OUR REPORTERS across the country write that many Nigerians still carry on with their lives and businesses in spite of the spike in cases of coronavirus across the world, though taking precautionary measures while some still believe that the disease is a spiritual problem which must be handled spiritually.
IT all started like a fairy tale. Coronavirus broke out in China claiming several victims and the whole world looked on thinking it was a China problem. Soon it began to spread out of China to other countries, moving from the endemic stage to pandemic as the country began to take unprecedented steps to beat its own record of building a 1000-plusbed hospital in six days. Though it did not exactly beat the record it, however, did enough to build the hospital and install state-of-the-art equipment.
While China was doing all that, coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, was spreading so fast into Europe with sporadic entrenchment in parts of the Middle East, especially Iran. With time it berthed in the United States which after dithered for a while before announcing a travel ban on some countries across the world, leaving out the United Kingdom.
As the disease began to take its toll on other parts of the world and the UK itself became hit with several casualties, the US soon added it to the countries on which it had slammed a travel ban. As of Friday the virus had claimed 11,349 lives across the world with over 270,000 people infected.
All the while Africa was surprisingly untouched leading to speculations that COVID-19 was not likely to berth in countries with hot climate and that the black man was naturally immune from it. However, all that began to change when foreigners who came to the continent exhibited symptoms of the disease and in due course infected several persons they had contact with.
In Nigeria, despite pressure on the government to impose a travel ban and take extra-ordinary steps to contain the virus, the federal government initially insisted that it was not going to do so. Even the National Sport Festival was stopped just a few days before its commencement. Not until the suspected cases began to increase and spread across the nation did the federal government wake up to the reality that the issue was more serious than it had thought.
Waking up from slumber
As if the country had just woken up from slumber, individuals, government organisations and groups began to take measures. The National Youth Service scheme disbanded camps and asked the corps members to go home. Religious organisations had also taken steps to curb the disease. Among them were the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Nigerian Baptist Convention, NASFAT, among others which had taken steps to limit the number of worshippers in a single gathering. NASFAT cancelled its 25th anniversary celebration altogether.
States across the nation are also beginning to take action, just as the responses of residents vary. For example in Kogi State, residents said they were aware of the disease but that was not enough to stop them from carrying out their daily activities.
Sunday Tribune observed in Lokoja that most shops were still open on daily basis as of the time of writing this report. Public and private schools were also in regular session.
However, in some public and private schools, the authorities were able to put in place stands for hand sanitiser for students to wash their hands before entering their classes. Some also had infra-red thermometer to detect any form of unusually high body temperature.
A teacher in a public secondary school, who would not like to be identified, said the school authorities had to take measures to stop the disease from spreading.
Hajia Kulu Hawa, a tomato seller at the International Market was sure that there was good news in reports that the virus cannot last long in a hot climate like Nigeria’s. Sunday Tribune was surprised that the tomato seller was following the news about the virus with keen interest, especially when she reeled off the temperature level some experts claimed the virus would not likely survive.
“If the virus is exposed to a temperature of 26-27°C, it will be killed. It does not live in hot areas but here in Lokoja, at times we record 41-42°C which means our weather here will be too hot for the virus to survive,” Hajia Hawa said.
However, a commercial driver, Mallam Suleiman Yakubu had decided to takes personal step to help himself by staying off work for the time being.
According to him, though the virus had not yet reached the state, “as a commercial driver one is bound to carry different passengers either within the city of Lokoja or those arriving into the state; or those travelling out of the state.”
The state government has also assured residents that it has put measures in place. The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Saka Haruna Audu, said temporary isolation wards at the Confluence Advanced Medical Diagnostic and Imaging Centre (CAMDIC), Lokoja are already in place.
The state government, he said, has also organised sensitisation exercises andawareness campaigns across the state, adding that the ministry will engage inhouse to house campaign, create awareness in schools, institutions of higher learning, popular market places and motor parks.
