COVID-19 has thundered through the world. We will speak of the pandemic for centuries to come. When children have their devices floating in the air as they waddle to school, and robots have replaced humans in many positions at the workplace, the virus that pushed the world to its knees will be one of the highlights of the history books.
The world is approaching the end of the first half of the year. America’s Trump has turned into a twitter joke (or not); Nigeria is playing the lockdown yo-yo with lives; China is showing the world that its mass-producer status stands even during a pandemic that slipped through its cracks; Germany’s swift moves are allowing a gradual and tentative step to normalcy; Great Britain is hobbling as it sorts through its post-Brexit situation, etc. The world is at varying levels of comatose.
As at May 16, 2020, there were 4,635,830 confirmed cases and 311,821 deaths. The world is in mourning for the lives that have been lost to the talons of a virus that in most people’s opinion should have been curtailed if the world was informed on time.
In Nigeria, there have been over 5,600 cases and more than 170 deaths. It takes two to 14 days for persons exposed to the virus to possibly become symptomatic. The 14-day mark since the laxing of the lockdown procedures by President Muhammadu Buhari has come and gone. And understandably, fears are rising that there might be an exponential spike in confirmed cases. Virtual religious gatherings across the country have rallied to stop this with prayers and fasting. Whether or not God is listening to a country so warped in its own special breed of corruption will be the talk of another day. Sadly, it stands to reason that with eager Nigerians searching for the elusive ‘daily bread’ on crowded streets – with little to no regard for the fundamentals of social distancing – indeed a jump in numbers is imminent.
There are debates, polls and discussions on whether another lockdown should be imposed. A lockdown would be the opportune time to ramp up testing in order to ascertain the number of the affected, isolate these from those that aren’t and find ways to flatten the curve.
The Nigerian government is tottering under the weight of inadequate materials, infrastructure and personnel. Private sector big players are searching for spades to help pull us from the chasm we are about to freefall into. As a country, the next question may not just be ‘what is the solution?’ But are we going about this the right way? Are we creating more obstacles for ourselves? If this is the case, who will then save us from ourselves?
As we attempt to find the impossible balance amidst poverty, a pandemic and a failing health care system, the necessity of practising social distancing is at an all-time high. For those capable of working from home, please do. For the companies that can afford work-from-home procedures, and are dragging their feet, now would be the time to recognise that people and profit can matter simultaneously.
Iretomiwa Akintunde-Johnson, Lagos
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