Israel Ayegba Ebije, a Covid-19 survivor, writes that easing the lockdown is premature

The class of 2020 refers to those who are alive and well regardless of age, class, race or creed to savor infection and the fear associated with Covid-19, the “apocalypse” virus. The human family has been humbled by the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic as many believe it will destroy the world. I am a grateful student of life who took the coronavirus exam and lived to tell the story.

The experience of going through with the shallow stinging coughing sessions, the loss of smell, stuffed and painful lungs, difficulty in breathing, loss of appetite, fever, evil dreams and news of deaths across the globe will make 2020 a year I will not forget in a hurry. For those clamoring for ease of lockdown, are you prepared for the consequence of badly managed lockdown? Do you want to have the virus to confirm how deadly it is?

The human family now live in fear as the dreaded pandemic has no cure, with geometric death rates. To survive the menace of the virus, you must have the Grace of God, and a good immune system. The best alternative therefore, is to distance yourself socially from other humans. Sadly, Nigerians and indeed Africans think social distancing or lockdowns are a way the government wants to oppress them or deny them of their fundamental rights to associate or do business.

Granted that so many Nigerians live by the day – meaning, they must feed from their daily jobs, or sales they make on daily basis, granted that the Nigerian system is run without unified data requisite for patriotic distribution of palliatives does not obliterate the fact that caution must be applied when lockdown is eased. Yes Nigerians have suffered in terms of hunger during the lockdown. Yes many have died silently as a result of hunger garnished with stress but the death toll will go geometrical if Nigerians throw caution to the wind. Nigerians need financial intervention not ease of lockdown.

Let me go back briefly to my very unpleasant experience with Covid19 virus. I woke up one morning feeling pangs of pain in my stomach. I recognized the discomfort as ulcer. Having suffered several years from the condition, I always have drugs for first aid. I tried everything I could and the drugs were not able to give me relief. I met a pharmacist who prescribed Omeprazole for me. It was the best he could offer. The symptom grew from bad to worse. I wondered what was really wrong with me.
I ran back to the same pharmacist to step up with the prescription. He refused and instead asked me to go see a doctor. He told me my intestine may have burst, adding that I could die anytime soon.

To cut to the chase, I was diagnosed of coronavirus when I got to the hospital in Montreal, Canada. The news was handed to me like a death sentence. Within seconds I remembered how I refused to wear a face mask, how I refused social distancing, how I believed the virus will have nothing to do with a Blackman like me. Suddenly, my entire life flashed before my eyes.

I was busy with the “ulcer” pain, I did not notice I was wheezing, having a painful cough with loaded and infected lungs. I was placed on azithromycin for the lung infection for five days. I however found a way to steam with garlic, ginger and lime four times daily (10 minutes per session). I got enough relief after five days in isolation. The nagging fever disappeared, my nasal function got better, at least everything from food to toiletries smelled the same. My very bitter tongue was able to distinguish taste of food. The healing process was in phases and slow – it took 14 days before I could bounce back. Now I am as healthy as a bull, free of the virus. Sadly, not many are as lucky as I am.

Let me keep my survival story aside and focus on the future of Nigerians as many are eager to get out there and look for money. I know the government did not offer financial safety net to cushion the negative effect of the lockdown, that’s not enough reason to hit the streets carelessly as cases are on the rise every day. Remember that I was once in doubt of the virus. I was once careless, thinking I was a Black dude who was impervious to the virus. It slammed me and I hit rock bottom within a few days. Government will save more lives and money if they can get financial assistance across to Nigerians instead of letting them go out to die!

If government has however concluded plans not to help its citizens at this breaking point with feeding money, they should at least embark on sensitization using mobile public address systems to draw the attention of Nigerians on safety rules, provide PPEs like face masks, hand gloves and hand sanitizers as they prepare to hit the street. This is the time for the public and private media to engage in sustained sensitization programs. The world is at war with an invisible enemy.

Average Nigerians on their part must see the ease of the lockdown from a sober perspective. They should apply caution just the way they would if they were to walk past a sleeping hungry lion. It does not call for celebration – some wicked people are going to make sure they infect the careless ones on the street. We must be guided that people celebrated ease of lockdown of the Spanish flu and over 4500 infections were recorded within 72 hours in a small geographical area. Already Ghana Covid-19 infection rate has risen by 60 percent a week after government eased their lockdown.

I commend federal, state governments and our frontline health workers in managing victims of the dreaded virus. It is however pertinent to note that only about 12,000 out of over 200 million Nigerians have been tested in four weeks and a constantly rising case of infected people against a projected 21,000 in four weeks. Releasing people to the street is a potential disaster waiting to happen. The level of sensitization, literacy and capacity to manage a ravaging pandemic will be too much of a job once this blows out of proportion.

Government should give out palliatives using BVN instead of going the temporary cheap route of easing lockdown for Nigerians to fend for themselves. Also getting Nigerian traditional medicine practitioners to go to work on finding a cure or linking up with Madagascar on their herbal remedy for Covid-19 is better than nothing. The consequence of playing politics with Covid-19 will hit the rich and the poor negatively. I survived, many have died, do you want to die?

Ebije can be reached via, ebijeo5@gmail.com