Please, excuse me if the above headline sounds offensive; it is not intended to be so, but rather influenced by an annoying acquiescence of the custodians of our healthcare system to an obviously serious national issue.
Put mildly, it is to nudge them to the reality of danger and its associated consequences staring everyone in the face. It is talking about, arguably, the most ravaging virus that has ever touched mankind.
If, in trying to drum home the danger waiting I sound like an alarmist, so be it. Otherwise, how would one be able to underscore not just this issue at hand, but also the necessity of confronting it very swiftly?
However, if calling me an alarmist will save millions of lives or stave off Africa especially Nigeria from the epicentre of the coronavirus scorge, so be it. It will be another feather added to my cap, and another name among several names I have been called justified or not, during my sojourn in life. The virus is deadly and not only is it in Africa, and Nigeria, it is spreading like wildfire.
The global economic consequences of coronavirus are enormous. The economic uncertainty it has sparked is likely to result in a global recession and investors are not smiling about it.
We are witnesses to the ripple effect it is having on the airline industry and the energy sector, as well as the disruptions in the global supply chain, tourism sector and the stock market. We have also seen steps taken by various countries to either avert the disease making more inroads or mitigate its overall effect.
Reactionary measures include slashing of interest rates except for our beloved country Nigeria anyway, just to mention a few.
Apart from the economic impact, the traumatic human consequences are devastating, and this has been occasioned by more than 7000 deaths and 182000 infected globally.
As already inferred, the African continent is not also spared consequences of this ravaging menace, as the virus is in 21 countries in the continent already. It is not surprising therefore that some parts of Africa are on virtual lockdown with businesses and schools closed down for a minimum of 4 weeks. The threat of Coronavirus is real.
The world powers are trembling; and for the minnows, there is no more space for the illusion that Coronavirus is not here. The global health care system is already being stretched and the situation is worse at country levels. An example is the Italy health care system, which in normal climes is regarded as one of the best in the world, yet already feeling the impact of the virus.
If this is the reality, the question to ask is, how capable is Nigeria in dealing with the menace. Is Nigeria capable of mobilizing the resources and marshalling the logistics needed to contain the virus?
Are the medics mobilized and motivated? Is there a counter blueprint from the centre to the lowest cadre in the healthcare delivery chain? What level of awareness is available to the citizenry?
In the case of an identified incident, who spearheads countermeasures? What level of assurance can the citizens get that their leaders are on the top of the matter? Obviously, many more questions than there are answers.
If Italy, with its level of development generally, and sophistication in healthcare delivery particularly, is already going prostrate, what hope is there for Nigeria. Now, the idea is not to sound hopeless, but to drum home the point that there is work to do.
Nigeria could easily be the epicentre of Coronavirus pandemic in Africa for obvious reasons, political instability, corruption, limited institutional capacity, inadequate numbers and training of medical personnel and human capital flight all considerable factors.
Lagos may be the most sophisticated Nigerian state, but it is not by any means isolated from the apparent danger. As a matter of fact, it could be the most vulnerable given such factors as high population density and the congestion.
What is commendable however are the flashes of seriousness toward containing coronavirus. These include the intensity of sensitisation programmes and the setting up of testing centres for suspected cases.
Nonetheless, there is still more that needs to be done especially in the area of providing enough beds for victims. There is no doubt, the administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu inherited an epileptic healthcare system that needs a total to revamp and the emergence of this virus is the trigger needed to rev up the programme.
It is commendable that the Lagos State Ministry of health has risen to the challenge of the time, its inadequacies notwithstanding. The awareness program of Lagos State Government must be taken to a remote part of Epe, Ikorodu and Badagry possibly making use of Town criers
It will not be out of place to expect the next six months or thereabout focused on plugging all identified loopholes in responding adequately to the challenges presented by this scourge.
China has responded in a way that throws a challenge: building a 1000 additional bed capacity hospital to soak in emergent cases. At this juncture, one is tempted to ask: what is the combined capacity of our health facilities, from state to the federal level?
What is the number in Lagos? From the very basic, how many ventilators do we have in Lagos, before we move up to the centre? Indeed, are our medical personnel being trained now on how to, not only handle coronavirus but react in the face of any other emergent national challenge
It is clear from what has happened in the last few days that. Nigeria is as vulnerable as any other country. It has thus far recorded 3 confirmed cases. For one, adequate testing is not a reality yet, so we can’t have figures that could be reliable. There could be more if adequate testing procedures are available. This in itself calls for an increase in the number of test centres.
There is also a need to intensify the level of awareness, with closer attention paid on ways of identifying the symptoms as well as the best preventive measures.
As already publicized, if there was a time to avoid crowded meetings and gathering it is now. Even social hugging and shaking should be reduced to the barest minimum in fact totally avoided where possible. Social distancing as advocated by experts is the key and not social hugging that is prevalent now in Nigeria.
Commendable is the actions of closing the nation’s borders as well as the shutting down of schools.
Don’t let anyone fool you, that we are immune. Take all necessary precaution. If there is anything that demands the most of precision and dedication in containing, it is the coronavirus. God help us.