The present health scare posed by the Covid-19 plague has gradually degenerated from mere health issue into a monster affecting the lives and livelihoods of all; with no respect to any sacred cow!
Recently, many lives have been affected as more number of victims (of all ages) are infected in various countries, both developed and developing ones with further projections by the World Health Organisation, the global health bodies, of more casualties in the near future.
While the aged- 60 years and above- as well as teenagers and those below teen are more susceptible to the severity of the coronavirus, with a rapid rate of spread to those with other clinical conditions like heart and lung diseases, the certainty of a curative vaccine is yet to be assured.
Recently, governments of most countries have ordered shut down of activities and close of all business and social engagements. This has affected the economy of most nations of which Nigeria is not exempted.
Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s announcement last Sunday for a shutdown of business and social/religious activities in the country, with exception of those on dire essential duty, most establishments closed while commercial dealers also shut down business.
What impact would this have on our ailing economy particularly, with regards to the welfare of the lower class who may not have enough resources to sustain them for the two weeks of the temporal shut down?
Also, how has government monitored the shut-down process to ensure compliance with set rules and due observance of prevention measures?
Following the shutdown and no movement order, it was discovered that prices of items, particularly food stuff, were hiked as many people thronged the markets and shopping malls to buy items that would last for long. The rich had their swell time while those with meagre earnings got what they could afford. Some dealers used the opportunity to hoard commodities for better profit in future.
As regards the stay-at-home order, it has been discovered that some persons (not on essential purpose) still move about irrespective of government order and the fear that looms in the air; while some sellers of non-essential items come out at night to display and sell their wares. The question then is: does the virus have a time it incubates to allow movement at will?
The required social distancing has not been maintained in strict sense and as people still mingle together in the few commercial and social circles that spring up in town.
Sequel to this, most industries, especially those who deal on non-edibles have closed production, a fact which would ordinarily cause dearth of commodities and invariably, a downturn on the economy.
The rate of death caused by the virus across the globe is alarming and its gradually creeping into the country. Government has put preventive measures in place to curb the spread through medical and infrastructural provisions; thus provision of testing materials, establishment of quarantine centres as well as provision of welfare materials for treatment of affected persons.
Already, the world economy is experiencing a gross downturn due to the virus scare that has sent workers ‘sleeping’. It may not have been noticed yet in our dear country, but may soon take its toll on Nigerian people since infection and death rate increases each day; a fact which may give rise to job loss, inadequacy of needed facilities and possible public outcry.
In view of this, there is urgent need for the government bodies of all levels to collaborate with multi-national organisations and some good spirited wealthy persons to fight the invasion of this monster using all necessary machineries; therefore, working with unity of purpose and overlooking all forms of distractions to achieve a common goal.
Policy makers should be more relaxed in their rules and regulations, while all forms of directions, instructions and requirements channelled to the public should be appealing and enforcement policies, gradual in consideration of the plight of peasants whose basic livelihoods are dependent on their daily strive to sustain themselves.
This calls for a more pro-active educational and impressive form of enlightening the masses through television, radio and other forms of social media to highlight dangers and announce preventive measures. Situations of physical assault of civil offenders by enforcement officers of the law should be avoided lest the essence of the enforcement is defeated!
Too many publications abound in recent time about information on prevention and possible curative measures; it is therefore imperative that government should place necessary cautions as well as release credibly identified information and a feedback process to and fro the public to forestall false measures which could lead to early demise caused by orchestrated fear and anxiety than the covid-19.
Similarly, due attention should be extended to rural areas with aim of preventing panic living using community leaders, faith instructors and other relevant bodies. It should be noted that many are not privileged to obtain information through television, radio or other social media; a scheme that can be used to reach such audience should also be factored into place.
While we do not expect dead end in other facets of the economy and governance, it is important that more attention should be diverted now to provision of more medical facilities in both affected and none affected areas for prevention purposes and treatment of victims as well as relief materials to affected ones who are quarantined.
Possible improvement of facilities on ground should be considered by purchase of modern medical cum fumigation materials from abroad.
Incentives should be provided for business continuity and subsidy given to producers of basic needs like agricultural products, other food items and local business dealers in a protective form to enable proper management of resources with minimised movement.
The potentials of our human resource should be explored! While the world is busy with search for vaccines against the Covid-19; Nigeria also presents likely latent opportunities in our scientists. Thus government should consider given attention to scientific research agencies, even in university to encourage the search for cure or even improved preventive measure.
It is noteworthy that inventions that enhance living standards (space expeditions, computers, the internet and such evolutionary ingenuities of the Industrial/E-age) all originated as direct or by-products from some form of exploration that accrued from similar challenges that confronted man and man’s responsive quest to tackle them. Perhaps, a latent good lurks behind the malevolent scare of the Covid-19 and may be discovered in the course of research.
While the whole world seems to pay more attention to the virus scare presently, it is important to consider certain post covid-19 measures lest the era becomes nightmarish to human race.
History records incidents of economic plunge and stiff public outcry and unrest following similar plagues. The Bubonic plague which attacked Europe between 541 – 542 AD then called Justinian plague; yet another one plague that ravaged Europe, Africa and Asia in 1353 with high death rate of millions of people caused by wide infection brought about by flees that lived on rats.
Years later in 1956, the Asian flu which originated from China broke out and spread to other parts of the world, killing people in numbers. More recently, the outbreak of the Ebola virus also claimed lives in numbers.
In all situations, population control was automatic, but then public outcry and possible labour unrest may be expected.
A post-Covid-19 plan is therefore important. Thus government should consider a rehabilitative/restorative scheme to manage the situation that this devastation would cause man; thus: psychic/emotional touch to those worse hit by massive deaths particularly the naturally endowed ones that can contribute to nation-building, provision of basic food and infrastructure as well as relevant medical facilities.
Also, proper dissemination of information to all and academic restoration to improve literacy level and quicken further society rebuilding will be necessary.