It won’t survive here in Kano
Just like in Kogi State, trader in markets and other commercial centres in Kano have continued to engage in their commercial activities without hindrance, even without any precautionary measures.
At Muhammad Rimi Market, Sabongari, and Dawanun market an international grains market, it was business as usual. There were no face masks and sanitisers anywhere. Crowded as it was when Sunday Tribune visited during the week, both traders and buyers took no precautionary measures, having close body contacts and joking about the disease.
However, there were some of them who took measures. One of them was a foodstuffs seller, who identified herself as Hajia Aisha Ibrahim. Hajia Ibrahim said she was aware of the disease and was careful around people who coughed persistently.
“I have my face mask with me, whenever I go out I take it along with me, even to the market,” she said.
However, Alhaji Aminu Ado and Alhaji Baba Ilyasu at Kwanti-Kwati market were indifferent. Like some of those who spoke with Sunday Tribune in Lokoja, they believed the disease could not survive in the Nigerian climate and that it only affected those who travelled abroad or came from there.
According to Alhaji Ilyasu, “I will not travel to those white people’s countries. All my businesses are here in Kano and all I know is that one disease must kill a human being when his or her time comes.
“I am not disturbed about coronavirus; all I will continue to do is to serve Allah with all my heart.”
So far, Kano State has not recorded any case of COVID-19 as the three suspected cases linked to it had turned out negative. The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Aminu Ibrahim Tsanyawa at a joint press conference during the week said the state was prepared and had adopted Development of Incident Action Plan, Activation of Rapid Response Team (RRT), and reactivation of Yar-gaya Treatment Centre as its own response to the threat.
Business as usual in Akwa Ibom
Except for established corporate entities like banks, government establishments and some supermarkets where precautionary measures including hand washing and alcohol administration are observed, parks, markets and some public schools have no standard rules to contain the pandemic in Akwa Ibom State.
At the ever popular Itam Market in Itu Local Government Area of the state, goods sellers and buyers cluster in close quarters in deep bargain for fair price, oblivious of the possibilities of the pandemic breaking out.
Although the state government had since swung into action with the training of hundreds of volunteers and consistent sensitisation regime, it is business as usual in major motor parks in the state.
Influx of passengers to and from the state remain a daily routine with commuters at Itam park, Ikot Ekpene road motor park and the Ibom plaza embarking and disembarking and having close contacts.
Effiong Udo, a passenger ferrying his goods from the neighbouring Ariaria market to the ever busy Itam market feigned ignorance of the ailment, saying “I’m not afraid because no single coronavirus death has been recorded yet in Nigeria.
“So for me, I have to fend for my family after praying because nobody including governments in Nigeria really cares for the people.”
The same business-as-usual attitude of the people were noticed at the expansive Ibom plaza ground, where hundreds of people sit in the evening hours and take turns to sip beer and smoke some stimulants.
Uchena Nwachukwu, an Igbo businessman from Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State said: “the disease na white man palaver. We are too strong to contract such ailment to the point of killing us because we are already toughened by the hard times in Nigeria to resist such foreign disease.”
Ediomo Udiong, a commercial bus driver, told Sunday Tribune that “I am not scared; I do my business normally because, like former Ebola, this one shall also pass.”
However, the commissioner for health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, has assured that the state government has committed billions of naira into improving health care facilities in some selected hospitals to take care of such emergencies.
He, therefore, urged the people to imbibe a high-level of hygiene, including hand sanitisers, frequent hand washing, keeping safe distance from people having frequent cough issues and reporting such symptoms to the designated infectious diseases centres in Ikot Ekpene, Uyo and other Local Government Areas.
The situation in Benue State is not different from others as commercial activities were in top gear during the week. At the popular Benue Links Parkand others located around Wurukim in Makurdi, passengers and motorists were not worried about the virus.
A Lagos-bound passenger at Benue Links Park, Godwin Terna said he was aware of the disease through the media and he was taking precautionary measures.
