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15 Apr 2020

LET’S GO TO ANTARCTICA - NIGERIA’S “COVIK-1-9” PARADIGM

By DR AJAO OYETADE


Well, it is not quite the Titanic; it is a lot bigger than that. Hi, I am the captain of this massive ocean liner with the capacity for 100million Nigerians on board. Boarding is free! The ship is heading off to Antarctica where I can assure you there have been no recorded cases of the COVID-19 - not one.
About a week ago the world achieved a feat: a new virus on our planet - known to have started in China - had claimed just over a million bodies in infection rate, currently carrying it or already carried it, all in the space of about 3 months. A million is the figure the WHO recognized based on data shared by the over 180 countries that have been hit. So maybe well over 1 million if you take account of unreported data, but that’s another issue.

The USA is currently the worst hit country in the world but that’s only if you only take account of the number of confirmed cases and look away from the more grotesque picture of the number of deaths, where Italy has obviously suffered the most. Italy, a country of just over 60 million pasta-loving people, has suffered the highest fatalities with an average number of daily deaths in the past 2 weeks hovering close to 700. That’s grim. That’s depressing. Enough to take sleep out of your system indefinitely.

In Nigeria, COVID-19 appears to spread a lot less rapidly with confirmed cases turning up at a rate of about 15 on a daily basis, thanks, perhaps, to government’s new regulations prescribing lockdowns in Lagos and Ogun states as well as the FCT Abuja. Whether government’s response could have been more proactive to abort the spread – or importation – to the country is another matter entirely, one that would certainly need to be visited if things ever get out of hands. At the moment the rate of spread appears to be a lot less in Africa compared to Europe and North America.

The novel corona virus which results in the COVID-19 (a disease) is a strange virus, with symptoms ranging from dry cough to high and low fevers to debilitating difficulty in breathing similar to pneumonia. Other symptoms include muscle pain, especially of the neck and the back, sneezing, body weakness and a profound feeling of illness. Another symptom that seems to be much less publicized is the loss of the sense of smell, and this has been reported in people who showed none of the previously mentioned symptoms of the virus. In reality, the loss of the sense of smell or anosmia is about the first and, in up to 30% of cases, the only sign of presence of the disease. In a fair percentage of cases, the virus appears to only impair the ability to smell.

According to a recent scientific research-based report on the infectiousness of the novel Corona virus compared with other well documented viruses that also resulted in outbreaks in recent times, the virus is about half as infectious as Ebola, but this infectiousness appears to vary on different surface and atmospheric temperatures and humidity range. The virulence appears to reduce as atmospheric temperature and humidity increase. And at this increased temperature and humidity ranges it has been found to be closer to the infectiousness of the common cold.

Against the backdrop of poor infrastructure, failing economic indices, ever expanding unemployment numbers, dire political incompetence, unfettered corruption and a general lack of progressive, social fabric Nigeria is at the precipice of a full-blown disaster both with the health of her people and her economy. The lockdowns and border closures are primed to make our economic situation much worse as they continue.

What we have seen in the past 2 weeks since Nigeria started closing borders hardly make for a launch pad for a full-blown outbreak on the level of the West. With the numbers of daily confirmed cases still at an average of 15, we can project that Nigeria would most certainly not suffer such levels of doom. In fact, if the situation were to be presented statistically the reality is hardly grim. Much more common diseases have significantly more profound figures than COVID-19.

It is perhaps worth remembering that the Nigerian approach to dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak was read off a prescription note presented from foreign lands. The lockdown, social distancing and increased hygiene awareness tactics in reducing the spread of COVID-19 were all based off China’s initial protocols in response to the outbreak. The US and Europe then made these exceptionally popular and for good reason.

What we know is that these protocols would eventually reduce the spread of the virus as it occurred in China. However, Nigeria is still a 3rd World nation as are most African countries if not all. The vast majority of the population still perpetuate in teeth-grinding, stomach-flattening poverty. These protocols will not work for long here and they should not be made to. The government, along with our Public Health experts, needs to find protocols that will help us navigate our way out of the COVID-19 outbreak successfully while ensuring that the Nigerian economy does not end up in a post-war-like economic coma.

Ensuring personal and public hygiene practices cannot be understated, same with limiting gatherings in public places including public transport. Rallies and protests should be discouraged but whether social distancing can be practiced successfully in the many overpopulated places all over Nigeria without infringing on our human rights is up for debate. Increased testing for the virus in the general population has to become regular practice along with setting up multiple isolation centers all over the country. Calling off the lockdowns must be seen as a viable card even if not completely. Importantly, Nigeria must be back running again as quickly as possible, because the dire present and future effects of a prolonged lockdown would be more devastating than the possible impact of the quiet COVID-19 outbreak in beloved Nigeria. Over to you, General COVIK-1-9!



AJAO OYETADE is a medical doctor, content writer, tech enthusiast and world observer based in Lagos, Nigeria.

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