By Chiedu Uche Okoye
In the time past, humanity had battled fierce global health scourges, which threatened to wipe human beings off the face of the earth. The Biblical tale in the Pentateuch had it that God sent plagues and pestilential diseases to punish the obstinate Egyptians for refusing to let the people of Israel return to their home country .And, we read about the Influenza and Spanish flu, which decimated the populations of countries in the past. Other pestilences, which caused unquantifiable fatalities in our world, are still in living memories.
However, with the passage of time, and with mankind’s pushing back the frontiers of knowledge of medical science, nobody thought about the likelihood of the emergence of a deadly disease, which would afflict humans and defy cures as the Covid-19 is doing now. Before the deadly Corona virus started sweeping across the world with its ferocious noxious effects, HIV and AIDS had afflicted millions of people globally.
Unlike the Corona virus (COVID-19), we can escape being infected with the HIV by practicing safe sex, making sure that we are not transfused with HIV- infected blood, and insisting that surgical instruments are sterilized before they are used to treat us.
However, a person can contract Covid-19 disease by embracing a carrier of the disease. It can be contracted by inhaling and ingesting droplets of sputum or spittle of an infected. When an uninfected person comes into contact with surfaces infected with the Covid-19 disease, the person will contract the disease.
That is the chief reason our maintaining of high level of personal hygiene has become very imperative in combating the spread of the disease. More than that, we should practice social distancing: hugging people and shaking their hands are forbidden in this period of Corona virus pandemic. And we should stand six feet away from the person we are talking to.
It is sad and incredible that this disease, the symptoms of which include persistent coughing and high fever, has no known cure till now. However, unconfirmed medical reports have it that chloroquine tablets have proved effective in stopping the replication of the virus in human bodies while our intake of vitamin C strengthens our immune systems against the adverse effects of the disease.
Since the outbreak of the disease in Wuhan province in China in December 2019, it has spread to countries like Italy, Spain, France, and the United State of America, causing deaths of people. More so, it had caused deaths of thousands of Chinese people in China before the scourge abated there. Recently, it’s reported that the disease caused the deaths of over seven hundred people in Italy in a day. It has caused a great number of fatalities in Iran, Spain, and America, too.
When Nigerians thought that the Covid-19 pandemic was a fairy tale told by unemployed gossipers and busy-bodies, an Italian business man brought the disease into the shores of Nigeria. That index case, a national of Italy, had recovered from the illness after undergoing monitoring, isolation, and treatment at Yaba hospital, Lagos.
But, now, not a few Nigerians have contracted the disease, including a top aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari. Some members of the ruling political elite and other well-heeled Nigerians are believed to have contracted the disease owing to their travels in America and Europe, which have become the epicenters of the disease.
The spread of the Covid-19 in states across Nigeria has caused the shut-down or lock-down of states like Lagos, Kaduna, Rivers, Enugu, and Anambra. Federal Civil servants had been ordered to stay at home. In Anambra, in addition to stopping civil servants from going to work, banning social gatherings (weddings and funerals), markets in the state would be shut down, starting from March 30, 2020. And, many states in the country are gearing up to prohibit inter-state travels and close their markets.
The aforementioned measures are commendable, well-thought out, and judicious. If they are well-executed, they can lead to the extermination of the disease in our country. We are not unaware that Italy is being severely hit by the disease for failing to lock down early.
But, in the absence of economic stimulus and welfare packages for the suffering masses, the complete lock down of Nigeria will exacerbate our people’s impecuniousness, cause hunger among us, and aggravate our parlous fragile security situation. Here, some people eke out their livings or livelihoods by working daily as bus conductors, commercial bus drivers, laborers, and artisans. And there are people who hawk sachets of water, biscuits and gala in markets and streets to make both ends meet. So, won’t these people at the lowest rung of the economic ladder starve to death if the lockdown is prolonged or extended to an indefinite long period? And it is likely that those who are rendered impecunious by the lockdown will embrace the life of crime to make money.
A responsive and responsible government prioritizes the overall well-being of the citizens above other consideration. Governments exist, we are told, to guarantee the safety of life and property and assist the citizens to live meaningful lives. But here ,the insensitivity of our governments at different levels to our plight is obvious to us.
Instead of building modern hospitals and equipping them with modern pieces of medical equipment, our political leaders will divert public money into their private accounts. That’s why they would travel to foreign countries for medical treatment.
So as the Covid-19 pandemic continues its deathly march through the continents, our government should see the need to build good hospitals and equip them with pieces of modern medical equipment ,improve the welfare conditions of medical practitioners, and approve periodic refresher courses and trainings for them.
Again, the Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of our having a robust and prosperous economy, which is not dependent solely on proceeds realized from crude oil sale to survive. If Nigeria were an economically prosperous country, our leaders could dish out economic stimulus, welfare package and other financial handouts to millions of poor people, who are caught in the web and quagmire of the national lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
But like the Spanish flu and other pestilential diseases in living memories that killed millions of people in the past, this Covid-19 pandemic shall pass, too.
Chiedu Uche Okoye