“I’m travelling to Lagos and I have read in the media that the cases of the virus are rising in the country, particularly Lagos, but I’m avoiding physical contacts and public gatherings and same things I will do when I get to Lagos,” Terna said.
Also, at Wadata market, Madam Doshima who deals in fabric said that there was enough awareness of the deadly disease but prayed that the disease would not spread to the state.
“I heard from the state radio this morning (Thursday morning) that the disease had spread to Ekiti State and the only thing to do is for government to restrict movement of people to avoid contact.
“Everyone in this town is aware of the disease which is ravaging the world but government has to put up measures to avoid the spread across the country,” she said.
However, the state government has said that schools in the state should close by Friday, 27 of March, 2020 asking that all schools should conclude their examinations on or before then.
In Dutse, Jigawa State business activities were on as usual with everyone taken the best possible measures to protect themselves. Sunusi Umar a date seller and father of two said he was not afraid of coronavirus as no case had been reported in the state.
The Jigawa State commissioner for health, Dr Abba Zakari Umar, said the state was 90 per cent prepared to handle the disease as an isolation centre had been established and fully equipped while public awareness was on the increase adding that: “we will soon introduce hand sanitiser before getting access to all government places to avoid the spread of COVID 19.”
The commissioner also said that the Ebola Centre, will officially be converted to management/diagnostic centre for the control of the spread of virus.
God is not pleased with the world
In Sokoto, the impression was that the virus will eventually disappear naturally, but recent events were beginning to get residents afraid that a big outbreak was here at last.
At the central motor park, Sunday Tribune noticed that people were discussing in groups about the recent development as it related to the continuous spread of the virus across the continents of the world.
Mallam Abdullahi Bello, a passenger was of the opinion that there was a spiritual dimension to coronavirus. He described the sudden appearance of the virus in the world as a major sign that God was not pleased with the world, saying it was high time everyone turned to God. According to him, “I can’t imagine how this so called virus will be destroying the whole world and nothing seems to be done to curtail it.
“If not that God is really angry with us, coronavirus is not a new thing that was just discovered, but why is it that all the countries in the world can’t offer solution to it. As for me, I have been taking precautionary measures and I pray not to contract it, including my relatives.
“Each time I hear anything about it, my heart beats fast and I get scared. You can imagine that most developed countries can’t control the spread despite their technological advancement.
Panic in Ondo
News of a suspected case of coronavirus nearly caused panic in Akure on Thursday morning and it took an assurance from the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Wahab Adegbenro to douse tension telling the people that it was a suspected case.
In most of the public places visited by our correspondent, some of the offices were beginning to provide sanitisers and liquid soap for staff and visitors for hand washing.
At the Ondo garage, the National Union of Road Transport Workers also provided sanitisers for all commuters and travellers to wash their hands before embarking in their journey. A member of the union, who identify himself as Elijah, said the leadership of the union had directed all its units to provide sanitisers for all travellers while they also monitor some of the travellers and avoid overloading their vehicles to prevent spreading of the virus.
Some residents of the state who spoke with our correspondent called for more public awareness on the virus, especially those living in the rural communities A market woman, Mrs Sikeolu Awujoola, said we hope the government take preventive measure before the virus gets out of hands. Our lifestyles never encouraged living in isolation or not greeting or embracing one another.”
A nurse, Lakunle Akinwumiju said “I will advise that the nation’s airports and schools and some institutions in the country should be closed for now. This will help the nation a lot.
This just as Dr. Adekunle Aladesa we thumbed up the travel ban policy saying “I think the idea of travel ban is not a bad one after all, because if the coronavirus breaks out in any of the African countries, the western world would have prevented us from coming to their countries.”
Worries in Anambra
In Anambra State, residents are beginning to get worried as their businesses are becoming affected. According to Ndusuisi Eke, a barber at Kwata area of Awka, the state capital, since the outbreak of the virus, his job had become unstable as he had become paranoid by suspecting almost all his customers to have contracted the virus. This is just as disclosed that the number of his customers had dropped significantly.
