When Nigeria recorded its first confirmed case of the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease on the 27th of February 2020, no one knew the extent to which things would evolve. Of course, there was the fear of the virus imploding across the nation based on reports and pieces of evidence gathered from other affected nations around the world and there was as well, the counter notion that we were somehow inoculated against the virus.
The fear of how the country was going to survive if there was an outbreak was at its peak considering our fragile and ailing healthcare system, our non-existent database structure to carry out contact tracing in the case of a spread, and our lack of manpower and personnel with sufficient knowledge to handle a crisis of such magnitude.
The Federal Government of Nigeria through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) began strengthening measures to control and contain an outbreak bringing up health instructions and precautions to be followed and maintained; social distancing, washing of hands with soap and water, usage of sanitizers, wearing of nose masks.
As the number of new cases began to rise, the Federal Government imposed a lockdown in Lagos; considered to be the epicenter of the virus in Nigeria, Abuja Ogun, and subsequently, other states began imposing restrictions and safety measures all in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
The country continued to record increased cases of infected persons and a sadly increasing death rate and yet we had a low testing capacity, persons were not going to get tested for various reasons and the spiral effect of these were going to hit hard sooner rather than later. Countries who had successfully enforced the lockdown had been able to do that because they had the resources to conduct testing at a much larger capacity, had an economy stable enough to take in the effect of a hit on the economy even going as far as providing food and even given money to the citizens to compensate all in a bid to successfully ensure health protocols were strictly abided to.
Unfortunately, Nigeria couldn’t follow that trend and, in the end, the economy had to be given consideration. Also, the fact that the numbers recorded were not as high as other countries erroneously led many to different conspiracy theories; some believed it was a disease for the rich and many did not even believe it was real and many believed it was another scheme to steal money by the government.
So when the lockdown restrictions were partially eased, many persons through caution to the wind. Relieved from the “shackles” of the restrictions, public gatherings, religious centers of worship, markets, workplaces, travel locations were back to the old norm with no regard for the safety guidelines and protocols and it was no surprise to receive the news of the second wave of infections.
The problem is that the virus is deadlier than before, possibly driven by a new and more infectious variant of the disease. As stated by the Health Minister, Osagie Ehanire, the country hopes to receive 20 million vaccine doses which would cover healthcare workers and vulnerable persons such as the elderly but Nigeria has a population of about 200 million people.
The second wave has continued to spread with the number of infected new cases and death cases recorded by the NCDC hitting one of its highest and with this increase not showing any signs of slowing down, the government has reintroduced new restrictions to curtail the spread.
Unfortunately, due to our fragile economy, the country cannot afford to go into a second lockdown but will we not get to that point?
It appears to be that may be the case because it is sad to see many persons go around deliberating flouting the safety guidelines and protocols. Despite the spike in the number of cases and the threat posed, persons can still be seen disregarding the rules. It is high time the government stood up to take a firmer stance in cracking down on defaulters. No matter whose ox is gored, enforcing compliance to rules, stringent punishment must become the order of the day otherwise we risk going into another health and economic crisis, surely that must not be allowed to happen!