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COVID-19 four months after: The known and unknown

Nigeria's readiness to face the unknown depends on the FG's focus

Four months after, the COVID-19 virus arrived on the shores of Nigeria and disrupted the activities of economic agents. A lot has been revealed about the nature, mode of transmission, symptoms, side effects and prevention of the deadly virus while still preparing for a future filled with uncertainties.

 

Being a price for ignorance, developed and developing economies of the world have had to deal with fierce blows from the COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed over 483,000 lives worldwide amid other devastating consequences.

According to a report from Reuters, “to be sure, the world is far from safe from a virus that continues to rage. It is expected to reach two grim milestones in the next several days: 10 million confirmed global infections and 500,000 deaths.”

In the Nigerian case – same applies to other countries – better understanding of virus transmission, disease’s side effects, how to help patients struggling to breathe, information on which drugs work for which kinds of patients, age group more susceptible to the virus, preventive measures, tools needed for testing etc. are some COVID-19 related knowledge which are being employed to fight the virus.

Also revealed is that beyond introducing fresh challenges for the Nigerian economy, the COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated impending crises which were inherent in most sectors of the economy, particularly the health sector.

Unlike Nigeria’s swift and impressive response to curb the spread of Ebola in 2014 which attracted commendations from citizens  and international bodies, the COVID-19 virus has proven more challenging altogether, dashing any iota of confidence the Ebola success story may have created in Nigerians.

On a daily basis, the spike in COVID-19 numbers in Nigeria remains worrisome. As at June 28, 2020, confirmed cases stood at 24,567 with 490 new cases. Fatality toll increased to 565 with 7 additional deaths. With active cases accounting for 61 percent against 36 percent in discharged cases and samples tested (130,164) accounting for just 0.06 percent of the entire population estimated at 200 million, a scary unknown is best imagined.

Given what is known while still battling the deadly virus and its effects, we are compelled to ask how prepared Nigeria is for the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak?

The Nigerian authorities have thought it wise to ease lockdown given its negative impact on the economic health of the country. While taking this crucial decision, enforcement of safety precautions seem to be neglected.

But it remains worrisome that, overtime, Nigerians have become insensitive to the reality of the virus, instead treating numbers as a league table. Some have resorted to disbelieving the existence of the virus while some perceive the FG using the pandemic as a means to siphon funds.

Doctors around the world, from New Orleans to London to Dubai, some 30 told Reuters they feel more prepared should cases surge again in the fall. According to Gopi Patel, a doctor based in New York, “we are well-positioned for a second wave, we know so much more.”

Regrettably, this cannot be said of Nigerian doctors who still, genuinely though,  lament over the abysmal state of Nigeria’s health sector, unpaid salaries, unfair treatment, non-availability of laboratory testing for COVID-19 among others in some states.

The readiness of Nigeria to face the unknown will largely be dependent on what her focus is. It seems to us that the Nigerian federal government seems to prioritise the recovery of the Nigerian economy over the recovery and rejuvenation of its healthcare system, which is unfortunate.

The outlook of the health implication of COVID-19 virus on Nigerians is bleak. Some experts foresee infections mounting in July and death rate jumping while hospitals remain overwhelmed.

We therefore suggest that testing capacity must be improved, more isolation centres created. Also there must be political will to invest in the Nigeria healthcare system. Ultimately, the fight against COVID-19 is a community and public effort. We must improve and stimulate awareness while working to enforce preventive measures in people.

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