Apart from the panic the outbreak of Coronavirus in Nigeria has generated, the potential mortality rate associated with the infection, high cost in management, and the negative impact it will have on Nigeria’s economy will be too much to bear if it is not nipped in the bud quickly. Martins Ifijeh writes
By standard global health prediction, disease outbreaks are only 36 hours away from potentially entering any country of the world irrespective of how farther apart the index country and the receiving nations are geographically placed. No thanks to technologies like aircrafts and drones.
It however took Nigeria 59 days to get its first confirmed case of the Coronavirus outbreak which broke out from Wuhan city in China since December 31, 2019, despite Nigeria’s high trading partnership with China and its market. This is after it had spread to over 50 other countries, including Algeria and Egypt in Africa, and Killed over 2, 800 people, and infected over 84,000 persons, especially in China; the epicenter of the outbreak.
With a 44 year old Italian confirmed by the Nigerian government to be infected by the disease, it is now a dawned reality that the country is now among nations currently being affected by the outbreak; a situation that has triggered a number of responses by the federal government, Lagos and Ogun state governments, world health bodies, and unsurprisingly, Nigerians who are now personally making efforts to ensure they do not contract the virus.
On specifics, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), with support from the Lagos and Ogun state governments, as well as the Health Ports Services at the Lagos airports, have started contact tracing of every one who was in contact with the Italian index case.
So far, scores of persons have been identified and quarantined, including 28 persons from Ogun State where the Coronavirus patient spent two days before he was transported back to Lagos for isolation and treatment, upon confirmation of his disease status. Turkish airline, with which he flew into Lagos from Milan in Italy has also commenced tracking of the hundreds of passengers who came into the country with him via the same aircraft.
But while the outbreak has no doubt raised a lot of concerns, especially because of the nature of its spread and the mortality rate associated with it even in the most advanced countries like China and Iran where it has killed over 2500 and 43 persons respectively, just like Ebola, it will not be contained without it leaving its negative footprint on any nation it has broken into.
Ebola, which ravaged some African countries, cost several billions of dollars to contain, according to World Bank estimates.
For Nigeria, a nation that became the first to defeat the virus, it cost it eight productive lives, including that of Dr. Stella Amayo Adedavho, some $180 million, a shake in oil market prices, and it caused panic, anxiety and uncertainty among Nigerians, especially Lagos residents, who didn’t know what else to make out of the virus.
Implication for Health Sector
If this present outbreak in the country unfortunately snowballs into a full-fledged epidemic, the lean Nigerian health sector will bear the brunt of the spread, especially since the country has not enough facilities to carter for the myriads of healthcare challenges bedeviling millions of Nigerians presently, not to mention when there is an a disease epidemic.
While China has the second biggest economy globally, its healthcare facilities started shrinking within the first month of the Coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan city, with all health facilities in the city and Hubei province overloaded with patients infected by Coronavirus; a move that necessitated the country’s leader to order for the immediate building of emergency hospitals with thousands of beds. Despite this move by the Chinese government, it again turned to stadia across several provinces and converted them to temporary hospitals where thousands of beds were laid side by side in a bid to have all patients access treatment.
Nigeria’s healthcare strength is nowhere near that of China, and other countries currently experiencing several bouts of the spread yet still complains of its healthcare resources depleted.
Although the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and the Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu have said the country has what it takes to manage the virus, it is safe to say the country’s capacity can only address the public health challenge if the case is nipped in the bud.
Despite their reassurances, indications on ground reveal that Nigeria is yet to prioritise health security, especially if the score of the country’s Joint External Evaluation of the country is considered which unfortunately rates at 46 per cent. in 2019, it scored 39 per cent.
What this means is that the country is 56 per cent less ready to address Coronavirus or any other disease outbreak of same kind. But with the virus already in the country, the nation needs the political will to prioritise interventions, and this include beefing up airports, land and sea borders, investing in public awareness on basic hygiene health, and ensure all contacts with confirmed case or cases are tracked and placed under surveillance.
The two days the Italian index case visited Lafarge Plc led to the quarantining of the entire facility in Abeokuta, with at least 28 staff of the organisation put under surveillance.
With just one confirmed case, a multinational company has been closed down, with man power, productivity and investment wasting away until authorities deems it fit to resume operations. Should there be a major outbreak, it is not out of place several organisations, including government institutions will be shot with the country losing huge sums of money daily.
While only eight persons were infected by the 2014 Ebola outbreak, it cost Nigeria and development partners about $180 million to tackle. Should Coronavirus snowballs, the country might end up spending the whole of 2020 national budget to tackle the outbreak, which then translates into starving other sectors of the economy the needed funds to function.
The announcement of the virus in Nigeria Friday has started having a toll on the country’s economy, as reports suggests the stocks dropped to their lowest level in the year in intra-day trade.
The NSE all-share index fell 1.62 per cent to 26,373.83 points around mid-day Friday, according to Bloomberg data, making it the biggest decline since early July 2019.
Also, the global oil markets was also roiled by the fast-spreading coronavirus, as crude oil was on course for its biggest weekly loss since 2011, intensifying speculation that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies will strike a deal to support prices.
Futures in New York fell a sixth day after fears over the outbreak sent shares on Wall Street down by the most in almost a decade. With crude prices down more than 14 per cent this week, there are signs that OPEC and its allies could be nearing agreement on action to stem the rout before meeting in Vienna next week.
Bloomberg quoted unnamed OPEC’s top official to have said the group and its allies are displaying a “renewed commitment” to reach an accord as the virus puts the world economy on course for its worst performance since 2009.
Humans as Ultimate Cost
Although the outbreak, if intense, would not only affect the economy and the lean health infrastructure of the country, it will ultimately lead to high mortality rate, with children, youths and the elderly dying before their expected time.
Will the Nigerian government and stakeholders address this present outbreak with kid gloves, or will it prioritise interventions to nip it in the bud before it becomes a pandemic the country will be unable to control? Time will tell.