COVID-19 challenge – The Nation

  • We must create a republic of response and hygiene

With the coronavirus pandemic on the front burner across the world, the official confirmation of 12 cases of the novel disease in Nigeria shows the vulnerability of every country in the global village.

It is a cause for concern that there has been a rise in the confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country since the first case was announced in February. An Italian who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan, Italy, to Lagos, Nigeria, was the first to be diagnosed with the disease.  The second coronavirus case was a Nigerian, who had contact with the Italian. This week, a 30-year-old woman, who returned to the country from the United Kingdom, was diagnosed with the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Nigeria is the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to record the coronavirus since its outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019.  The coronavirus has spread to more than 20 countries. The situation worsened this week as the Federal Ministry of Health confirmed new cases of COVID-19.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said: “Of the five new positive cases, three arrived from the United States, while two came in from the United Kingdom. We are still collating information on the travellers; but we know that two of the three from the US are Nigerians – a mother and child – making the six-week-old baby the youngest COVID-19 patient we have, and the third person is an American national, who crossed the land border and became the first COVID-19 case not arriving by air. The two cases from the UK are Nigerians.”

This, however, was as at Wednesday. As at yesterday, four new cases had been recorded, bringing the number of coronavirus cases in Nigeria to 12. Interestingly, the Italian index case has now reportedly tested negative after treatment. Tragically, a septuagenarian who is said to have tested negative after she was quarantined for coronavirus in Enugu, Enugu State, has been reported dead.

The situation report is disturbing. It is reassuring that the Federal Government has set up a Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Control of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. The committee plans to “upscale our health emergency system to the highest level and put in measures to curb further spread of the disease.”

Tackling the coronavirus will demand more than a plan, although plans are important. More importantly, the authorities need to take action to combat the disease. It is noteworthy that the Federal Government has placed travel restrictions on entries into the country from 13 countries with high numbers of coronavirus cases. In addition, the country announced suspension of its visa-on-arrival policy.

By declaring the coronavirus a pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) underlined the nature of the crisis, which Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) António Guterres captured in a statement: “We are facing a health threat unlike any other in our lifetimes.  He added that “countries have a responsibility to gear up, step up and scale up.”

According to the latest statistics, 226, 470 cases of the coronavirus have been recorded worldwide, there have been over 10,000 deaths, and 85, 831 victims have recovered. Symptoms of the disease are runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, and difficulty breathing (severe cases).

It is a scary situation, but it is not a time for panic. A strong public enlightenment campaign is needed to guide the people on how to stay safe in the time of the coronavirus. Hygiene should be highlighted. Fatalism should be discouraged.

The Federal Government was late to respond but it has woken up and stepped up measures. States are following its lead. We are in a globalised world and we should have taken prompt measures like travel ban long before now. Lagos has been the most hit and was first in mobilising efforts in the nation even before the Federal Government. The state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has been earnestly pro-active but he needs to be supported heavily from the centre because it is a national emergency. We must understand that this is not an ordinary pandemic and we must rally all personnel and other resources to avert any escalation while maintaining a republic of hygiene.

In this situation, just as the authorities have a duty to check the coronavirus, individuals also have a responsibility to ensure that the disease does not continue to spread.

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