The House of Representatives last week rejected a motion that sought to compel the Federal Government to evacuate Nigerians stranded in Wuhan; China, centre of the Coronavirus scourge. Indeed, a member of the House, Benjamin Kalu had attempted to move a motion. ‘
In the motion, Kalu had sought to compel the Federal Government to evacuate Nigerians stranded in China. However, the lawmakers surprisingly or not so surprisingly rejected the motion in its entirety. As a matter of fact, they refused to allow him to even move the motion.
The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila even attempted to savage the motion; by telling the members that those to be extradited will be quarantined to ensure safety. But the members perhaps out of self-preservation rejected the motion.
This act has earned the members of the House harsh criticism particularly on social media.
Why abandon Nigerians who need help, some have queried. Now is the time to distil reality from emotion and sentiments. Indeed, the law of greater good for the greatest number will continue to hold an important space in governance.
The issue is, potential danger to 65 people or risk of danger to 193 million people. Currently, the disease is spreading like wildfire. At the moment, the disease has spread to over 25 countries with casualties growing. Even a nation like China with all its economic prowess which means better health care; is still struggling to cope with the deadly virus.
By Sunday, February 9, 2020, the number of deaths from the new coronavirus had risen to 811 in mainland China.
Across China, 89 new deaths and 2,656 new confirmed cases were reported; the vast majority in the province of Hubei. Also, there has been over 34,000 infections and cases confirmed in 25 countries. Equally important, the death toll has surpassed that of SARS; a respiratory disease which caused a global health scare in the early 2000; and which also began in China. SARS was recognized at the end of February 2003.
To combat the virus, China in a spectacular fashion built a 2000-capacity hospital in less than 10 days. But even with the impressive building and other extreme measures taken; the casualty is increasing. How prepared is Nigeria to deal with ordinary LASSA fever; not to talk of a virus that has defied China?
Many may point to how the country reined in the Ebola scourge. However, the reality is that Nigeria got lucky with that miracle story; we also had the selfless late Dr. Stella Adadevoh to thank for her professional handling of the index case. Our healthcare system is already stretched beyond its limit. Shortage of doctors is a daily occurrence. Lack of bed space at our tertiary hospitals is a common story. Also, most rural communities are not even equipped with functioning hospitals.
What would have been the best option?
As a matter of fact, there is nothing like the perfect solution. The country should have taken the measure of evacuation at the beginning, with a proper quarantine arrangement.
Now that it has gotten this bad, a situation room should be set up; to be managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Health, to coordinate with Nigerians over there. The objective of the situation room will be to ensure timely information and provide support. Equally important, in the event of infection of any Nigerian over there; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should liaise with the Chinese authorities to ensure that they get proper treatment.
The coming week will be tough as the risk of coronavirus infection is still high. Perhaps the lawmakers have used the principle of the greater good for the greater number. Coronavirus in Nigeria or in any West African country; is as good as having the virus in the whole of West Africa.