many cases continue to fly under the radar, the risk of spreading the dangerous virus becomes unimaginably high.
Apart from the above factors, religious superstition and ignorance will also stand as possible hindrances to the curtailment of COVID-19 in Nigeria. Even at this critical stage, there are still religious leaders who publicly tell their blind followers that coronavirus is a scam, that it can never come their way as long as they carry the "anointing".
So, we see people disregarding health precautions all because they believe that their body system is immuned to the deadly virus. Unfortunately, these toxic beliefs will continue to unsuspectingly aid the transmission of the novel virus.
Beyond these challenges, however, there are also evidence to suggest that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is already overwhelmed by contact tracing and the provision of health care for infected persons. To this very moment, there are only few hospitals across the country that are well equipped to handle the foreseeable outbreak of the rampaging virus.
To even make matters worse, there is a foreseeable shortage of manpower to tackle the pandemic. Nigeria is not alone in this regard. Therefore, we must make use of the resources within our disposal. Our student doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists, microbiologists, etc should be trained, equipped, motivated and recruited as ad hoc staff to help fight this national war against the novel coronavirus.
Going forward, there is an urgent need for the Nigerian government to declare a nationwide sit-at-home for at least a period of two weeks. This will give enough room for people to show symptoms and get medical attention, so that the the spread of the virus can come under control.
But even the lock down will create more problems if the government of the day does not make provision for at least those leaving in abject poverty. For this people, COVID-19 poses a far lesser threat to their lives when contrasted with the stark hunger that confront them everyday. To this category of the citizens must the government make their priority during the declared lockdown.
Clearly, this is not the time to give false hope to the masses or make empty promises, rather it is a time to be blunt and frank and pragmatic. It is a time to take the bull by the horn to avoid making the mistake of Italy and the disastrous consequences that come with it.