Mr. Eke, who explained that what aggravated his fear was the fact that coronavirus has no cure for now and Nigerians hardly keep constant personal hygiene, called on government at all levels to intensify awareness campaign about the virus.
For Nnewi-based trader, Mrs. Nkiruka Okoro, the fear of coronavirus had prevented her from travelling on business trips since the outbreak of the virus in order not to be infected. She however, commended the Anambra State Ministry of Health and the Red Cross Society of Nigeria, for their awareness campaign so far, urging them to keep it up.
All around the state, residents were seen taking precautionary measures by covering their mouths, noses and hands to checkmate the disease.
Anambra State chairman, Red Cross Society of Nigeria, Prof. Peter Katchy, in his sensitization advised to some of the hospitality homes in the state, said that they are teaching the nursing mothers, traders, drivers, students, among others, the basic hygiene procedures.
He urged hospitality homes to always update their automated guests manifest daily, to enable them know where their guest came from, the transport company they used and the people he had contact with, if the need arises.
The state government also in a statement announced that all public gathering should be banned from 23rd March 2020 until further notice till further notice. In the announcement, government said, traders and other residents who go to the markets should wash their hands frequently, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and allow it to air dry, hand shaking, hugging and all other forms of contact salutation should be strongly discouraged, among other measures.
In Ekiti, every man with his sanitiser
Since the story broke about the driver who brought an American, who has since died, to Ekiti resident have increased their personal hygiene and awareness about COVID-19. A visit by SundayTribune to the popular Bisi market, Atikankan, Oja oba, residents were seen cautiously going about their normal businesses. In the markets, many of the traders used face masks, while others avoid shaking of hands and hugging.
At the Fajuyi Park where fun seekers in their numbers always converge to have fun, it is business as usual. While some individuals shunned the usual banters with friends, others were seen with pocket-size sanitisers.
A trader, 56-year-old Mrs Funke Arinola, said she was not contemplating closing down her shops for business transactions, rather she maintained that people must ensure personal hygiene to stop further spread in the state.
Mrs Arinola noted that she had stopped shaking hands, hugging and had been maintaining a distance from people with repeated coughing and sneezing, “especially now that the government has revealed that Ekiti now has a man who had tested positive for the virus.
“You know there is nothing we can do than to be vigilant at this period. It will be worse if we close down our shops because of the virus, it will be too bad but I have stopped moving closer to the people and shaking hands in the market here.”
Also speaking, Tunde Jayeoba, who sells building materials, said that he would provide hand sanitizers for customers while patronizing his business.
Johnson Bibitayo, a 25-year-oldcorps member said that he will not stop visiting the popular rendezvous, the Fajuyi Park “to take some drinks” but noted that he has taken precautionary measures such as social distancing and washing of hands at regular intervals.
“This virus, I must tell you is highly scary to say the least, because it can quickly spread. Now that we have a case in Ekiti, we have started maintaining good personal hygiene. But I have to tell you that I must come to this place (Fajuyi Park) to have some drinks as usual. This place is very lively,” he said.
Adedayo Liadi, popular choreographer, who arrived in Nigeria a few weeks ago, in the heat of coronavirus spread across the world is shocked that while other nations were taking precautionary measures Nigeria was living in denial.
According to him, he contracted an ailment in Europe and entered Lagos through the Murtala Muhammed Airport without being stopped for checking.
He said his son had fever and was always sneezing and coughing for four days and after recovering from the illness, he (Liadi) also started feeling serious throat pain, chest pain, coughing, sneezing and fever.
“I took some medications and felt relieved of the fever, throat pain and chest pain, but the coughing, sneezing, chest irritation and spitting didn’t stop. I couldn’t eat much, but I kept asking God to renew my strength and I strictly followed all the instructions and I got from online and television concerning COVID-19 virus. To the glory of God, I am completely okay now,” he said.
However, what baffled him most was the ease with which he entered the country without being checked by any medical official at the airport.
