Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
The outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus (COVID-19) in Wuhan Province of China late last year has created global tension, with the attendant economic crises and social catastrophes widening on a daily basis.
In Nigeria, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, confirmed the index case of coronavirus disease in Lagos, on February 27, and the vector was an unnamed Italian who works in Lagos that flew in from Milan, Italy, on February 25.
Since then, everyone now appears to be in panic mode as the virus has been named a killer. The Federal Government has also designed a containment strategy involving a multi-sectoral approach to avert the possible spread of the disease. It recently announced that it had acquired the necessary reagents to test for the presence of Coronavirus in suspected patients.
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), released a public health advisory on the COVID-19 to Nigerians, which included frequent washing of hands with soap under running water or use of alcohol-based sanitizers when water was not available.
However, the recommendation of sanitizers as one of the measures that could reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 has brought about sudden increase in demand for the product.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed announced that government was likely to review the N10.59 trillion 2020 due to the threat posed by the deadly virus to the nation’s main source of revenue, oil.
The development forced a global plunge in oil price thus threatening the implementation of the 2020 budget that was predicated on crude oil bench of $57 per barrel and daily production capacity of 2.1 million barrels per day.
In compliance with established advisory measures by the NCDC, Port Health Officials of the Federal Ministry of Health, enforcement officials at various public offices in Abuja have begun the enforcement of the regular hand washing with hand sanitizer and other hygienic activities.
At the Presidential Villa, hand sanitizers have been placed at strategic positions to ensure all visitors and employees are adequately protected. The measures were strengthened last Wednesday at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, where officials of NCDC manned the two main entrance doors of the State House, to screen staff and visitors.
The NCDC officials were assisted by staff of the State House Medical Centre, while hand sanitizers were given to every visitor and staff entering the reception area. All staff, visitors and members of the FEC, who witnessed the swearing-in of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, were first screened, then given hand sanitizers, before being allowed into the State House Council Chambers.
While some staff of the State House lauded the management for enforcing the precautionary measures needed to prevent the spread of the virus, others advised that such steps be extended to all public buildings, schools, religious organisations, sports centres and other locations that attract large crowds.
However, it was mixed reactions at the old and new Federal Secretariat complexes in Abuja, as officials of the ministry insisted that staff and visitors must wash and sanitise their hands before they are allowed into some offices, particularly the offices of top government officials.
Daily Sun observed that enforcement of hygienic measures started shortly before COVID-19 was recorded in Nigeria in February but not with all strictness. On Friday, at the Federal Secretariat, staff and visitors at the various offices strictly complied with the hygienic practice, joyfully. One after the other, they approached the officials with both hands to get a drop of the hand sanitizer.
The enforcement officials were also polite and friendly in their duties as they ensured that people were thoroughly sanitized to prevent any infection. It was, however, observed that not all of the offices in the ministries had the hand sanitizers even as others placed theirs strategically at various entry points.
A civil servant at the old Federal Secretariat in Area 1, John (other name withheld), said he was fully aware of the virus, but expressed joy that it had not been recorded in Abuja yet. He said:
“They said it has entered Nigeria, though still far from Abuja. I have started adopting all the preventive measures. I bought sanitizers for all my family members. I asked them to make sure they wash their hands regularly and stop biting their fingernails or shaking of hands while exchanging pleasantries.
“The greater part of the war against the spread of coronavirus is in the hands of the Federal Government. If they can tighten the security at our borders and make sure everyone that is entering this country is properly searched and screened before associating with people, I think there will be no cause for alarm.”
Another civil servant said: “I am happy with the entrance of coronavirus because everyone is now trying to keep themselves and surroundings clean. But what I dislike about it is that someone can no longer cough or sneeze in the public. When you do, people will start looking at you and walk way as if you have already contracted the disease.”
Abdullah (other name withheld) waxed spiritual: “Nigeria is full of sins. We have done a lot of abominable acts against God. From the leaders to the followers, nobody is exempted. This virus came as a result of our sins and it is only prayers that can save us. Though, I am observing the preventive measures with my family but I ought to pray more because there is no way we can stay five meters away, avoid people with cough or stop shaking of hands, that means you must remain indoor which not possible.”
One other, Patricia (other name withheld) believed coronavirus is a scam. She insisted that there is nothing like that in Nigeria: “I have started washing my hands regularly and using hand sanitizer and keeping my environment clean, but I am not yet convinced that there is coronavirus in Nigeria. I see it as a scam and another way to loot Nigerian resources.”