By Bala Ibrahim
I was waken up from my afternoon nap by a phone call from a brother, who was enquiring about the authenticity of what he heard, that the President has approved the extension by two weeks, of the lockdown in Kano. I said Iam not sure, but I would not be surprised if it turns out to be true. His main concern is the need for the return of the freedom to visit the mosques in congregation. I said you are right, but the freedom of worship is only applicable to the living. The dead is on the exempt list.
The popular and most pampered words in the world today are safety and security. If easing the lockdown would not guarantee the safety and the needed security against additional risks and danger of the disease, it’s better for us to exercise more patience, by staying put and praying at home. We must not look down on the lockdown, because the coronavirus is contagious.
I later listened to the news, and lo and behold, the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, was on the television with his charismatic height and characteristic microphone voice, announcing the presidential directive, thus, “Specifically, the nationwide curfew, the ban on interstate travel and the lockdown of Kano State, which had emerged the third epicenter of the pandemic, would continue until June 1.”
The mention of Kano as the third epicenter of the disease became particularly disturbing, and my mind immediately went to a text message that I received from a senior medic in Kano, Infact a renown professor in a particular field of medicine, thus, “Yallabai, you need to warn our people that coronavirus is very much alive in Kano and increasing. The Monday to Friday alternate day outing, and the Friday and Eid prayers should be done with this in mind”. The message sent me thinking of a popular African proverb that says, “What elders see while sitting, the young ones standing on their toes wont see”. The professor professional, is now playing the elder here. We are the young ones standing, I reminisced.
A visit to the NCDC site today, reveals the following highlights: On the 18th of May 2020, 216 new confirmed cases and 9 deaths were recorded in Nigeria. Till date, 6175 cases have been confirmed, 1644 cases have been discharged and 191 deaths have been recorded in 34 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
My analysis of the narrative of the highlights looks like Kano and Lagos are almost competing with each other in the number of deaths, with Lagos recording 38, while Kano has 36. If we look down on the lockdown, and mount pressure on the government to lift it, we may end up with a frightening scenario, God forbid, due to increase in the pace of new infections that could worsen the existing situation of insufficient bed space in the hospitals.
The fear of spread, particularly by people exhibiting no symptoms, is the most worrisome part of the pandemic, hence the need for caution in lifting the lockdown. According to the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals, “the deficit of health professionals and medical facilities would not be able to handle whatever upsurge that may arise due to the high incidences of community transmission. Nigeria should learn from her neighbor Ghana, where the same action of lifting the lockdown, produced a 100% increase in infection rate in just a week,”.
Yes, it is no longer news that Covid-19 has come as a directive from God, compelling everyone to stay still. Naturally, after staying at home for a while, almost two months in some states, the urge is for people to begin the crave for freedom, because of the instinct or anxiety to resume their usual way of living. The anxiety may even turn to frustration, where one is not sure when the lockdown order will come to an end or at worse, be eased up. But then, we must not look down on the lockdown, especially in places like Kano, where compliance with orders is a big issue.
According to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, viruses have varying abilities to infect people. For COVID-19, each person with the virus can go on to infect around 2.5 people. If each of those people go about their day as normal, and infect another 2.5 people, within a month, 406 people would be infected just from that first infection. COVID-19 is more infectious than other coronaviruses such as SARS or MERS-CoV. The “case fatality rate” (CFR), or risk of dying from the new coronavirus, is about 4.4%, (although this risk varies by geography, and also can change over the course of a pandemic) is also less deadly than SARS (10%) or MERS-CoV (34%). So, if COVID-19 is less deadly than previous epidemic threats, why has it spread so far and wide that it has brought the world to a standstill? The answer seems to be precisely because the new coronavirus is less deadly – thousands of people with either no symptoms or very mild symptoms have been spreading the virus unaware that they were even infected. This means that before health experts are aware of the problem and start to recommend control measures, the virus would have already spread to multiple countries.
When we look at the situation from another perspective, the lockdown, which has forced a restriction on our movements, has come with some remarkable benefits in behavior. Different families are witnessing different and improved family ties, as parents and children tend to spend quality time with each other.
Within the period of the lockdown, community relations have equally improved, as people in various communities are getting to know each other more, contrary to what was in existence before, where many were living like complete strangers to each other.
The lockdown is unpleasant, but the reverse can be catastrophic.