The coronavirus disease, also known as COVID-19, has continued to spread like wildfire in harmattan, disrupting everything in its way.
With one plague, the world has stood still. Governments across the world have been humbled amid confusion. It all started in China in the final days of 2019. Since the news broke, the world has not been the same again.
In the beginning, many people across the globe, including Nigerians, referred to coronavirus as a Chinese problem that perhaps should not bother other countries. Even United States President Donald Trump, while fielding questions from journalists, called it the Chinese virus.
But not too long, it began to spread through countries and continents with the attendant effects of death and sorrow. As at today, the virus, which keeps raging and spreading like an untamed fire, has hit over 150 countries and claimed more than 13,000 lives. It is dealing direct and indirect blows on people who survive it.
Then, as the news of the deadly virus (COVID-19) travelled far and near, some persons made jokes of it, not knowing how grievous and catastrophic the disease could be. At the moment, Nigerians no longer find it funny, having recorded no fewer than 30 confirmed cases at the weekend. Everybody, including the government, seems to have suddenly woken up from slumber.
Lagos recorded the first case of COVID-19, a respiratory disease spawned by coronavirus, in Nigeria on February 27.
The busy commercial city has continued to report more cases since then, with federal health authorities putting the state’s case at 22 out of the total 30 cases confirmed in the country as of Sunday morning. Abuja has four, Ogun two, while Ekiti and Oyo have one each.
With a population of about 200 million and with limited health facilities available, people are worried that, if the number keeps increasing, the country might be in for some big trouble.
Today, the world appears to be in hibernation. The spread of the disease has disrupted the world economy. It has affected the price of crude oil, which is the heartbeat of many nations’ economies. Many multinational companies that produced diverse goods for the needs of other countries have been completely shut down. All these measures are for the fear of coronavirus and the quest to contain it.
Social life, which Nigerians are known to always cherish, is caged at the moment. For instance, sporting events that have united people from all races and religions have been punctured and suspended indefinitely. Both local and international sporting events are on a compulsory holiday.
Most social gatherings have been restricted, to the chagrin of fun-seekers. The entertainment industry is groaning even as entertainers are counting their losses. Many weddings, burial ceremonies, conferences and other major events are being rescheduled or postponed indefinitely.
One might not be exaggerating to say that the world has been quarantined by COVID-19.
Scientists, medics and other stakeholders are working round the clock to find a solution. How soon will the world shout Eureka? Only time shall tell, even as the world impatiently waits for the announcement of a breakthrough.
Kelly Arthur, a football lover based in Lagos, told the reporter that though he has not tested positive to the virus, he is sick, having been cut off from what gives him joy.
“There is no life without football games. This is the greatest punishment I have ever received since I became an adult. It is like I am now sick. I used to look forward to every weekend to unwind with friends while watching football. Everything changed suddenly.
“My prayer is for researchers to quickly find a cure to this problem. Life cannot continue to be boring as it is now. Football matches give me joy,” he said.
Either by ignorance or being optimistic, it was widely speculated in Nigeria that the people from the continent were immune from the dreaded disease. Some other persons in some quarters also believed that Nigeria’s weather was hot enough to ward off coronavirus. Even some said that Nigerians were specially created and so much loved by God to send the infection far away.
Nigerians were quick to forget that Chinese nationals, Italians and other foreign expatriates abound in their numbers in many companies in the country. Indeed, the disease broke out when the Chinese all travelled for their Lunar New Year celebrations in their country. This should have reminded all that the rest of the world was not safe. The possibility of importing the deadly disease into the country was unarguably very high.
Sadly, Nigeria’s fear has been confirmed with the positive cases. And all the assumptions and permutations of natural immune system and unfavourable weather to the disease have been proven wrong.
Apart from the index case, an Italian, most other patients that contracted the disease were Nigerians coming home from abroad.
No deaths, two patients discharged
Many have applauded the health authorities and the medical personnel in Lagos and other parts of the country for ensuring that no death has been linked directly to COVID-19 in Nigeria. Two of the patients have also been discharged, including the Italian man who was first diagnosed with the virus in Nigeria.
Wrong time to have cold, catarrh
In public places, anyone coughing right now is treated with suspicion and everyone around scrutinises the person. Some Nigerians are now ensuring that they don’t throw caution to the winds. However, there are some others who still appear carefree, irrespective of the continuous safety campaigns by different agencies and authorities.
