The world has been seeing some grim statistics on the Covid-19 spread lately. There are now more than 11.5 million people worldwide who have contracted the dreaded virus. More than 535,000 have died.
In Nigeria, the virus continues to wreak havoc, spreading like wildfire. By early this week, nearly 30,000 people had contracted the disease and more than 650 had died. The good news, if you can call it that; is that there have been more than 12,000 recoveries by Tuesday July 7. What is not so good is the news that testing is still lagging behind despite the promise from the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on Covid-19 to ramp it up.
Nigeria, a country of nearly 200 million people, had only tested 169,629 samples by July 7. It is an incredibly sad situation as this fact may indeed mask the true number of Nigerians with Covid-19.
What is hidden in the statistics is that there is no longer any state that COVID-19 has not spread to. Both Kogi and Cross River States that have been crowing that no one in their states has contracted the virus have now succumbed to this grim reaper called Coronavirus. We can extrapolate from this that the governors of both states have been burying their heads in the sand all the while because there have been only 12 tests conducted in Kogi and 16 in Cross River.
What the data also tells us is that the most affected age group in Nigeria is the 31 – 40-year-olds. The group represents 24% of those who have contracted the virus. But most important but alarming is the fact that unknown exposure; or what is also referred to as community infection is the leading cause of Covid-19 positivity tests in the country. That is a mind blowing 21,911cases of the nearly 30,000 cases or 73 percent. It simply means no one quite knows how this huge number of people contracted the disease.
It is no wonder that there is this air of resignation on the faces and in the voices of members of the PTF. Cases are growing exponentially. Yet, no one seems to be listening to advice from the task force for every Nigerian to take personal responsibility; so, we can begin to flatten the curve. Even the deaths of some of our big men and politicians are not doing the trick.
In fact, they just continue to cement it in the minds of many Nigerians; unfortunately, that Covid-19 is the big man’s punishment. So, not many in our towns and cities care about social distancing, wearing a mask or face covering. And when they wear it, they put it on their chin as if it were some fashion statement; thus, negating the logic that you protect yourself by protecting others when you wear a mask or you social distance.
Members of the task force are almost at the point of chastising us all. This is because of the impertinence of many of us. The responses of Nigerians to happenings around them on this Covid-19 pandemic remain cause for concern. On the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC’s website are a set of admonitions on the pandemic; which furthers its “Take Responsibility” campaign.
NCDC says: “More infections in the younger population can lead to more deaths in the older population who are more vulnerable.” But a sample of responses on the website to this campaign show that Nigeria continues to be in a heap of trouble over Coronavirus and it is unlikely to flatten its curve anytime soon.
Obagwu Ogah James says in response to the campaign: “I see what you guys are trying to do. Since you guys are no longer scared of the high numbers you have resolved to be using death scare. I got news for you. It isn’t working.”
Paul Owodue writes: “The whole of NCDC is mad. Take responsibility by not spreading fake news so that we as Nigerian citizen(sic) we (sic) live a peaceful life. All your new, new, cases are old.”
Paul Enejo Abraham, in his own case, writes: “A young vibrant graduate just committed suicide because of the hardship and fake reports you people were feeding the federal government making them not to allow movement. While you people smiles (sic) to the bank this period other ones to the mortuary.”
This snapshot is a confirmation of how much Nigeria still has to do; especially to convince its citizens that Covid-19 is real and that the death toll is slowly; but surely headed for the first 1000. It is clear that there is an erosion of trust in the PTF. This can be attributed to the fact tht the level of trust in government itself is nil. In the event, the gradual but questionable relaxation of the lockdown nationwide cannot be a good thing.
Cases have continued to soar in response to the relaxation. No one even bothers to observe the night curfew anymore. The PTF continues to threaten to bring back the lockdown; just as some states too have been threatening to enforce mask wearing. These threats are falling on deaf ears. We seem to lack new strategies for dealing with this pandemic.
Some have suggested that the federal governments should take its campaign to the nooks and crannies of the country; using various languages and dialects and also use the influence of the traditional rulers just to rally people round this personal responsibility message.
That is all well and good. But it has got to go beyond this.
At one of their daily national briefings; the task force managers told us that less than 40 local government councils nationally are the epicentres of Covid-19 cases. In fact, in June the NCDC said 20 local government areas accounted for 60 percent of the Covid-19 cases in Nigeria. It means the federal government through the PTF ought now to decide to treat the seriousness of the continuing spike via the postcode data.
There is need for the federal government, not the state governments; to isolate these local governments with jaw dropping number of cases. The government should lock them down for a period to have a shot at flattening the curve.
In America, the approach is being used by different states as counties are locked down to slow down test positivity rates. In the United Kingdom, Leicester, a city of more than half a million people; has been locked down because of the spike in the numbers of positive cases. In Australia, five million residents of the city of Melbourne in Victoria State; would have to stay home for the next six weeks because of a new surge in coronavirus cases.
The Osun State governor, Gboyega Oyetola, this past weekend ordered the lockdown of four local government areas in the state to contain the spread of Coronavirus. The lockdown went into effect on Tuesday 8 July. The PTF should take charge of this nationally and then concentrate its resources and palliatives in these local council areas.
While our policemen and women have been the deal breakers on policing the lockdowns; having these isolated lockdowns may actually be easier monitored to ensure the law enforcers do not continue to be the law-breakers. We just have to use new approaches nationally to tackling this pandemic.
So far, Africans are not picking dead bodies on their streets and we should not let this happen. At least, not in Nigeria.