By Ugoh Stephen
Just a few days into the lockdown, social media was awash with giveaways by influencers, celebrities and some other individuals or organisations that felt it was time to help others prepare for a difficult time ahead. While some did this with the genuine intention to help, one cannot rule out that some clout chasers will always seize every opportunity to add to their growing number of followers. For whatever intention or reason you gave to others, I pray God will reward you handsomely.
After online financial giveaways came the physical aspect where cash and food materials were distributed as well. Just like online, one could also see that some wealthy neighbourhoods actually made food and material resources available to the poor ones around them. While some did with genuine intentions, a few still used this to buy their safety especially with the growing insecurity not limited to attacks by the notorious 1 million boys in some areas.We will also not forget the effort of the government with their palliative to the poorest of the poor defined as the primary target.
Let us all agree and thank all that helped or still helping in their little ways to elleviate hunger in this very difficult period in our lives irrespective of what the expectations are.
That said, what we have today is reality. Lagos is now about 5 weeks into lockdown while some states are just a few weeks behind. This means that for an average family of 4, a stock of food worth about N100, 000 and cash of about N50, 000 to support should be down to the finishing line while those with less may by now be living on supports or borrowings from family, friends and/or colleagues.
Let’s take a look at why we are locked down in the first place. With the latest report of Friday, April 24th, confirmed cases of Covid19 in Nigeria is 1,095 with 32 deaths. About a month ago, there were only 42 reported cases in Nigeria. Let’s joxterpose this against the figures of some countries we already have their numbers. As at March 1st, below are the figures of some countries I will try to categorise into *Worst Hit Countries* and *Faily Hit Countries*:
*Worst Hit Countries as at March 1st*
South Korea. 3,814
Italy. 1, 745
Iran. 1, 046
*Fairly Hit Countries*
Then let’s take a look at how these countries did after 27 days from March 1st to March 28th and where some of them are today.
*From* *To* *Transmission Factor*
South Korea. 3,814. 9, 332. 2.5
Italy. 1, 745. 86, 498. 50
Iran. 1, 046. 32, 332. 31
Germany. 135. 49, 344. 366
France. 124. 29, 155. 235
Spain. 89. 64,059. 720
US. 78. 93, 151. 1, 194
UK. 25. 24, 543. 582
I will define *Transmission Factor (TF)* refers to the number of people a single individual as at March 1st transmitted the virus to at a particular date.
While among these nations, we have those that took the pandemic seriously early enough and implimentated measures to contain and curtail it, we also have nations that relied so much on the size and efficiency of their healthcare system, in addition to assurances from scientists and created room for the rapid spread of the virus. No matter how President Donald Trump tries to deflect blames for the level of destruction the virus has on US soil, the level of destruction in China was a global news from mid January to early February so he had all the time in the world to protect Americans just as some leaders of the countries used here did. It’s very unfortunate that today, 25% of global infection is now in US. Could this have been avoided? YES.
Anyway, let’s not make this a case on US while while pretending that all is well and good with us.
*March 1* *March 28* *April 24*
US. 78. 93, 151. 905,037
Spain. 89. 64,059. 221,986
Italy. 1, 745. 86, 498. 193,007
France. 124. 29, 155. 160,176
Germany. 135. 49, 344. 155,375
Top 5 most infected countries as at April 24th.
A careful study of the figures above shows that serious measures must be applied once the virus moves from imported transmission to local transmission. Some argue that Africa’s hot weather and the genes of blacks make it difficult for the virus to thrive sighting very low numbers recorded against large number of infections in europe and US. From my research, though scientists do not have 100% reliable information on the virus yet, gene has not been defined as favourable or not for the virus. What is most likely here is that while US or New York in particular is a commercial hub with millions of flights, other European nations with high numbers can be connected by business links with China or quarter final of Champions League games. Spain, England, Germany, Italy and France have the top 5 football leagues in Europe and most of their clubs were involved in the knockout games of the 2019/20 Champions League in March. These are just possible links that lead to huge local transmissions within these nations. Let no one deceive you that their cold weather is responsible for the high number of infections and deaths recorded in these nations.
