By Sam Agha Egwu
It is IMPOSSIBLE that only 8 claimed cases are in Nigeria. From evidence in other countries, we can boldly project, statistically, that we should have hundreds now, and with so much free movement still, it would soon be thousands.
Nigeria is still trying the old method of tracing contacts that worked with Ebola. In Nigeria, with all its difficulties of addresses? By the time you finish tracing the contacts from one aircraft for just one victim, it takes weeks, and to trace contacts of any secondary contacts infected takes much longer.
Coronavirus infects even when the symptoms are not serious, so it’s more deadly than Ebola. It can infect more people faster. Ebola is sudden, with rapid onset and infects by touch, blood or spittle, when the person is ill, so it’s easier to track, and people can see an ill person and back off.
The more modern position, developed by the Chinese, is to stop all movement in and out of an area until all the virus is defeated. That is lockdown. No travel. No gatherings. Just only essential movement. I am on lockdown right now in London.
This thing has an Iceberg effect. You are seeing the iceberg but only 1/10th is above water. The other 9/10th remain hidden. With all the flights streaming into Nigeria from all the affected areas, by-passing airport security, and given construction or trading networks across Nigeria, it does not take a statistician to realise that this thing has penetrated the whole country.
Coronavirus is far more insidious than Ebola. It starts infecting before the signs show. Hundreds should already have the infection in Nigeria. But little means of testing. Some people have begged to be tested but are not.
People are lying that black people are immune. That is not true. Black and whites are being hit here in the UK. Black people already have it in Nigeria, so it’s not true that our temperature is too high for it.
The three reasons why we are not getting more figures may be:
- The Government is trying to look good and doing propaganda. This is no time for window dressing.
- The Government is being incompetent, neither proactive nor reactive and still preoccupied with politics.
- The most serious: TESTING IS NOT REALLY HAPPENING because we have little testing kits. Sick people have actually asked to be tested and got no response. That may be why we have a low count of the virus. It almost seems like the Government wants to wish the numbers away.
In UK, we were laughing at Italy, thinking it was their life style that was causing the virus explosion there. The UK Prime Minister was treating it with kid’s gloves, then we had 1 then 2 then 5 then 10 after a week, then suddenly, boom, it took off exponentially with a sharp upward curve. Now we are getting a jump of 400 a day within a week. The death toll jumped from 71 to 127 in one day. They calculate that statististically, based on China, Iran and Italy, that 50,000 already have it.
You may have it in only hundreds now, but if you do not act it will soon become thousands, then millions. It will not stop till we stop it.
NIGERIA, WORST HIT
People have said that India and Nigeria are going to be the worst hit. In Nigeria, there are a number of factors that will compound the situation. According to Atedo Peterside, founder of Stanbic/IBTC on channels, there are 4 reasons why our Coronavirus crisis could be the worst in the world:
- POPULATION DENSITY: Nigeria has high population density, especially in poor urban areas. With buses jam packed, an infected driver going to work, who drives a Chinese or Italian victim, only has to sneeze and the whole bus has it. This is different from Ebola that requires physical contact. That driver and bus passengers take it back home to family and children, who take it to school and church or mosque. How is the tracing method going to work with this? Impossible. Tracing can only work with Ebola which was one to one contagion.
- OIL: As the world shuts down, with less land and air travel, the need for oil has reduced drastically. The immediate impact is on Nigeria’s dependence on Oil for revenue. The price has collapsed and may go below our production cost, but nobody is buying. This means that at a time when other countries are putting together stimulus packages to fight the virus, we have no money to fight it as a nation. The drugs and equipment needed are not in this country right now. We have no money for projects or to even pay salaries, so that individuals cannot fight it either. Nobody will lend Nigeria money now with the collapse of Oil prices.
- DOCTOR TO PATIENT RATIO: Even developed countries like Italy, China, South Korea were overwhelmed despite high doctor patient ratio. In England, they threw us out of hospital, cancelled our operations, to make way for expected Coronavirus patients. In Iran with a lower density, people are just dying on the streets with no hospitals to admit them. Nigeria has probably the worst doctor/patient ratio, badly educated nurses and insensitive health practitioners who will be more concerned about protecting themselves and profits for their hospitals than their patients.
- GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN: Unlike China, Italy and UK, Nigeria does not manufacture the equipment or the drugs. China built 2 new hospitals dedicated to the virus in 2 weeks. They produce the drugs. Right now in the UK, we have run out of basic drugs like paracetamol and other over the counter drugs that can fight symptoms of the virus. Our lethargic govt has not yet ordered any. If it orders drugs now it will not get it for weeks. Each country that produces drugs will make their own outbreak a priority. If we get the drugs, then there is a severe problem of clearing it through our choked ports. China can clear goods at their ports in 24 hours, but it does not work like that for us. We take weeks at our ports.
Then there are peculiar individual characteristics that will come into play that will seriously make things worse, especially in the urban poor and rural areas:
- ELITE LETHARGY: Its one of the reasons things dont work in Nigeria. The Elite do not act for their people but for themselves. This is translated into Government. Until they start dying without access to European hospitals and drugs they may not act.
- COMPLACENCY: Nigerians are like people who cannot see a train that is about to hit them. People are joking about it, calling it conspiracy theory, discussing sex. This is the reason why schools, churches and mosques, the biggest agents of distribution are not yet shut as I write. People are still going to clubs. They are unwilling to read long but informed articles like this one.