“I am shocked till now that I wasn’t stopped at all, despite all the truth I declared about my health issue at all the boarders. I crossed three borders within four days. I believe God wants to reveal that He is the only One who can protect and heal us of every sickness despite claims of controlling the virus.
“Are our immigration officials seriously preventing any dangerous virus at our boarder entries on land, sea and air? I leave that question to our immigration service and government to answer. I must let Nigerians and the world know that it is only God that can heal, protect and save. Closing boundaries can’t protect any nation because the virus moves very easily and fast through the air and no one can stop the air,” he added.
Medical experts speak
A physician, Dr Victor Adeyefa of All Souls Hospital Ibadan,is of the opinion that now that COVID-19 is now widespread, in the country governmentshould do everyone connected with each case especially the recent one in EkitiState.
“When I was in England, a TB patient left the hospital for apub to drink. Medical officials made sure they rounded up everyone who visitedthat pub and quarantined them to prevent the spread of TB. We may not be assophisticated, but we have doctors who can do this (screen) in Nigeria.
Another physician, Dr Seun Aluko of Alafia hospital, Apata, Ibadan,also told Sunday Tribune that “three people already have it in Ibadan, notone. The American stayed for 10 days ata hotel in Bodija before he went to Ekiti. The test taken at UCH has been takento LUTH and it will take two days before the result is out.
“Imagine what would have happened in two days. Even theVirology Department of UCH can’t run the test. The only reliable source oftracking those who have the virus is through travel history. We will need theairports to be ready to quiz people coming in or going out. They should beasked where they have been in three or four months.”
Social distancing as way out
Many medical experts, including Aluko and Adeyefa, are of the view that strict adherence to social distancing and regular washing of hands is the way out. Adeyefa, especially, recommended being mindful of whatever one touches, including currency notes, door knobs, car keys or anything that can transmit coronavirus. “That’s how serious the situation is,” he said.
Dr Richard Adeoya on his part said: “Why cases in Italy are increasing despite measures is either they are not stringent enough, or those who had it before are now manifesting its symptoms. Besides, many young ones are still frolicking when they should be indoors.
“Nigeria should have shut down long ago, at least a week ago, but we are not decisive. I don’t know why it’s difficult to act on protecting Nigerians by all means. We are endangering ourselves. The sooner we stopped the transmission the better. Shutting down is only for a few weeks.”
Talking of prevention, Dr Aluko is of the opinion that self-isolation, as suggested by some experts will be counterproductive in the case of Nigeria.
“We should not deceive ourselves. Do you expect those artisans who struggle to make N1,500 daily to self-isolate? These are people who need that money and don’t have other means of making money. If such people have the virus, we should not expect them to self-isolate. It can’t work.
“Also note that here, I mean in Ibadan, many still don’t believe it’s a disease. Lassa fever is killing more people in the country but we don’t see that. Because coronavirus is from elsewhere, we are making much noise about it, but our own problem, we ignore, even though it is killing more people.
“Most people would display symptoms but government should goon population base and Ibadan is a big city that should be proactive people should stop being worried because many will have it and many more will eventually recover from it and will even outnumber those who will die.”
Dr Aluko also believes that not many people will die from contractingCOVID-19, depending on their degree of closeness with affected persons, “but many people will contract it. That’s why people must always wash their hands because it’s transmitted from hands to eyes, nose and mouth. When you your wash hands in a bowl, it must be emptied immediately so that another person won’t use the same bowl.”
Dr Adeyefa, however, supports the idea of banning travels to some countries and also stopping others from coming into the country.
“It is for our protection. We should especially focus attention on countries where the virus broke out, and those countries with high numbers of victims. Parties, conferences, gathering together at pepper soup and beer joints should be banned or government could compel those who operate those joints to attend to no more than 20 customers at a time. Such places too must have sanitisers available for people to use. At the airports, passengers must be well screened and also at our land borders, even though the latter are very porous,” he admonished.