Nigeria today can be assumed to be at same stage these high hit nations were a few weeks ago with figures around a thousand. It’s obvious that its either Nigeria’s position is being understated due to very low testing just like most of these other countries early in March or we are at a stage where we either get it right and float or get it wrong and sink. South Korea with their high number of infections in March got it right today while US and other 5 eropean countries including the UK got it horribly wrong. We can only fight to be like Korea. I am tempted to invoke our usual faith and apply the least Transmission Factor (TF) to where we are today to project where we should be in the next 28 days if things continue this way but I also know that most of these countries started recording more numbers per day the moment testing was increased. If less than 50 test centers can throw out 1,095 from 42 about a month ago then more testing should have thrown out more. What we cannot even project is a situation where the TF for any of the big 4 is applied to our 1, 095 as that will be catastrophic. Our healthcare system which is even none-existent cannot even think of having about 70,000 people requiring medical care at the same time when our leaders were bold enough to ask our medical experts to seek employment outside Nigeria if they so desire a few months ago, not to talk of caring for about a million.
The truth is that there is no way we will not have about 10,000 unreported cases in our hands today considering that all we gained in the first few weeks of lockdown, hunger and stupidity have snatched from us. Hunger is a known factor since we are the poverty capital of the world but stupidity is when some educated ones that should know better engage in arguments trying to prove that the figures from NCDC are “audio figures”, meaning that they were cooked for whatever government benefit ranging from positioning for funds from WHO to funds from the Federal Government. What a show of shame. WHO that is funded by nations will turn back to fund governments is one of the most ridiculous things one can even think of. The truth remains that we cannot run away from facts so if we already have local transmissions for a period running into weeks with a very relaxed lockdown, we should be looking at Italy’s TF of 50. This means that we should have about 100, 000 cases staring at us waiting to burst. If this is the case then growing from 42 to 1,095 from tested cases hypothetically means that every 42 will give another 1,095 cases in the next 1 month and there are about 26 “42s” in 1,095. With no empirical data to back our fight against the virus, it simply menas that we are not even aware of the stage we are right now; rising, peak or flattening the curve or winning the battle. This makes the battle even worse. If we are to rely on the figures before us while everything remains same, we are expected to have 26 times 1,095 infections which is about 28k but if we want to be truthful to ourselves and consider worst case scenario, we will likely have over a million cases which will be catastrophic if serious measures are not implemented immediately. No wonder Bilinda Gates was so vocal about seeing dead bodies in the streets of Africa. If in doubt, pay attention to the US case despite having one of the best and most funded healthcare system in the world.
I know its always very easy for us to shout “God forbid”, “Back to sender” but before you send it back or God forbids, let’s even look at the job before us to ensure we apply Korean Transmission Factor of 2.5.
Once again, we must appreciate those that did their best to support others earlier but honestly, there is no better time for that support than now. In crisis situation, best approach is worst case scenario which we hope should be wrong thus do all within our powers to prove wrong. It’s either we fight the virus as a nation or we bury our dead as a nation. The choice is ours. Government and the rich must come together to give real reasons to those without food to stay at home. It’s not enough to spend millions and billions telling people why they must stay home while their stomach gives them a million reasons to head out. There must be a possible way of making food and some cash available to everyone including the middle class that should be running out of cash by now. Nigeria should be able to spend at least 3 trillion naira to save its citizens. Yes I said 3 trillion and you only have to convert it to dollars to realise it is less than $9bn. This is why we have reserves and nations of the world have employed multiples of that to save same situation. It may sound far fetched but honestly if we don’t, we may lose far more than that. One cannot even imagine a Nigeria with Italy or Spain situation not to talk of US. We would wish we spent all our reserves of about $40bn to avert the situation if it gets to that. Asking the government to provide at least N50, 000 per BVN in Nigeria is not asking for too much even if there are 100m BVNs in Nigeria. Though we lack the data to fully implement South Korean approach of tracking electronically but we must enforce the same form of total lockdown they used to lower the curve. Provide suitable palliatives and force everybody to stay indoors as it was done in Milan and currently in New York and ensure nobody has any reason to come out for 2 to 4 weeeks.Telling a hungry man to stay at home due to the danger of coronavirus out there is like asking him to chose death by Coronavirus or hunger.
Ugoh, wrote from Lagos, Nigeria