Coronavirus and the adversity of the asymptomatic

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By Bala Ibrahim

In Nigeria, the Federal Government has issued guidelines on the implementation of the phased and gradual easing of the lockdown, wherein the public is given general health and safety information, guidance to states and security agencies, and a description of the types of activities allowed under the arrangement. According to the SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, the President has approved the implementation over the next four weeks, spanning 2nd – 29th June, 2020. For a country that is the most populous in Africa, and one that has almost gone into an economic knock down due to the lockdown, permitting free movement would be received by the society as a big breather. But how safe is the society?

Last week, according to released records from the NCDC, the country has recorded over 10,000 cases of the virus, with 20 out of the 774 LGAs in the country, accounting for 60% of the casualty figures. PMB ordered the lockdown of Lagos and Abuja, when the country had less than150 active confirmed cases, but is now ready to release the people, at a time the country is recording cases in tens of thousands. How safe is the society?

Although the government said places of worship would only be permitted to operate under regulations, there would be full opening for the financial sector, with banks allowed to operate with more working hours five days a week. This means full public interactions in some places, under the expectation that they would ensure the observance of all the protocols, particularly social distancing and the wearing of face masks. Temperature control measures would be put in place to restrict those manifesting symptoms of the disease. Good. But what about the asymptomatic, who don’t show symptoms of the disease? Has the government entered into any covenance with the virus on these patients? If not, then how safe is the society?

According to medics, when someone has the common symptoms associated with a disease or condition, they are considered symptomatic. On the other hand, when a disease exists without noticeable symptoms, the person is asymptomatic. This means, if you are asymptomatic, you don’t show any signs of being sick. Therefore, the asymptomatic is referred to as a patient who has been exposed to an illness or is sick but doesn’t have any symptoms. Since thermometers cannot detect the asymptomatic, is it safe for people to mingle freely with such patients around?

Results from many tests, showed that those who are asymptomatic appear to have the same viral load as the symptomatic patients. The implication of this is that, whether or not the person shows symptoms, he or she carries the same amount of virus inside him or her. This means transmission can continue from both the symptomatic and asymptomatic, all of whom are now free to visit the banks and places of worship.

Because of the peculiar behavior of this virus, community spread is much more easy. Medics say with other viruses, one becomes contagious only when he has the symptoms, but the reverse is possible with Covid-19, thereby making it much harder to contain. Then how safe is the society?

The issue even becomes more distressing when we take into account the words of caution from Dr. Aliyu Sani, the PTF National Coordinator on Covid-19, wherein he advised those above the age of 50years, to avoid public places, saying, “first, when we look at the death rate for persons who have died from Covid-19 in Nigeria, the case fatality rate; more than half of those that died were above the age of 50. Secondly, the case fatality rate if you are above the age of 50, is 17 per cent. If you are above the age of 55, it is 18 per cent. It is almost a one in five chances of dying if you catch COVID-19 and you fall within that group. Worshippers should be reminded not to attend in person if experiencing common symptoms of Covid-19, including fever, cough and shortness of breath or have had close contact with an infected person in the last 14 days. All worshippers noted to have temperature or are symptomatic should be turned back and not allowed admission”. The question now is, what is the fate of other worshippers in the midst of the asymptomatic worshippers? With the new freedom of movement, how would you know if you’ve had contact with the asymptomatic in the last 14 days? Is the society safe?

Like many countries of the world, Nigeria is still kneeling on bended knees as far as the effect of the Coronavirus is concerned. Every country is chocking with the pain of the pandemic, because the virus is yet to be contained. The search for a near perfect code of public safety is still a challenge.

However, whatever may be the shortcomings of the social distancing protocol, and the crisis occasioned by the dilemma of moving in the midst of the asymptomatic, they have come with a desirable sense of sanity and a helpful matrimonial moral etiquette, particularly the warning that people should be wary of who they hug and kiss outside, as some may be asymptomatic patients on parole.

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