For the longest of times, the catchphrase ‘Africa Arising’ has been a term to insinuate that the African continent would be the next big thing and has been used in many fancy conferences, seminars, great speeches and the like. Personally, I have even written a piece on it and I think there is no better time for Africa to truly rise than now. More so, as the biggest economy and most populous nation on the continent, Nigeria should be at the forefront of this.
Quite frankly, it is more than apparent that the world is not at a good place currently as the world powers, gallant troops and “saner climes” are suddenly all clueless. From the busy streets of New York to the ever-bubbling city of Lagos, the holy Vatican and the sacred Madina city, the world is on a lockdown.
A couple of years back, even in our wildest imaginations we wouldn’t have had the slightest clue that if something was going to hold the world down this much it certainly would not be a “common virus” as we might have called it at the time but here we are, all held up by the Coronavirus Disease 2019, well known in the streets as COVID-19. A virus which typically affects the respiratory system causing symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath. Some people, including older adults, are at risk of severe illness from this virus.
There has been a previous outbreak of diseases that coronaviruses have caused in humans and have been severe. One example is the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which caused a pandemic in 2002 and there were around 8,439 cases and 812 deaths as a result of the virus.
The outbreak of the disease known as COVID-19 is the result of the novel coronavirus now renamed SARS-CoV-2, was first recorded in the 11 million-populated city of Wuhan in China which recorded its first death from the virus on the 11th Jan 2020. As of April 15th 2020, the world has recorded over 2 million cases and 130,000 deaths so far from 210 countries.
The global economy is bleeding, businesses are coping with lost revenue and disrupted supply chains as industries are forced to close and quarantine measures spread across the globe, restricting movement and commerce. Unemployment, hunger and poverty are skyrocketing. Health workers are over stretched, governments are out of ideas and citizens are rightfully panicking.
On the bright side however, over 500,000 people have recovered from the virus. The epicentre of the virus, Wuhan, China recorded no new case of Covid-19 as of 19th March 2020 for the first time since its peak in February. Similarly, Italy’s corona virus cases are slowing down, the world is finding innovative ways to go about their businesses and recovery rates in Africa are looking good. This implies that there is HOPE!
Nevertheless, there is an imminent threat Africa and Nigeria especially need to pay attention to. The Director General of the World health Organization in a report published on March 19 2020, has said “Africa should prepare for the worst as the coronavirus begins to spread locally”. Melinda Gates a philanthropist who contributed majorly to fighting polio across Africa in an interview with CNN was quoted to say that “if the world does not act fast enough, then there will be dead bodies all over the streets of Africa” she further went on to say “Part of the reasons you are seeing the case numbers still do not look very bad, is because they don’t have access to many tests.” There have been other statements in this regard credited to credible world leaders and medical experts. While I do not entirely agree with some of these statements we cannot deny the fact that something is coming and we need to be prepared for it.
As it stands, it is on record that there are 334 confirmed cases in Nigeria, with 91 patient’s recovered and 10 deaths unfortunately. With this data available to us, we believe it is paramount that the Federal government takes an urgent lead in identifying cases, testing these potential carriers and administering relevant treatment.
While I must commend the Federal government, State governments, the Federal Ministry of health, the NCDC and other concerned Nigerians for the various interventions, welfare packages, stimulus packages put in place so far. I believe we can do a lot more.
In fighting a pandemic of this nature, I advise we should work towards developing a home-grown strategic plan that can cater to the indigenous needs of our people and we should also consider a continental plan considering our porous borders across the continent. Nigeria has already recorded cases from people who got into the country through the land borders.
Secondly, looking into Melinda Gates statement earlier quoted about Africa recording low numbers because we don’t have access to testing kits, I realised Nigeria with a population of over 200 million people has barely conducted 5000 tests on every level and this is a poor rating. For an economy like ours it is counterproductive to order a lockdown when rapid testing is not going on as we can see community spread is on the rise already. One of the first 6 confirmed cases of COVID 19 in Kaduna state was a security guard who travelled all the way from Lagos to Kaduna you can imagine how much contact he must have had and hundreds of other people like him who have not been diagnosed. “Saner climes” are raising testing capacity to as much as 500,000 people weekly and comparing that to the 1,500 Nigeria is doing is unacceptable comparing it to our 200 million population.
It is time for the government to realize the urgency in scaling up diagnosis and do whatever it takes to make access to testing easy for every Nigerian. Our economy cannot sustain far-fetched stimulus packages so we need to act fast in identifying and treating cases. We can develop policies to enable qualified private stakeholders carry out tests and treat cases in line with the NCDC’s standards and recommendation. Whatever it takes, we need to make testing readily available for Nigerians.
On a final note, as much as the government has a large role to play in curbing this Pandemic, we as citizens have a bigger role to play by strictly adhering to the global best practices on preventing and reporting incidences.
Also, to our front line warriors in this battle, our health workers, security personnel, journalists and every other essential worker, our hearts and prayers are with you and we are sincerely grateful. One for all, all for one. Together we will win.
Alli-Bob lives in Abuja, and tweets from @Allii_Bob.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of Nigerian Diary