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Coping With Multiple Stressors Generated By The Pandemic

By Odimegwu Onwumere
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"We are determined to be more aggressive in enforcing the measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus. Time is running out. We have a short window within which to stop this pandemic or face an explosion in terms of the cases. We cannot afford to be complacent," Information Minister Lai Mohammed said in Abuja, Thursday, March 26 2020.

Everyone in Nigeria had mental torments and the heart in his or her proverbial palm given the news from faraway lands which were not pleasing. Especially in Italy, people were reportedly dying in torrents, because of Corona Virus code named Covid-19.

Measures said to had been put in place to save the situation in Italy were defying scientific and non-scientific approach. Many Nigerians wondered that if the western world with their state-of-the-art health facilities could suffer such odoriferous blow reeled out by Covid-19, then the developing world would be dealt a fatal blow given the make-believe health facilities that characterise the countries of the developing world.

Against this backdrop, Bill Gates wife, Melinda, perhaps, with the calculus of how the western world was suffering as a result of Covid-19, said Africa would soon have dead bodies lying on streets.

Her rather unguided postulation heightened the hyper-fears hibernating in the minds of Nigerians and everyone was not ready to die; and if there should be death, not the one occasioned by the virus.

Playing safe among citizens
According Dr Adaeze Oreh, a family physician in Abuja and a public health expert: “At the same time, widely spreading misinformation about the virus and prevention measures, conspiracy theories, in addition to uncertainties about the future, are major sources of distress, whilst prospects of losing loved ones without having a chance to say goodbye or hold funerals for them are other sources of angst.”

The Federal Ministry of Health directed that any confirmed case for COVID-19, while undergoing treatment, should also be given mental health support to establish their treatment in all ramifications. Across the country, many citizens had started playing safe, even before the Federal Government (FG) announced a 44 year old Italian man as the first Covid-19 case in Nigeria.

He was sent to Isolation ward in Lagos where he received treatment. It was from 27 February to 20 March. He was discharged after authorities believed and confirmed he was free from the grasp of COVID-19.

Restriction of movement
The FG henceforth restricted flight to only Lagos and Abuja, but with the closure of three other international airports. The FG would not want any further importation of the virus into the country.

Many States in the country started enforcing sit-at-home order. Movement from one State to the other was restricted and there was total lockdown.

In many States, social distancing measures, regular washing of hands, masking of nostrils and sanitisation of hands were introduced.

Citizens didn’t only observe these rules, they also stockpiled their homes with food items especially for those who could afford them.

Some citizens sold masks and gloves, to thwart the multiply of the corona virus. The authorities were inundated on the media that people should stay at home, without any hope given concerning their next line of action.

People were at home fattening and trimming down as if waiting for a miracle of a sort to happen and everyone would be released from their cocoons but this never happened.

Running for dear life
"The uncertainties surrounding the widely spreading infection include but are not limited to fears of infection, fears of death and fears of losing loved ones,” said the source.

The entire country was deserted except those the authorities authorised to ply the roads were seen on the roads.

Citizens were really scared to be infected and subsequently die. One such fright was witnessed in April at Adamawa State, precisely in Shelleng Council.

Villagers took to their heels when a woman who returned to the state from Lagos, developed catarrh and fever. It was ingrained in citizens that anyone with running temperature had the virus.

It was this mindset that compelled health workers and patients at a private hospital in Yola to flee when they heard that a patient with such symptoms just came back from Malaysia.

Seeing this behaviour, the State’s Commissioner for Health, Professor Abdullahi Isa advocated against stigmatisation among residents in order to fight COVIID-19.

How stay-at-home order started
Lagos, her neighbouring Ogun and the nation's capital, Abuja, were first mandated to lockdown for 14-days, as ordered by Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday, March 29, in what he characterised by "cessation of all movements" to stop the spread of coronavirus.

According to Buhari in an announcement he made in a televised address to the nation: "All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes" starting from 11pm local time (2200 GMT) on Monday.

"Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period.

"We will use this containment period to identify, trace and isolate all individuals that have come into contact with confirmed cases."

Citizens in most States were not given pre-notice to enable them sort their domestic needs before the "cessation of all movements" given.

Begging citizens to stay at home
Buhari through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and publicity, Garba Shehu, on Saturday, April 7, beseeched Nigerians to stick on the stay-at-home instruction of government to allow a communal triumph against the devastating corona virus pandemic.

According to a source who would prefer to remain anonymous: "The President’s plea to citizens came as the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases climbed to 305 as at Friday with seven deaths amid anxiety around whether the 2-weeks lockdown order which is expected to expire on Sunday would be extended or not."

Palliatives among citizens
According to Oreh: “For millions around the world, there are additional fears over sustenance and survival as many have lost their means of livelihood following the pandemic and preventive measures implemented to curb its spread."

Many organisations and individuals gave out palliatives to help those who could not afford domestic items as a form of encouragement to stay-at-home.

Many citizens were losing their physical and mental balance while they stayed at home, thereby defying the order in order to fend for the pressing needs.

Buhari on April 13, gave an update on the suppression of the disease with an additional procedures that were put in place.

He divulged the provisions of the palliative actions that had been issued by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) in the COVID-19 Regulation 2020 in the appearance of freeze for (a) TraderMoni, MarketMoni, and FarmerMoni loans and (b) FGN funded loans issued by the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture and the Nigeria Export Import Bank.

According to a source, "Some days before the president’s address, the FGN through the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning announced that circulars and Ministerial Orders will be issued to ensure that charitable donations by companies to support the government’s efforts in the containment of the COVID-19 Pandemic are tax deductible, pursuant to Section 25 of the Companies Income Tax Act."

Ruins from the pandemic
Meanwhile, as at June 21 2020, total number of Covid-19 cases in the country stood at 19,808with total number discharged at 6,718and total deaths at 506; all from 111,052 total tests carried out.

Seeing all that the pandemic has caused mankind, Dr. Adaeze Oreh, said: "Since the outbreak of the pandemic, national lockdowns and physical distancing preventive measures directed across the world coupled with the multiple uncertainties confronting people, have spurred an observed increase in addictive coping strategies, such as the abuse of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and online gaming. According to the United Nations, “Many people who previously coped well, are now less able to cope because of the multiple stressors generated by the pandemic”.”

Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers state via: [email protected]