Should we press the panic button on the COVID 19 issue yet? I walked into the big supermarket in my area. I just wanted to buy detergent, dish washing liquid and indomie. The first person I saw at the checkout counter was my neighbour. She was wearing gloves and her eyes were looking glassy with either excitement; fear or panic or even a combination of all three.
I approached her with a hug… a reflex thing. Then the emotions that I wasn’t sure I was seeing in her eyes turned into unmistakable panic. She did not touch me and then I remembered.
COVID 19 had made its debut and was busy replicating at an alarming speed in Nigeria.
My neighbour was prepared. The cart in front of her had over eight big packs of tissue paper. I mean the one that has like 40 rolls per pack.
If it looked like it, smelt like it and had an insane amount of tissue paper, it was definitely it. Panic buying.
Why wasn’t I panicking and stocking the house compulsively?
Just the previous day, I had gotten a call from my sister who was not happy at all. Her work place had sent them all home to work from their houses. Her colleagues who were mostly expatriates were leaving Nigeria or considering leaving.
I downplayed the whole COVID 19 pandemic.
I called it less dangerous than Ebola.
In fact, I told her vulnerable people where more susceptible.
I spoke in calm modulated tones; as though I was officially privy to the sure fire plans the government had to tackle this. As I went upstairs in the supermarket, I ran into a friend who declared;
“The eggs are finished! People are panic buying.”
“Self-isolation won’t work if even one person is not doing it.”
We laughed a lot during the conversation. But underneath the mirth was the very real realization that this situation could get ugly fast.
Kids are home.
Bans on large gatherings.
It is like a black evil vulture is flying around in circles above us bracing to descend. The clouds are closing together. The ugly bird thinks we are toast and he is ready to eat our carcass.
Every single time I check my social media pages, the number is growing.
More and more Nigerians are testing positive for COVID 19. It feels like watching the fire light up on the rope; and following it as it travels the short distance to a mega explosion.
I don’t even want to think about it.
I am watching Oyinbos who are light years ahead of us in every way; struggle to cope and contain this disease. I don’t even want to think of how my country’s health institutions can handle a crisis.
This is Nigeria.
Where a lot of health centers don’t even have oxygen tanks.
Where a private clinic that caters to the middle class; will struggle if a dozen people who need oxygen are brought to it.
Look, I don’t want to think about it.
745 people dying in 24 hours in Italy!
This is not the flu. It is not a glorified common cold.
This COVID 19 shit is lethal.
When I saw my neighbour panic buying, I called my husband on the phone.
“Are people panic buying?”
“They want to. If they could afford to, they will.”
Those were his words.
What was I going to do?
I went to the normal market to make my normal weekend soups.
Shops and stalls all look fully stocked.
But I think it is coming.
The panic will start with the middle class. They are educated enough to mimic the senseless buying of mounds of tissue paper. Also, they are watching the empty aisles in ASDA, Walmart, Tesco and all those Oyinbo super stores.
They can even buy to cover a couple of months. Not more than that.
The poor – they are buffered by more escapism that I am (I am handling this my reading fiction).
They will believe it is a conspiracy theory.
They will believe it is a disease brought and spread amongst rich people that can travel.
And they will believe the anointing oil they drank will protect them.
They will believe anything to remain in the pseudo-safe shell they have created for themselves.
You see, their vulnerability requires any false armour they can grasp at.
Self-isolation cannot work if you work daily for your coins.
Social distancing is a joke when you have no choice but to use public transportation.
Psalm 91 is so cheap that it is free.
No one should scold them and anyone who chooses to pray.
What else have we got?
Our public health care infrastructure is a joke. We know it. They know it. Let us just hope COVID 19 doesn’t know it.
The poor cannot afford to panic-buy.
But when they do panic, we all should be afraid.
The rich thankfully for once are not fully cosseted from this reality. Yes, I am bad belle. It is of some small comfort to me that this is one thing all Nigerians are vulnerable to.
The government of the past that could have prioritized producing a robust healthcare system.
The present government who sat on their hands and watched this pandemic fly into Nigeria.
Plus the rich that have fed off the coffers of this country.
The middle class.
This COVID 19 is a disrespectful bastard. Pardon my French. There is no flying anywhere to get stellar medical treatment.
This is the most literal “We die here” situation I have ever seen.
So, is it time to panic?
I don’t think so.
But you can bet that there has never been a better time to pray.
Because only God can halt this thing and prevent the Armageddon that seems to be looming ahead in Nigeria.