A Pandemic Compounding Our Woes

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Sometime, in the olden times, as recoded in the Bible, all inhabitants of the earth were destroyed by a great deluge except those who entered Noah’s ark.

In modern times, pestilences, plagues, and pandemics have continued to afflict mankind, putting them at a great risk of suffering extinction. Till now, we do remember the Bubonic Fever and Spanish Flu, which decimated the population of the world at different times. Perhaps, pestilences or pandemics are ways designed by nature to check the exploding human population. Today, the population of the world is put at over seven billion people.

China, which is the most populous country on earth, witnessed the outbreak of a viral disease called COVID-19 in the Wuhan Province. It caused the deaths of thousands of people there, and instilled fear in us. Although the disease didn’t spread beyond Wuhan, it got to Europe and America, causing unimaginable number of fatalities. Spain, Italy, and Britain have recorded deaths of thousands of people. In almost every European country, lockdown has been imposed to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

In USA, especially in New York, which is densely populated, the disease swept through it killing thousands of people. Some cities in America have restricted the movement of people in efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve. The USA President, Mr. Donald Trump, who is known for his acerbic tongue and intemperate language, blamed WHO for being China-centric. Consequently, President Trump said that the US would withdraw its financial aid to the world health body. And it is alleged that China was complicit in the global spread of the disease owing to its non-transparent method of handling the disease. And conspiracy theory has it that China manufactured it in its laboratory.

Sadly, now, the pandemic is ravaging the world while we eagerly await the production of vaccines and drugs for the treatment of the disease. In Nigeria, Lagos and Kano States have become epicenters of the disease owing to their dense populations. Other states have recorded cases of the disease with its attendant fatalities.

So, in order to check the spread of the virus in Nigeria, the federal government has locked down Abuja, Lagos, and Ogun. Other state governments have executed measures, which include closure of markets, schools and offices to stem the tide of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic. More so, movement of people is restricted as interstate travels are prohibited.

However, the lockdown of the country has inflicted economic hardship on a great majority of Nigerians, who eke out their livelihoods daily by working as artisans, bus drivers, traders, and others. Now, they groan under the burden of lack of basic necessities. And, today, not a few Nigerians go to bed on empty stomach.

Before the COVID-19-induced lockdown, the Nigerian economy was contracting as it’s a mono-economy that is based solely on proceeds of oil-sale for its survival. Nigeria has no welfare packages or security safety nets to cater to the needs of the hopeless and hapless, who are caught in the web of the COVID-19 lockdown. The palliatives, which are distributed by government and wealthy individuals, are grossly inadequate for Nigeria’s teeming population of poor people.

The corollary of this is the spike in crime waves as evidenced in the emergence of the “one million boys gang” which has been terrorizing Lagos. Some weeks ago, in Anambra State, tempers became frayed when security operatives killed a man while enforcing the lockdown order. The swift and judicious settlement of the matter doused tension in the area. But the security operatives have backed down from their use of high-handedness in enforcing the lockdown.

And, the Anambra State Government has suspended the lockdown of the state and ordered the reopening of markets as it’s said that the virus does not exist in the state. The government’s action, which is aimed at reducing the financial hardship of the people, has elicited commendations and condemnations from a broad section of the people.

It is a given that the continuous lockdown of Anambra will lead to restiveness and bloodshed, which will outweigh the calamities COVID-19 can unleash on the people. The Anambra government balanced the advantages of the lockdown against the disadvantages of the lockdown before it took the monumental decision to unlock the state.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has halted the health tourism and foreign trips of our leaders, should open their eyes to the crying need of reinvigorating and revamping our dysfunctional healthcare delivery system. Most government owned hospitals do not fit the bill of the types of hospitals we need. If there is exponential rise in cases of COVID-19 disease in Nigeria, our hospital facilities will be overstretched and they’ll be overwhelmed.

COVID-19 is a viral apocalypse, which is keen on causing the extinction of the human race. So, it behooves us to seek ways to curtail the spread of the disease by abiding by WHO’s guidelines on COVID-19 prevention.
––Chiedu Uche Okoye, Uruowulu-Obosi,
Anambra State