BY CHIEDU UCHE OKOYE
Down the ages, right from time immemorial, plagues and pestilential diseases have been killing many different people(s) of the world. Didn’t mankind suffer bubonic fever with its morbid consequences in the distant past? And the Spanish flu caused the deaths of innumerable people in the world many years ago. Other plagues had afflicted the people(s) of the world over the centuries; however, they couldn’t cause the extinction of the human race on earth. Maybe, the episodic occurrences of plagues and pestilences are ways through which nature checks population explosion on earth.
Today, from Geneva to Casablanca, from New York City to Havana, from Accra to New Delhi, COVID-19 is on everyone’s lips. The mere mention of it (COVID-19) sends cold shivers down the spines of people because it has high fatality rate. But before the Corona virus started causing deaths among human beings, chicken pox, small pox, and tuberculosis had killed millions of people in the world. Happily, now, vaccines and drugs for the effective treatment of those diseases have been found.
But towards the end of 2019, a great number of the residents of Wuhan, China, became afflicted with COVID-19. It caused the deaths of thousands of Wuhan citizens within weeks after its outbreak. Its symptoms include these: High fever, difficulty in breathing, and persistent coughing. One of its modes of transmission is through human to human contact. Again, a person can contract the disease if he or she comes into contact with surfaces that are infected with the Corona virus.
It should be noted that China’s quick, effective, and well-coordinated response to the Corona virus pandemic halted its spread from Wuhan to other provinces in China. First, the country was locked down. And special hospitals for the diagnosis and treatment of the disease were built and fitted with the necessary pieces of hospital equipment within weeks. That’s why the abatement of the spread of the disease happened in the republic of China sooner than people expected.
While the Chinese authorities were battling to exterminate the disease in China, it spread to America, France, Britain, Iran, France, Spain, and Italy where it has been causing fatalities at a very fast pace. Spain and Italy, both first world countries, have been overwhelmed by the disease, with their healthcare facilities stretched to the limits. Today, Spain and Italy are the two countries worst- hit by COVID-19
However, Nigeria is not spared the pangs and devastating effects of the disease what with the deaths resulting from the disease in Nigeria. Before then, the news reports about the deadly disease and how it causes quick deaths in China, America, and Europe were disbelieved by many Nigerians. They thought those reports to bechimerical tales told by gossipers and loafers. But when a citizen of Italy, who visited Nigeria, was diagnosed as having the disease, it dawned on us that the existence of the disease is a reality. That Italian index case was quarantined and treated, after which he was discharged from hospital when he stopped manifesting symptoms of the disease.
Because Nigeria dilly-dallied and shilly-shallied before it closed its borders and banned incoming flight, some American and British returnees (Nigerians) infected with the disease caused the spread of the contagion in our country. The first personkilled by the disease, a former top government official, had underlying diseases, namely diabetes and cancer, which hastened his death. Now, the number of people infected with the deadly viral disease has continued to rise exponentially.
But the sad fact is that Nigeria does not the capacity to test the great number of people, who want to be tested for the disease because of the non-availability of testing kits. Till now, only well-heeled Nigerians and members of the political elite had undergone tests to know if they’re infected with the disease. So, it is said that COVID-19 is an elite disease. But the irrefutable fact is that the disease does not discriminate between the rich and the poor, and between the educated and theilliterate. It can afflict people irrespective of their social stations in life, educational attainments, and material acquisitions.
So, upon the discovery of the existence of COVID-19 in Nigeria, some wealthy individuals and corporate organizations donated huge sums of money and medicalequipment to the central and state governments to strengthen their capacity to combat the spread of the disease. But, are the states in the country primed and prepared to test people for the disease and give them efficacious and qualitative treatments? The fact is that there is dearth of testing kits and ventilators in government-ownedhospitals in the country, although wealthy individuals and corporate organizations have continued to donate money to governments at different levels for the containment of the disease.
The money generated for combating the COVID-19 pandemic should be judiciously, expressly, and solely used for exterminating all traces of the disease in our county.And when the pandemic has been totally eradicated, the governments at different levels should account for how they spent the money. That’s what responsible, responsive, and accountable political administration entails and demands.
Now, sadly, the citizens of Nigeria are suffering economic hardship, which is brought about by the lockdown of Nigeria. The leaders at different strata of political governance didn’t give the millions of poor Nigerians economic stimulus before shutting down the country. Now, those that toil in the sun daily to eke out a living go to bed on empty stomachs nightly. Nigeria, a rich-poor country, does not have a welfare system that caters to the existential needs of the elderly people, children, and poor people. So, the continued shut-down of the country without providing economic palliative measures for the people will deepen the people’s poverty and drive them to start committing sundry crimes to earn money.
Paradoxically, during this lockdown, traders in some states have unhindered access to their shops when those shops ought to be closed. In Anambra, in a market, many traders stood together in front of closed market gates wooing customers. They would chatter loudly, not practising social distancing, and seemingly oblivious of the existence of the dreaded and deadly COVID-19 disease.
In the northern states, some Muslims defied the stay-at-home order and attended Mosques for Friday jumat prayers. To them, the reason for the lockdown of the country is to prevent Muslim faithful from worshipping Allah. In the Southeast, some highly opinionated people brazenly violated the government’s order banning the performance of funerals and weddings aimed at flattening the COVID-19 curve.
Did the governments at different levels deploy enough security personnel for the enforcement of the lock-down order? The fact is that the lockdown of Nigeria is being carried out in the breach, which can lead to the increase in the number of people that are being afflicted with the Corona virus in Nigeria.
Nigeria is lucky not to have recorded a great number of fatalities from the COVID-19 disease, which has been decimating the populations of Italy, Spain, France, Iran, USA, and others. But it is widely believed that the tropical African sun and our sturdy constitution (genetic make-up) have built a bulwark against the spread of the disease in tropical Africa.
Chiedu Uche Okoye writes from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra state,08062220654