The Oasis Reporters
May 1, 2020
By Harry Omoakhia.
Nigeria dropped the ball a long time ago. Take Vietnam that shares a porous border with China, for example, then try and read up on how they were able to contain the Coronavirus. They understood their peculiarities and vulnerabilities and acted accordingly.
I use Vietnam as a test case because of our seeming similarities when it comes to the economy and healthcare.
Our government knew our peculiarities and likely consequences of this virus to both our economy and public health, but they wished it away.
When the virus finally landed, although I believed there were unknown or unreported cases before that index case, we did virtually little to prepare. In one press briefing, a Minister even said that ‘They don’t want to over-prepare’.
When the cases started escalating and the need for a lockdown arose, the government promised to ramp up testing and contact tracing but after our index case in February, we have done a total of just over 11,000 tests till date, and still reportedly tracing 9,000 people, which is even an exercise in futility considering the mass community transmissions now in Lagos and Kano.
Even during the lockdown, people were still moving and traveling by road. There are enough pieces of evidence to lend credence to this fact.
We know our people; we know our attitude but the government failed to do the needful at the right time, but it is useless to expect anything worthwhile from a government that can’t carry due diligence out, to vet a list of 38 names and went ahead to appoint a dead man, yet again in its recent appointments.
Leadership is everything! It is why I am against those who try to put the problem somewhere else. It is our current leadership that has put us in this precarious situation.
With our largely poor and restless population in lockdown, it was just a matter of time for the nation to be engulfed in massive civil disobedience or unrest; on a scale that will overwhelm the security agencies, which will no doubt compound an already bad situation.
As the government failed to do the needful, they had no other choice but to choose between two evils: Continue with a lockdown that is obviously not being adhered to, and watch a gradual increase in transmission, or partially reopen to safeguard the economy and public peace with the risk of a steep rise in the number of cases. No matter the decision taken, the outcome would have been almost the same in the long run.
For those alarmed at the increase in the number of cases in the recent past, the reasons are not far fetched: community transmission and increased testing. If we had ramped up testing and contact tracing the first two weeks of the lockdown, we would have had similar figures but may have been able to prevent community transmission.
Today, Lagos with community transmission, and decentralized sample collection and testing is churning out more cases. If the same is reciprocated in Kano, the figures will be very alarming. Also, with the flops in the lockdown, the virus has traveled to all the states (forget those still depending on websites and apps test), hence the total number of cases will continue to be on the rise. It is now left for the states to take measures to prevent community transmission in their respective states.
Lastly, even with the relaxation of the lockdown, it is not compulsory to come out. You can stay in your house until you are sure the risk is significantly reduced; this will further enforce physical distancing. For those planning to come out, the virus is still out there. If you must come out, arm yourself with the principle of physical distancing, the highest form of hygiene, and personal responsibility.
May God help us all.
Written by Harry Slim Omoakhia.
Harry Omoakhia is a practicing pharmacist, and public affairs commentator.