Of Nigeria’s spiking COVID-19 toll

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BARELY two months after easing the nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the rising tide of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, the federal government is reportedly mulling another lockdown. This comes after the federal government first imposed lockdown on the epicentres of Lagos, Ogun States and subsequently Federal Capital Territorial,  Abuja.

   BUT the lockdown, which has been described by many as socio-economic strangling, makes more sense as it   stepped up mass control measure aside other personal mandatory health safety guidelines in the fight against COVID-19.

  UNFORTUNATELY, rather than witness a downward projectile after the ease of the lockdown in which the government believed would ingrain consciousness of sustained suppression of contracting of COVID-19, the figure kept gaining momentum on vertical levels.

  ONE major angle to the COVID-19 spike is the economy. Before the pandemic, Nigeria was grappling with weak recovery from the 2014 oil price shock, with GDP growth hovering around 2.3 percent in 2019. the country has spent five months since the reported first index case to June 27, 2019, without work. This has increased poverty among Nigerians and hunger no doubt, makes many Nigerians to disregard whatever directives from both government and experts to curtail the spread of the virus.

  TO BUTTRESS the disease’s impact in the economy, Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo said that COVID-19 pandemic slashed Nigeria’s oil revenue by over 40 per cent and recession at 41 per cent following the nationwide lockdown. The worst is that it may last till November, considering the rate at which Nigerians contract the disease.

  DESPITE many other reasons that may be cited, it is obvious that there is either a disconnect somewhere or misconception of the pandemic by a good number of Nigerians. It seems that there is poor communication regime through information and publicity in the fight against the rampaging pandemic. This is because communication serves no purpose when its end users make no meaning out it.

  SURELY, no epidemic or pandemic has witnessed the cornucopia of information as in the case COVID-19. The plethora of information on different platforms that gears towards informing and enlightening the citizenry on the best approach to curtailing the pandemic pending a vaccine or cure for the coronavirus seem not to have any effect as the number of cases keep rising on daily bases.

  WE ARE not unaware of myths and fake news that has challenged the fight against the pandemic. But equally, we are aware that sustained information from credible sources using different media platforms has been disseminated. This we anticipated would sway public consciousness to thrust the figure downwards in a sustained way. However, it appears there is confusion in the communication system. Information from credible sources such as World Health Organisation (WHO) and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), among others seems to contradict themselves. We have had instances where the global health body advocated use of face masks and at another time saying it’s not safe proof. Another good example is the controversy on the issue of reopening of schools as no side wins in the argument and almost every authority is shying away from making a categorical statement on the issue.

  PEOPLE’S lackadaisical attitude could be another mitigating challenge to curtailing the spread of the virus. Many people have made up their minds on how to behave and such line of action won’t stop the spread of the disease. Many of such people’s idea of COVID-19 is that it is a ‘white man’s disease’ and to them, white man’s disease doesn’t kill Africans. Therefore, a pre-COVID-19 lifestyle is normal.

  WE RUE deliberate ignorance of people not believing in the existence of COVID-19. People in this category stick to the idea that if coronavirus actually exists, it won’t affect them. This is a notion so damaging that they and others become victims. They want to identify physically with people of confirmed cases before it could be real.

   STIGMATISATION is equally a huge factor in the spread of COVID-19. Some families wouldn’t want to live with the scare that would stigmatise them. The cultural orientation of our clime makes it easy for people to become easy targets of stigma. This makes it difficult for some victims to disclose the illness or even tell the story of their recovery. Perhaps, we are not doing enough advocacies to back up information. There is a difference between putting out information and putting it right. Also, many advocacy groups are more interested in how COVID-19 funds are spent or sharing of palliatives. We are not trying to say it is not good to monitor the flow of COVID-19 funds and resources pumped in cushioning the effects of the pandemic but it goes beyond that. What about enforcing the action in the fight against the pandemic?

  MORE worrisome is the fact that social influencers are discouraging people from believing that the coronavirus exists. The effect is that it emboldens many of their followers in their thousands and million to regard COVID-19 as a fluke.

   THE surge on the confirmed cases of COVID-19 impacts leveryone’s life. The virus poses grave risks to public health. The pandemic has disrupted the way we live.

  NATIONAL Light believes that one way that could help in slowing down the spread of coronavirus is active and sustainable communications that properly orientate the grassroots. There should be enough sugar on the stories to make it bear on them than the number of deaths and those contradicting it. Many people have not seen isolation centres. What most see on television are always empty bed spaces.  We need more of COVID-19 survivors of ordinary people narrating their experiences, as it would add tonic in the fight against the pandemic. There is also need for more advocacies to back up the information that is disseminated on coronavirus by enforcing any directive that comes from the findings we have had.

  FOR example, if we have non-governmental organisations (NGOs) insisting or going around to identify shop owners and operatives that do not comply to safety measures, it will likely attract attention. Advocacy should be carried out to disabuse minds of those who feign ignorance of the pandemic and the danger of such lackadaisical approach to the coronavirus issue.

  AGAIN, if people pay condolence to a family of COVID-19 victim without knowing it, they could contract the virus and spread it to others. It is therefore, important that COVID-19 patients’ families disclose the cause of the person’s death. This is because, rather than the fear of stigmatisation, the information will help everyone as revealing COVID-19 status makes it real, enlightens and educates others, thus tapering the spread of the virus in communities.

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