Covid-19: Have We Forgotten So Soon?

If there is any health challenge that Nigerians, and other nationals across the world have been facing for most part of the year, 2020, that should not be forgotten so soon, it is unarguably the one that is inherent in the prevailing Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The reason why it should not be forgotten so soon, mostly by Nigerians, is that at the time it was observed to be ferocious and vicious that it affected almost all the 36 states, communities, and pragmatically crumbled virtually business and social activities.

In Lagos, the impact of hunger and hardships unarguably resurrected the ghost of the much-dreaded One Million boys in Lagos thus subjecting Lagosians and adjoining Ogun State residents to sleepless nights. According to the popular online encyclopedia, “Wikipedia”, “One Million Boys is the code-named of a robbery gang known for its notorious robbery activities around Lagos and its surroundings. Originally formed in Ajegunle by a group of about 20 boys with the objective of "fighting perceived injustice in the city" some members of the group however hijacked the group into being involved in robbery activities, rape and maiming. A movie titled 1 Million Boyz was released in 2014 based on their thefts and activities. On October 9, 2012, about 130 suspected members of the group were arrested by the Lagos State Police Command during a raid around Apapa and Ajegunle”.

Even now that Nigerians are heaving sigh of relief as the economy, to some extent, is gradual opening of economic activities, the disease which was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) is still disrupting varying spheres of our social, political, and economic lives. Throughout the period of the lockdown up to the period it began to ease off, Nigerians were no doubt denied the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching practice and observance.

The foregoing encroachment of Covid-19 on the collective rights of Nigerians, was no doubt an intrusion into our spiritual purview. Thus, spirituality, which is the foundation of human existence was not in any way spared as the pandemic got more attention from both the federal government and state governments, and at the same time instilled fear in the populace. Without resort to sounding hyperbolic at this juncture, spirituality is that aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.

There is no denying the fact that the Covid-19 outbreak which many believe has had severe economic consequences across the country, and that it does not look like it will soon go away, has left a lasting economic scars across the country.

Not only has it unarguably left scar on the country’s economy, it has led to dramatic changes in how businesses should be operated or run and how consumers behave.

Again, as Nigerians are now more than six months into the global pandemic, and as some of them are ostensibly and erroneously thinking that the “new normal” will be over soon, even as many biopharmaceutical companies across the world have not relented in their efforts to ensure that a safe and effective vaccine to protect against COVID-19 is discovered, recent comments from several prominent public health officials give the indication that mask-wearing and social distancing have come to stay.

Against the foregoing backdrop, there is no denying the fact that there is an exigent need to control the spread of the virus. Measures put in place in Nigeria, and which is ongoing, include the compulsory wearing of mask and ‘Social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’. The foregoing phrases that are in this context distinguished from others with diacritical signs are no doubt what majority have been hearing almost on daily basis since the emergence of Covid-19. They are tripartite unavoidable interventions been put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus. The measures, no doubt, were said to have the collective potency of slowing the spread of the virus, and when appropriately adhered to, can slow the rate of infection in a town, community or even the entire country.

As it seems, it appears a wide spectrum of the population of the country have forgotten what we all passed through at the time the pandemic was at its climax. When we look back at the first six months of 2020, it will be readily apparent that we have mostly forgotten the devastating scars which the virus left on Nigeria. As at on Wednesday, October 8, 2020, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) statistically made available on its website an information that has it that 545,364 samples were tested in which 59,738 cases were confirmed, 7,222 tested to be active cases, 51,403 as discharged cases while 1,113 deaths were recorded so far.

When how we are presently responding to the pandemic, particularly as regard the wearing of mask and social distancing aspects of the fight against Covid-19 which most people now tag “unseen enemy”, it will not be a misnomer to ask, “Have we forgotten so soon?”

Despite the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic is still lurking around like a thief in the night, many Nigerians, particularly in Lagos and Ogun States where I am familiar with, have inconsiderately taken off their masks, unaware of the prowling danger around them in the form of micro-droplets.

It would be recalled in this context that when the disease was on the acme of its ravage that the lockdown that was initiated across the country to control its spread was inexorably complied with as the wearing of masks and observance of social distancing were exhibited by the people and in the subsequent period. Regrettably, as it is today, one now finds about 50 per cent of the people in public places without masks.

Observations from Mowe-Ibafo axis reveals a worrying trend. From people walking on roads to motorists and from shopkeepers to the customers at eateries, many are not at all bothered about face covering to protect themselves. Commercial bus drivers that were at the time of lockdown carrying not more than two passengers decked in face mask per seat now carry four passengers without face mask. This is now done without any government representative calling them to order.

In as much as not wearing a mask is not punishable as far as I can recall, the expediency of strict implementation of the rule should not in any way be underplayed. As it is now, people are not taking it seriously. Even among those wearing the mask, a large number of them are not covering their nose and mouth.

The people are perfunctorily seen wearing masks at places where it is mandatory for entrance but at other times, they are openly flouting the rule. The compliance is more in places like hospitals, offices, supermarkets, shopping malls and metro stations.

Despite the facts that have emerged so far from experts that the Coronavirus crisis will not end any time soon, it is difficult to come to terms with seeing people by each passing become more complacent and relaxed toward the disease.

It is even more worrisome as 155 new confirmed cases were disclosed to have being recorded on October 7, 2020 by the NCDC. At this juncture, it would not be out of place for the governments of both Ogun and Lagos to caution the people against complacency or negligence. The measure, no doubt, should also apply in other states as NCDC announced that the 155 new cases recorded were reported from 8 states that cut across Lagos (84), Rivers (31), Kaduna (12), Osun (10), FCT (7), Oyo (6), Ogun (3), and Kwara (2).

Against the foregoing background, it is expedient to recall in this context that the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in April 2020 amidst the acme of the covid-19 pandemic said that wearing of face masks would be made compulsory for residents in the state from the following week as at then.

The governor said this would help curb the spread of coronavirus in the state.

He said, “From next week, we are going to be making face masks compulsory in Lagos state. We have commissioned more than one million face masks to be distributed in the state.”

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, had earlier said the wearing of face masks protects people around an infected person.

He said, “There is some theoretical evidence that the wearing of masks may indeed reduce the amount of droplets in the environment from the person that is infected with COVID-19 and that is the reason why we are beginning to define the strategy of face masks for the general community.” To me, now that we are in the month of October, the governor should not forget so soon what he said or rather the promise he made.

Lastly, it is expedient to advise in this context that Nigerians should not forget so soon as the pandemic sparked not only health emergency across the country, but an economic rout, with businesses struggling to survive, that thousands are presently been left jobless, and millions more facing starvation. We should not forget what Covid-19 did to us soon that most of us today as still finding it difficult to survive, therefore we should not always comply with everything health officials and the governments say we should do to avoid been infected by the virus.

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Articles by Isaac Asabor