By Chika Otuchikere
Suddenly, Nigerians have started noticing a sharp decline in the figures of daily occurrence of the COVID-19 infections across the country.
In the last three or four days, there has been a steady receding of the figures posted by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and of course, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 with a record lowest figure reeled out for Monday, August 3, 2020. Monday’s figure was 288 infections across Nigeria.
While this development is giving many people hope of a gradual disappearance of the deadly virus on the shores of Nigeria, many others are uncomfortable with this situation primarily because, juxtaposed with other countries of the world where the figures out there are spiking with daily occurrences breaking records and fatalities showing no respite, the Nigerian case is sheer wonder.
Nigerians are torn between two contrasting possibilities; either the figures are going down because people are no longer contracting the virus and so, the virus is in its final phase of exit from the country or Nigerians are not coming forward for testing even when they find themselves experiencing any of the notable COVID-19 symptoms.
Going by what medical experts have postulated, the coronavirus is not expected to suddenly vanish from the face of the earth, humanity is sadly, fated to live with the virus for a long time to come. At best, a vaccine or vaccines will be developed to eliminate the virus’ potential to destroy people’s immunity and cause death. At the moment, there is no known vaccine and several touted medications used to treat patients of the infection have remained subjects of controversies.
One thing must be agreed among Nigerians; the country has not been conducting testing of citizens to any appreciable level. At the last count, the country, has managed to test about 200,000 after about five months since the first infection was recorded in Nigeria. This is about 0.1% of the country’s 200 million population. One could be justified to say that the country has not been conducting any testing of its citizens.
Most countries that have recorded very high figures of infections are said to have conducted extensive testing of its citizens. Some countries have tested more than 50% of its population. South Africa for instance, is reported to have conducted testing running into millions of its population and so, presently has the highest infection figures in Africa. Same thing applies to many other African countries. Lagos and Kano States purported to have populations of over 20 million each are still hovering around less than 30,000 testing for Lagos and far less for Kano. Nigeria with the largest population in Africa, is recording very low testing and accompanying low infections figures in comparison to its population.
The other factors one may ponder to consider whether the infection is actually dying out in Nigeria will be the enforcement and compliance with the COVID-19 protocols; including social distancing, wearing of face mask, and hygienic practices such as regular washing of hands, use of hand sanitisers and disinfection of contaminated surfaces.
In terms of propaganda and publicity of the COVID-19 protocols, the NCDC and the PTF could be said to have carried out a sizable publicity, thanks to the huge sum made available for that purpose which, by the way, needs accounting for. But propaganda and publicity alone cannot, on their own, do the miracle of winning the coronavirus war. This could have gone a long way to alert Nigerians of the presence and dangers of the virus. The truth, however, is that after money has done the publicity, the personnel employed or deployed for the enforcement of the protocol must be mobilized to enforce and ensure that the citizens do not flout the rules. In other words, after the publicity was carried out the enforcers did not do their jobs. They went to sleep expecting the citizens who had seen and heard the publicity to naturally fall in line.
It would be recalled that the government imposed a one-month lockdown during which they were expected to provide palliatives, both in kind and cash to the citizenry in order to cushion the effect of the lockdown in a country where majority of the citizens are wallowing in abject poverty. The funds were made available but were they deployed to address the needs of the people?
It is a general perception that people decided to take their destiny in their hands after they waited for the government’s palliatives which did not come. They hit the roads looking for their livelihood and in the process, broke all the lockdown rules. The various markets were brimming with people who were busy buying and selling in clear defiance of the lockdown rules. At the various markets, wearing of mask became the exception rather than the rules.
After the first phase of the lockdown, the figures spiked and the government’s agencies handling the pandemic admitted that the people had not strictly complied with the lockdown regulations. Notwithstanding this, however, the federal government eased the lockdown and ordered partial reopening of worship centers. Non compliance of the COVID-19 protocol became so pronounced as more people jettisoned the face mask thereby increasing the chances of further spread of the coronavirus.
The fault of lack of compliance with the COVID-19 protocols falls squarely on the desk of the NCDC, the PTF and the government of the day. There is an urgent need to probe the use of the funds raised for enforcement and mobilization. As it is now Nigerians may be seeing the declining figures of the infections and assuming that the virus is finding its way out of the country. Nigerians must, however, know that those tasked with the responsibility of monitoring closely the pandemic in Nigeria, never released any graph or chart showing when the country will reach its peak in occurrence and when the country is expected to begin to see a decline in the infection. The publicity has not stopped but the enforcement seems to have faded. The coming days and weeks will give the country a clearer picture of the actual situation.