Journalism in the service of society

The resurgence of COVID-19 Pandemic

LIKE an inscrutable nightmare, COVID-19 pandemic has continued to torment mankind more than a year after its outbreak. Since the onset of its second wave towards the end of November 2020, the pandemic which first broke out in November 2019 has become more ferocious. Deaths from the disease have risen rapidly and critical cases have also gone up as various governments have continued to take stricter measures to contain the spread of the virus. 

The number of deaths trailing this second wave across the world is frightening. Almost two million people have died as a result of the scourge, with most of them coming from Europe, the Americas, India and a relatively smaller number from Africa. It is not quite clear why the mortality rate is low in Africa. There are speculations however that it might be because of the demographic condition in Africa where about 60 per cent of our population is below 25 years old; meaning Africa has a relatively young and energetic population. 

It gives Africa some kind of consolation because the scourge ravages older people than the younger ones whose immune system is stronger than that of the elderly. Also, it has been said that Africans are so exposed to several other viral diseases that they tend to develop some kind of herd immunity to some of them, including the horrible ones. Whatever the explanation, it is obvious that we in Africa have not suffered the kind of extreme circumstances suffered in Europe, the United States of America, Brazil and India, where a country would bury up to 900 of its nationals within 72 hours. This assumed “immunity” is not enough reasons for us in Nigeria to take things for granted.

With the number of those declared COVID-19 positive and the deaths recorded so far, it is apparent that this second wave is already taking a toll on Nigerians, unlike what happened in the first case. As of late last week, more than 80 deaths had been recorded, according to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). More than 20 medical doctors have been confirmed dead in a space of three weeks while more than 50 critical cases was reported to be receiving oxygen at one Federal Capital Territory isolation centre alone. Although the NCDC also reported that there was a progressive drop in the number of deaths between September and November 2020, the situation got worse in December.

The Centre confirmed more than 70 deaths in December with more than 15,950 new cases although that wasn’t the highest for the year. The highest was in June when 305 casualties were recorded. Nigeria had its index case on February 27, 2020. The June figure was closely followed by 289 deaths in July. In March there were 229, with134 in August and 99 in September. It was 56 in April but dipped to 34 in October and 27 in November before the second wave set in. Despite the aggressive nature of the virus in the second wave, noncritical cases are treated at patients’ rooms.

Out of the more than 83,576 cases in Nigeria, the country has recorded more than 1,247 deaths. With 70,495 recoveries recorded, it means about 11,834 are still undergoing treatment. Out of the about 80,986,694 cases globally, about 1,769,824 deaths had been recorded as at last week, with 57,143,862 recoveries. Even as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that COVID-19 won’t be the last pandemic, the world is currently embroiled in the politics of vaccine for the virus.

It is unfortunate that while the rest of the civilised world are trying everything possible to contain the spread of the virus, some Nigerians are finding very irresponsible and spurious excuses not to adhere to the protocols established for its containment. While some have read political and esoteric meanings into the outbreak, treatment and containment protocols, others hide under the issue of religion to dismiss the development, thus exposing more people to ordinarily avoidable risks.

Some religious leaders who should be more interested in the safety and well-being of their members are pushed by certain considerations and prejudices to dismiss the scourge as irrelevant and a non-issue.

Our religious leaders should be careful not to drag the COVID-19 pandemic into the realm of religious speculation or dogma — and in the process create more problems for an already beleaguered society. Nothing is beyond God’s knowledge including the pandemic. God is omnipresent, including in our private homes. People can pray and worship God within their families at home and in small groups, as God who hears supplications of His people in the secrecy of their abodes is well able to reward them openly. Knowledge and wisdom are essential doctrines in the kingdom of God.

It is also rather curious to note that the same people who complain about the inadequacy of health facilities in the country and the alleged lackadaisical attitude of the authorities towards heath matters are the same who find it difficult to adhere to simple protocols that would help prevent the situation from degenerating into an emergency crisis situation. They forget that prevention is better than cure; assuming there is a chance of an effective cure.

We enjoin Nigerians to discard any prognostication that would belittle the severity of the scourge and keep observing safety measures put in place to prevent the continued spread of the virus. Unnecessary travelling should be avoided this year, and, even necessary, travels should be on priority basis only.

Given the tendency of our people to take things for granted, government has a responsibility to enforce compliance with the necessary protocols irrespective of individual or group perceptions and beliefs, because, at the end of the day, it will carry the blame and burden if the situation degenerates. Those opposing the protocols are only interested in their feelings and are not in a position to either accept or take responsibility for the fallouts.

Government should insist on the proper wearing of face masks and ensure it is compulsory; if not for the sake of the pessimists but for the sake of others and the vulnerable in the society. Government also has a responsibility of protecting law abiding citizens from deviant characters. While the non-conformists have the right to live their lives the way they want to, they do not have the right to imperil the lives of others.

It is necessary to re-emphasise the warning that people should avoid crowded places as much as possible. They should keep using alcohol-based sanitisers and observe other safety measures to mitigate infection. This is the only way that will guarantee safe environment and curb the spread of the virus.

We note the raging controversy over vaccines – including unfounded conspiracy theories — and advise against jumping into uninformed conclusions. The necessary clinical procedures should be allowed to determine the suitability or otherwise of the related or relevant vaccines. Government has a responsibility to protect the people but the people have a higher responsibility to avoid being casualties and creating avoidable problems for others and the society.

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