Nigeria, or shall I say Lagos State, the FCT Abuja, and Ogun State specifically are now in their second phase of the mandatory lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID19 virus with the anticipation of flattening the curve of expected spikes in the number of confirmed cases.
Based on NCDC data, as of April 15th Nigeria had a recorded a total of 407 confirmed cases and 11 deaths since the index case was reported in February. 128 patients had been discharged, indicating that there were still 279 active cases.
Over the past week, the daily average of new confirmed cases across the nation stands at 16 per day. This either points to the fact that there is more testing available or suggests that the virus now spreading to more communities outside of Lagos and Abuja.
Within that same time period, 77 people have been discharged from isolation and quarantine centres with an average of 11 people daily.
What this means is that we are discharging on average of 5 less people per day than we are confirming new cases.
This statistic points to the fact this virus is not spreading like wildfire in Nigeria in comparison to other countries that were hard hit such as Iran, Italy, and even the United States. This could be due to several measures that have been put in place to curb the spread, the possible underreporting of actual cases, or people who could be carrying the virus not presenting themselves for testing.
There are other communicable diseases in Nigeria, such as Lassa fever that have been around longer than COVID-19. According to NCDC, the current numbers for this disease stands at 963 confirmed cases with 188 deaths since this new outbreak was first recorded in January 2020. According to Wikipedia, Lassa fever is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus. The disease is initially spread to people via contact with the urine or faeces of an infected multimammate mouse. The spread of this virus can then occur via direct contact between people. Based on the numbers from the NCDC, Lassa fever is the deadliest disease in Nigeria with a mortality rate of 19% compared to that of COVID-19, which stands at 2%.
So, the burning question we must ask ourselves in complete honesty is why this elaborate reaction to COVID-19 and not Lassa fever?
In as much as we can crunch the global numbers which point to a pandemic across several countries, and the only responsible thing we must do is be proactive, we must ask ourselves if we are actually doing more harm than good given our own circumstances here in Nigeria.
Over the past few days during this lockdown period, we saw increased crime rates in Lagos and Ogun states with food stores and people’s homes being invaded by certain individuals looking for food. A vast majority of the population of these two states are day workers who earn through whatever means enough money to eat for that day or the next. The lockdown which stipulates a stay at home policy, restricted movement and the closure of several non-essential businesses has had an enormous impact on these workers in Lagos and Ogun states that depend heavily on daily commercial activity to survive.
Are we creating more problems with the measures we have taken to battle COVID19 with the possibility of social disorder due to the disruption to people’s lives with the economic fallout of the lockdown? Are we creating a pathway for Lassa fever to spread even further if people are expected to stay in their homes with erratic electrical power supply that prevents them from storing food properly which can bring about rodents that contribute towards the spread of Lassa? There are arguments that with no known cure or vaccine for COVID19, it poses a greater threat than Lassa which has a cure called the Ribavarian treatment, but how many people can either afford it or have access to it? These are things to think about.
Are we investing heavy resources to battle the possibility of a pandemic based on what has happened in other countries without contextualising what our environment truly needs in order not to create any further problems?
Nigeria has had to make tough decisions to combat this pandemic. Undoubtedly, some of these decisions, such as the lockdown, have had huge economic impacts on businesses and people and compounded the problem of poverty. Time will tell if we made the right decisions as a nation.
Nigeria needs to learn from this experience and take a harder look at what it must do to build a robust Public Health Sector that is properly equipped to respond to all communicable diseases. This will not only primarily save lives but also prevent social disorder from government interventions and save businesses and people from going into economic ruin.
Organisations must also take this opportunity to design and implement Business Continuity and Incidence Response plans that allow them to sustain themselves during a crisis and create innovative services and products that will best position them to reboot and recover post the pandemic.
People need to always have a personal and family plan of what they need to have in place during times of crisis.
By doing the above, government, private organisations, and people will at the least have a blueprint and framework of steps and processes to follow the next time (hopefully not soon), the world is faced with such a dilemma.
Senior Managing Consultant