For many Nigerians now, there is no more shaking of hands, hugging or other pleasantries. To exchange any form of greeting, it is advised that one must maintain a certain distance. It must be stated that densely-populated places like Lagos experiencing crowd gatherings in virtually all parts of the state naturally become vulnerable to accelerated spread of the disease.
Schools closed, gatherings restricted
The Federal Government and many states have closed down schools from primary to tertiary levels. Travelling to many countries was restricted at the beginning, but the Federal Government will from today shut out all international flights from Nigeria’s airspace.
The number of people gathering in mosques and churches have been restricted by many state governments. Lagos State earlier announced that social or religious gatherings must not contain more than 50 people.
The governor of the Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has mandated the appropriate law enforcement agencies to go after any erring member of the public, church, mosque, bars and event centres.
Also at the weekend, Osun State Government ordered an outright ban of all religious gatherings under whatever purpose. It said that the rate at which the virus was spreading to other states called for proactivity.
Say no to fake news
In all of this, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has continued to emphasise the need for everyone to focus on disseminating facts, and not fear and speculations.
Apparently, some persons have been spreading unfounded and misleading information on the social media, aimed at driving traffic to their websites. This has been condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians.
According to NCDC, someone who has completed quarantine or has been released from isolation does not pose a risk of infection to other people. One can help stop COVID-19 by knowing the signs and symptoms.
Those in need of urgent medical help
The common signs and symptoms are fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing. Such people are advised to quickly alert medical staff.
Other people who also need to quickly surrender themselves for medical checks and isolation are those who have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if one lives in or has recently been in an area with on-going spread of COVID-19.
Necessary caution, safety tips
Another fact Nigerians must embrace is that there are simple things they can do to help keep themselves and others healthy.
Experts have said that the diseases could make anyone sick regardless of their race or ethnicity. It has been clarified that, for most people, the immediate risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low.
Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19.
On safety tips, people are advised to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, and before eating or preparing food. And avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Still on precautions, the NCDC has advised people to stay home when they are sick, cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
By last weekend, more than 300,000 people were known to be infected and over 13,000 deaths had been reported. Italy, China, Iran and Spain have recorded over 10,000 deaths.
Defying orders in Lagos
Despite the advice and warning by the Lagos State government, thousands of party-goers attended several weddings and events across Lagos at the weekend, thereby defying government advisory about potentially harmful implications of gathering in large numbers amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The lockdown measures announced to drastically restrict social gatherings, aimed at containing the spread, has been apparently jettisoned by events organisers and attendees.
After the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other renowned health institutions and experts identified social distancing as one of the pragmatic approaches to slow down the spread of the virus, Nigerian authorities urged citizens to observe the recommendation and restrict themselves to only essential movements.
Some persons believe that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to cancel an event they have been preparing for just overnight as a result of a government order. In some of the events that took place, at least 400 to 700 people attended the parties, against the maximum of 50 advised by the government.
Many pundits had earlier foreseen that the enforcement of the restriction could be difficult for many obvious reasons. But Lagos officials said all restrictions would be enforced and some of the identified venues of social activities have been closed as of Saturday.
Commissioner for information in Lagos State, Gbenga Omotoso, said: “We are closing down places where weddings are being held in defiance of the existing order.
“Our officials at the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) have started closing down event centres that defied the directive of the governor and health institutions.”
Partial closure of churches
Many churches complied with the directive, while others went ahead with their normal programmes.
Policemen from Ile-Iwe Police Station stormed all churches in Meiran, Command and Abule-Egba communities to ask the churches that opened to shut down and head home. When the reporter asked the patrol team leader if government had ordered a complete shutdown or a restricted gathering of 50, he responded that it was “order from above.”
“Don’t argue anything with us. We don’t care to know whether you are up to 20 or 50 people. If you people don’t close this place now, we will pick the pastor and take him to the station to give explanations,” he said angrily.
As observed by the reporter, most churches, particularly those with low congregation and in secluded places, opened for service. There were some that had more than 50 worshippers in attendance. But some were under lock and key, while the leaders were seen in others directing members to return home and pray to their God.
Worries over Buhari’s silence
Many Nigerians have also expressed concern over the complete silence of President Muhammadu Buhari. Although the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has been leading the processes to fight the disease, some Nigerians have insisted that the President should address residents and assure the nation, citing examples of similar messages from world leaders like Donald trump of the US, Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom and Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana.