- FOOLISHNESS: Nigerians hate to call a spade a spade and can often do what is against their best interest because of what they call wiseness. Somebody with Coronavirus would rather spread it or runaway than cooperate. People are still chasing girls, families are still hugging. They do not understand social distance. Europeans work with rationality. It is explained, it is understood and everyone acts. Like stay at home. They understand. They comply. Nigerians will think of their business, church, mosque, girlfriend, club or some silly conspiracy theory and make fake news.
- FAKE NEWS AND CONSPIRACY THEORIES: The penchant for fake news is not helping matters. Lies, falsehoods and propaganda are spread about. Somebody advises, dont use masks because a criminal may knock you out or Bill Gates wants to inject you with the virus in the name of vaccination.
- IGNORANCE: Poor education and illiteracy will make this very difficult. People cannot read or read with poor understanding.
- SUPERSTITION: It is a virus. We know where it came from but in Nigeria many people will call it end times; others will rush to pastor, malam or babalawo for weird interpretations of facts.
- RELIGION: Churches and mosques should simply shut down. But it is pastors that will invite people to pray for ‘end times’ or that the holy spirit will keep you safe, and claim it is a test of faith. Then you stay together for hours singing and releasing vapours from your mouths spreading the virus in such close contacts. Muslims will kneel close together to pray. Imams have already warned against closing mosques. Cant people pray at home?
- SOCIAL GATHERINGS: This is a time to stop all social gatherings: marriages, funerals, demonstrations, clubs, evening drinking. If you cannot postpone funeral or marriage, have it very low key, for not more than 20 persons.
- EGO, HUBRIS AND DENIAL: This is part of a unique complexity in the Nigerian character. The idea of feeling insulted by others who know better, or denial that nothing can happen to them because death is not their portion, or being covered by the blood of Jesus. The Muslim Insha Allah is just as difficult. Both suspend reason, rationality and science for a baseless hope.
- POVERTY, UNEMPLOYMENT: This is the mother of them all. Unless there are individual bail out funds for the poorest they will go for self treatment, or just stay at home and die. Without work and their companies or markets working, many people will lose their jobs. With the collapse in oil sales, government and project workers will not be paid. Very few Nigerians can last 2 weeks without going out. Yet this virus needs at least 2-3 months of universal quarantine to be beaten.
- HUNGER: Poor people will not be able to stockpile food for a month or two, to sit out the virus. In the UK you can stay at home without going out, with your saved money or money provided by the UK Government, and all food can be ordered online. This will be impossible in Nigeria. In fact, hunger will drive many people from home to look for money. Many people will have to go to farm, go to market. In this process, they may get the virus.
- CRIME: The crime threshold in our society is very low and youth who have lost jobs may consider all levels of crime to survive.
STOPPING THE VIRUS
The British PrIme Minister projects it will take about 3 months to stop the virus in the UK. But even then your country must remain in some level of lockdown, until every other country has been cleared, or some victims from another country may come and re-infect. Coronavirus is like Malaria, in that it can reinforce somebody who has been cured. A patient who was cured and was negative, was reinfected and became positive again.
Nigeria and other African countries will have to fight this thing themselves. People from developed countries will not come down like with Ebola when it was only in Africa. Developed countries have to fight their own virus and will have no time for anyone else.
The clear way to stop this virus is by isolation and lock down, and going out for only the most essential items and services. Only staff of the most essential services should be going to work, such as hospitals, pharmacies, supermarkets, transport, food markets, water vendors, petrol stations, energy services, police, military and so on.
The Chinese did the following for about one month, to slow down the virus. They are still continuing for at least another month to try and stop it.
Countries are isolated by cutting air travel; towns are isolated by stopping local travel; families are quarantined in their homes. This is not the time to shake hands, touch, hug, kiss, do boyfriend, girlfriend things or have sex. Even husband and wives should stay apart. Even within the home or family, keep a distance of one meter from each other. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds before and after you touch anyone. Carry hand sanitizers. Teach yourself and your children to stop touching their faces. The virus enters through mouth, nose and eyes. When going out, you can wear medical masks over nose and mouth. Remember to wear it properly. Do not forget to cover eyes: spectacles will help, but goggles will be better.
Disinfect every surface in the home that comes in contact with outsiders. If any of you go out, on public transport wear a mask or invent one and avoid discussion so no one talks over you. Avoid sneezing or coughing persons. In your car, avoid taking any unnecessary passengers, whether friends or family. On return, thoroughly disinfect your car, yourself, your clothes and anything you are carrying. You could take a shower with soap before you touch anybody else – if you must touch. Remember, to disinfect door handles and surfaces, especially if you have an essential visitor.
If your school will not close, withdraw your child from school immediately. Avoid all social gatherings, including churches, mosques, parties, weddings, funerals, drinking parlours, lounges, clubs and so on.
Above all stay safe. Share this essay widely. Use your PHONE and this essay to teach and persuade your friends, poor people, rural folks and others who are not listening, especially Business people, PASTORS and IMAMS. But encourage those offering essential services to keep doing so.
I would recommend that the Government roll out the armed forces and all security services to enforce quarantine, help distribute food and prevent crime, but would they hear?