COVID 19: Clarion call for more vigilance, active citizenship

NIGERIA became the third African country to record the COVID-19. News of the first index case of the coronavirus victim was reported last Friday, throwing the nation into fear.

THE epidemic which was earlier reported in the North African countries of Egypt and Algeria has spread farther to Senegal after Nigeria. This shows how fast the disease can spread.

ACCORDING to the World Health Organisation, there are 92, 189 reported cases of the virus worldwide, which has claimed 3, 131 lives.  A further breakdown shows that China, where the virus originated about a month ago, has recorded 80, 278 cases with 2,978 deaths followed by South Korea with 6,037 cases and 28 deaths. In Iran,  recorded cases are 3,171, claiming 88 lives. Italy has the number of the most infected cases in Europe; recording 2,036 cases with 52 deaths.

ALL over the world, there is rising fear of the virus’ COVID-19 and a sense of impending devastation.  It is such that countries do not mind citizens’ or tourists status in accessing them for symptoms. Football superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo and another Italian football star were sequestered during the El Clasico in Madrid Spain on Sunday because they flew in from Italy. He was not allowed to leave his seat to exchange banters with other players because he was from Italy. Supposing he was to stay in Spain, it’s obvious he would have been quarantined for two weeks to confirm if he had the virus. The biggest match of the week in Italian football league between Juventus and Inter Milan was called off because of the spread fear of the virus.

ECONOMICALLY, COVID-19 is beginning to bear down on even big economies. The semi-autonomous island country of Hong Kong has the threat of the virus besieging its stock exchange, that  its government is now giving incentives for people to go to work. In Switzerland, all the football league matches have been called off, perhaps to be played behind doors later.  

NIGERIA’S first index case was an Italian expatriate in Nigeria who returned from a visit to  Italy. The Italian flew into the country aboard an aircraft with over 200 passengers and landed in Lagos and passed through Lagos to Ewokoro in Ogun State, where he collapsed and was later confirmed positive of the deadly virus.

THOUGH no further case has been officially reported in the country, the fear is that an epidemic outbreak is palpable as Nigeria, the most populous country in the African continent boosts of a lot of people who traverse countries where the virus now wreak havoc. The fear is that the virus epidemic in Nigeria can, within one week, spread like wildfire, particularly, with the present hot weather across the country.

NATIONAL LIGHT implores the federal government to buy into the Edo State Government’s idea of demanding the manifest of the aircraft the Italian boarded to locate the passengers, including every possible contact he had on his arrival in Nigeria.

BEFORE the first index case in Nigeria, the Minister of Health, Emmanuel Enahire had assured of the federal government’s readiness to handle any emergency that might arise from that. But it’s now obvious that government cannot control the potential danger alone without the citizens playing very active parts.

THE situation with the disease shows a need for all hands  on deck not passing blames. What we should be talking about now is how to arrest the situation from escalating rather than blaming the government, though we know that the government has a huge role to play. Corporate organisations, philanthropists and individuals should collectively work towards arresting the situation.

FOR now, precautionary measures; such as keeping a distance from people who cough and sneeze, wearing health kits such as  face masks, hand gloves, use of sanitizers and washing of hands regularly are the best ways to keep the virus at bay.

BUT most importantly, individuals and corporate organisations should genuinely be concerned and not shed crocodile tears. How do you explain that within hours of disclosure of COVID-19’s likely presence in Nigeria, hand sanitizers that sold for N300 vanished from shops and resurfaced at  as much as N25,000? Human beings who claim that they want the state to fight the virus are now selling essential health kits triple the price they initially sold. In most cases, you don’t see them to buy where available, unless you tip or promise to pay more. It shows the heartlessness of Nigerians who are supposed to help the situation. Resident medical doctors in some states are now in a mad rush to embark on strike in demand of fulfillment of one pact or the other, leaving patients to their fate in hospitals.

WE HAVE a lot of pharmaceutical companies who can help the emergency situation by manufacturing and flooding the market with sanitizers and other health kits.

WE AGREE with the Minister of Health, who said in a briefing on Monday, that the flashpoints cities to watch out for are Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Enugu, and Port Harcourt because they have international airports, and are major points of entry into the country by air, but it should be noted that larger percentage of those landing in those cities are heading to Anambra or Abia States. They are either heading to Main Market, Onitsha, Nkwo Nnewi or Ariara Market, Aba, which are the main base  of importers and exporters from China and Italy.

POSSIBLY, some people have sneaked into Nigeria from China without notice. Perhaps, some citizens now in their shops or hometowns or in other places have just returned from China or Italy.  Whether they have this virus is a different ball game. What about those that have entered through our waterways and porous land borders? Migrants from ships took the virus to Italy, and now, no country wants to take them. They are on the sea, and some of them are Nigerians, mostly from the east.

THERE is need to take record of importers and exporters from China, Italy and nearby places through their market unions because if COVID-19 eventually hits the market, the entire trading and livelihood of all there will be closed down and the entire country will be at risk.

We therefore call on the governments of the South East zone,  to commence serious monitoring of China importers, Italian boutique owners and suppliers in our markets, including those who do business with them because it will be disastrous and suicidal, if no concerted effort is in place to avert the disaster that might set in.  

RELIGIOUS organisations are also encouraged to guard against bringing people together in whatever guise, even if it means skipping services and other church activities. Faith-based groups  should be responsive to society because religion is sociology.

IF IN Italy, the Pope can go publicly to test himself for COVID-19 and the country can close sports games in stadia because they don’t want to expose people to danger, then it is possible here in Nigeria. This is because a sneeze or cough from a carrier in a large gathering such as a market or church can spread the virus to others.

 THE government should begin a concrete hand washing, sanitisation, and hygiene campaign in our public places. Awareness has a massive role in combating the spread of the virus.

THERE is need for well equipped and conducive quarantine centres and essential primary healthcare centres in all states. We used to have quarantine centres in  Igbo culture for lepers, tuberculosis patients and others in the past, even before the coming of the Europeans. In Anambra State, there are such facilities in Nnewi and Okija. Besides building new centres, the government can enlarge and upgrade these facilities so that those who make use of it won’t have reason to flee the centres.

THERE is need to have in every local government area, quarantine centres, ambulances, screening materials, epidemiologists and others, in the primary health departments to help save lives in case of emergency or epidemic. You don’t begin to prepare for an emergency when it has come. If we survived the  Ebola debacle, we shouldn’t allow the Coronavirus epidemic to take a toll on us. 

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