The corona plague
According to experts, the corona viruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in animals. Seven, including the new virus, have made the jump to humans, but most just cause cold-like symptoms.
How did the outbreak start? The source of the coronavirus is believed to be a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan, which sold dead and live animals, including fish and birds. Such markets pose a heightened risk of viruses jumping from animals to humans because hygiene standards are difficult to maintain, if live animals are being kept and butchered on site. Typically, they are also densely packed.
The animal source of the latest outbreak has not yet been identified, but the original host is thought to be bats. Bats were not sold at the Wuhan market but might have infected live chicken or other animals sold there.
No cure as of now
Is there a cure for the coronavirus? There is still no specific treatment, although doctors are trying existing drugs for viruses such as Ebola and HIV. Early results seem promising, but until full clinical trials have been concluded, doctors cannot be certain that any drug is effective. The US President announced last week that the authorities had approved the use of chloroquine to manage the virus. But even before the people could start jubilating, US health authorities countered it and said clinical trials were still in process. They were categorical that chloroquine had not been approved for the treatment of COVID-19.
Like cold and flu bugs, the virus is spread via droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. The droplets land on surfaces and are picked up on the hands of others and spread further. People catch the virus when they put their infected hands in their mouth, nose or eyes.
The current advice is that the disease can only be spread between close contacts, defined as spending more than 15 minutes within two metres of an infected person.Certain people are more likely to have a severe form of the disease, especially with underlying conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
Personalities who have tested positive
The disease is a respecter of nobody. The rich and the poor, the high and the low are being brutally ravaged by COVID-19. Across the world, personalities such as footballers, coaches, artistes and top government officials have tested positive to the virus.
It was shocking when the news filtered in that Hollywood star Tom Hanks had caught it. Another patient is French World Cup winner and Juventus star, Blaise Matuidi. Veteran jazz star, Manu Dibango, was not spared. On Saturday, March 21, former Real Madrid president, Lorenzo Sanz, died at the age of 76 after being hospitalised with coronavirus.
Hollywood Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks and his wife, actress and singer, Rita Wilson, announced they tested positive for the virus on March 12, while the couple were in Australia. Five days later both Hanks and his wife were released from hospital and have since quarantined themselves.
On March 16, British actor Idris Elba, said in a two-minute Twitter video with wife Sabrina Dhowre Elba that he had tested positive for the virus and had gone into self-isolation. On the same day, Olga Kurylenko, the Ukrainian actress who starred in the 2008 James Bond film “Quantum of Solace,” revealed that she had tested positive.
“Game of Thrones” actor Kristofer Hivju, who played Tormund Giantsbane on the HBO series, also told fans via his Instagram account that he was isolating himself at home in his native Norway after testing positive. Chilean author, Luis Sepulveda, who lives in northern Spain, also has the virus and is in hospital. He felt the first symptoms on February 25, two days after returning from a literary festival in Portugal.
Also, Matuidi has been in self-isolation in his home since March 11 after testing positive. His club, Juventus in Italy, has announced its Italian defender Daniele Rugani has also tested positive. The announcement forced all players in the team to go for self-isolation.
Even five-time World Footballer of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, a Juventus player, has been in isolation for several days in Madeira, though with no symptoms. Five footballers with the local club, Sampdoria, have also tested positive, along with the club’s doctor. Serbian striker, Dusan Vlahovic, at Fiorentina, another Serie A club, has also been infected.
In Britain, Arsenal’s manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi have both tested positive.
In the political world, Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has been in isolation since March 13, after his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, tested positive to coronavirus. In Britain, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Mental Health Nadine Dorries also tested positive. Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is in hospital after being infected.
Four government ministers are among the latest cases of coronavirus in Burkina Faso, where two new deaths were reported by the country’s health emergency response operations centre on Saturday. Their respective departments are the ministries of foreign affairs, interior, education, and mines and quarries.
By Sunday, two deaths had been recorded in the country, bringing the number of deaths since the start of the epidemic to three. Burkina Faso now has a total of 64 confirmed cases (29 women and 35 men), according to reports.
Lagos govt goes tough
Governor Sanwo-Olu gave the police and other security agencies orders to arrest people gathering in large numbers in violation of government’s order. The government had banned large religious meetings and other gatherings in excess of 50 persons across the state.
Sanwo-Olu said, following the resolution reached between government and religious leaders to stop large gatherings, law enforcement had been directed to disperse crowds to prevent the spread of the virus.