Coronavirus in Nigeria, a pandemic on the fast lane

Posted by News Express | 21 March 2020 | 548 times

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•Mary Ikoku


As at today, 30 cases of corona virus have been reported in Nigeria. So, the country is safe, it can be contained. So it appears.

That’s when you have not taken into consideration the fact that of the last few cases reported, one was meant to be a traveler who arrived a BA flight during the week. Sadly, none of the 186 or so passengers plus crew members was tested of the virus on arrival, nor isolated, nor quarantined. That means that a number of probably infected passengers are on the loose, unidentified and making contact with several hundreds who are in turn having contacts with several other thousands.

The above scenario applies just to the case of the BA flight. Presumably, this could be the case with several other flights that arrived from the Europe, China, the USA and other majorly exposed countries in the last two weeks.

In a country of 200 million people, ill prepared for a major pandemic occurrence with poor access to quality healthcare and little resources both financial and human to grapple with, that is scary!

Yet it seems that the country is doing well in containing the spread of the virus, temperatures are taken of passengers that arrive at the airport, hand sanitizers are available for personal hygiene and this measures are extended to most public places across the country but Covid-19 is not like Ebola, carriers are usually asymptomatic for weeks before falling sick. Danger is that within those weeks, they have the potential of spreading the virus.

As I write, chances are that several thousands are now carrying the virus without knowing. So for Nigeria, COVID-19 potentially is a pandemic on the fast lane.

So what could the country have done better to stop COVID-19 from a wild spread? For long, authorities left the borders open without taking preemptive control measures. Many airlines kept flying to badly exposed countries like China, South Korea and Europe without measures taken to ensure that the passengers and crew observe self-isolation or quarantined for a given period of time under close monitoring. Many have argued that Nigeria should have banned flights in and out of the pandemic countries at the early start of the virus outbreak. Although this measure has just been taken of late, it does seem to be too late in coming. The awaiting calamity can still be mitigated if the country puts in place some more measures to contain a possible outbreak. Apart from closing the borders for a given period, other measures to put in place include;

  • procuring test-kits in their numbers,
  • opening up more test centers (currently, there are 3 in the whole country),
  • closing down schools,
  • reducing meetings with large numbers and banning meetings with more than 20 attendees-including churches and mosques,
  • The NCDC should take active control in leading efforts at preventing further spread.
  • NCDC should be seen to be working with the global community especially development agencies in the effort at developing a vaccine.
  • There doesn't seem to be discussion or collaboration between the NCDC and the domestic pharmaceutical industry to ramp up the roll of test kits and capabilities. This should be given important consideration as part of developing local capacities to deal with the pandemic.
  • Businesses, shopping malls, supermarkets, etc, should be encouraged as part of the containment strategies, to not only provide hand sanitizers at entrance and other strategic points, but to also undertake to regularly clean and disinfect surfaces, such as counters, elevator panels, hand rails, ATMs, POS terminals, etc that customers frequently touch or handle.

Bigger than that, will be for the country to better coordinate the information dissemination and public awareness actions for more effective public awareness on COVID-19 and ways of preventing the spread.

•Mary Ikoku is a Lagos-based change agent and public relations consultant.

Source: News Express

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