Nigerians Not Taking COVID-19 Danger Seriously

opinion

Please permit me to bore you with issues related to Covid-19 pandemic. My hope is that some of you will reach out to policy makers at all levels with my concerns/suggestions:

(1). More test centres nationwide, there are no centres in the SE, NW and NE. The key to control is testing, testing, testing then isolating infected cases. This is how Germany kept its numbers low.

(2). Provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to Healthcare workers. From Jan. to April 2020, Nigeria has so far lost 20 doctors at the prime of their lives and careers taking care of patients infected with Lassa fever without protection. Let us please protect and advocate for our colleagues and children as they go into battle on our behalf. Doctors and their parents are now buying their own PPEs. We cannot afford losing any at this difficult time.

(3). This is an opportunity for the FGN to provide employment for people by mobilising tailors in each of the states to produce millions of reusable masks and gowns instead of importing what is now not available anywhere in the world.

(4). Each state should quickly ascertain their capacity in terms of equipment, bed space, personnel.

(5). Governors should coordinate their responses and help from the federal government.

(6). Engage the help of traditional and religious leaders in reaching out to our people.

(7). Governments should communicate to and educate people in their dialects instead of all the English coming from the centre.

(8). The vast majority of our people come out daily to find what to feed their family with. Lockdown though important, will mean many families going to bed hungry. Let us please lobby policy makers for some relief for people especially women, children, the aged, disabled, IDPs etc.

(9). Learning from the experiences of China, Italy, Spain, UK and USA, we have not seen the worst yet, let us prepare as much as we can.

(10). Please keep yourself and family safe especially our aged and the sick.

(11). We are all in this together, let us take care of each other now more than ever.

(12). I lost a teacher to this virus, he was one of the best and most compassionate physicians that ever lived. Please keep him and his family in your prayers.

Lest we forget, COVID-19 is a formidable foe that is very good at what it does.

No government can defeat this vicious enemy alone without the full involvement and support of its people.

Nigeria is in the very infancy of this pandemic which means that even with the best measures in place, we will see increasing cases and deaths nationally in the coming weeks.

The sad truth is that our hospitals will be overwhelmed, and people will die.

In the absence of a vaccine, this pandemic can only be overcome by the responsible choices we make now as individuals and communities.

Social distancing measures remain by far the most effective tool in breaking the spread of this virus worldwide.

In contrast to hand-washing and other personal measures, social distancing measures are not about individuals but about societies working together for the good of all.

I and many of my medical colleagues, both at home and abroad where they are seeing first hand, the devastating effects of COVID-19 on their patients, are very worried about Nigeria's preparedness and the attitudes of our people to this pandemic.

We feel that our people are oblivious of or indifferent to the impending disaster coming our way.

For instance, on Saturday April 4, 2020, I called around 18 state capitals of the federation to have a feel of how seriously people were taking this pandemic and the Presidential Task Force's directive on social distancing.

I was shocked to learn that in all these cities, people were carrying on their lives without a care in this world, they were still gathering in places of worship, markets, weddings etc.

Our fear is that this singular counter productive attitude will make it impossible to contain this virus in Nigeria which will lead to avoidably high fatality and also leave a trail of social unrest and dislocations in its wake.

Let us not forget our selfless healthcare professionals who are in the trenches in the frontline of this battle, they are the most exposed and in greatest danger.

The most vulnerable among us are also very high risk; our sick and elderly parents and grandparents, IDPs, children, Almajir, homeless, the poor etc.

Even our youth are not as strong as we think, they are very vulnerable because of their compromised immunity due to the high incidence of malnutrition, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS and TB in our society.

The current situation is not only dangerous but unacceptable and requires the urgent intervention of the government:

(a). The federal government should engage traditional, religious, political and other community leaders in a constructive dialogue to reach out to our people.

(b). The media should be involved in educating people in their local dialects nationwide.

(c). There should be a thoughtful and humane approach to mitigate the economic effects of social distancing and lockdowns by governments at all levels knowing very well that hunger and anger precipitate social unrest.

Nigerians must all remain united and resolute in our collective fight against this virus.

COVID-19 pandemic is an existential threat to all humanity and we must all play our part.

Yusuf, a professor of haematology-oncology and bone marrow transplantation, is formwr Exec Sec NHIS.

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