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Which Way Nigeria?WHO Declares Coronavirus A Pandemic

Which Way Nigeria?WHO Declares Coronavirus A Pandemic

BY: MEDINAH SALIU

The last pandemic declared by the WHO was the influenza outbreak in 2009.

At the time, the decision was criticized by some countries which felt that it caused unnecessary panic. It also led to many nations wasting money on vaccines for a strain of flu that proved to be mild and relatively easy to contain. That may explain the delay in the WHO declaring the COVID-19 a global pandemic.

Nevertheless, yesterday March 11, 2020, after careful consideration of its impact across the world, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. TedrosAdhanom at a COVID-19 media briefing declared the coronavirus a global pandemic. He said:

“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction”

“We have therefore assessed that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic”

Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary sufferings and deaths.

Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn’t change what the WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do. We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus.

And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time.”

But what does this mean, and what are the implications, especially to Nigeria currently?

When Virus Spread Is A Pandemic, What does this mean?

Pandemic is the term used by disease experts when epidemics are growing in multiple countries and continents at the same time. This is different from an epidemic which is an outbreak that even though out of control is still limited to just one country or location.

So quite simply put, the coronavirus has labelled a pandemic because of the numbers, it is a widespread human to human transmission, it is in several countries and continents, and it affects a large number of people. According to the world health organization, there is a recorded over 4,500 deaths, and over 120,000 confirmed infections in over 120 countries.

Other examples of a pandemics include HIV which has killed over 30million people since 1981, swine flu and the 1918 Spanish flu which killed between 20-50million people. Some of the most deadly pandemics in history were the Black Death, which killed up to 200 million people in the middle Ages, and smallpox, which killed about 300 million in the 20th century alone.

The Corona Effect on Nigeria And World Economy…

As Seen in the past pandemics, there has been a lot of scare around the spread of the coronavirus, millions of people are under citywide lockdowns in China and recently in Italy. Global markets are crashing with falling oil prices as a result of reduced oil demand caused by the lowered global economic activity because of the virus outbreak, and the current oil war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Oil price is at a record $30 per barrel, hitting Nigeria hard because of our mono-economy which is dependent majorly on oil.

The Nigerian government has proposed a cut in the 2020 budget, though the size of the budget cut is still unclear, the Minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed, speaking after a meeting with the President said a committee which includes Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC and the Central Bank Governor and herself, would determine the size of the budget cut in the coming days.

Is Nigeria Ready For The Anticipated Impact of The Coronavirus?

Nigeria like most countries has been grossly underprepared for the coronavirus, the minister of health after a Federal Executive council meeting in February stated that the country had only three laboratories to confirm coronavirus infection. The laboratory located in Abuja, Lagos, and Edo state is unable to test every case of common cold across the country for possible coronavirus infection.

There is also the Nigerian self-medication culture for mild illnesses that invariably means that as we speak, there may already be hundreds of coronavirus infections across the country as opposed to the two officially confirmed cases, with a daily uncontrollable spread, facilitated by our continued large gathering engagements.

Nigeria is barely able to curtail the spread of the recent Lassa fever outbreak, which so far according to the world health organization, has seen the country managing about 472 cases with 70 deaths. 26 out of 36 states have been affected in just one month. There have also been fifteen confirmed cases of Lassa fever among health workers with one death. This is an endemic mirror of the current situation with the corona which has just been declared a pandemic. A fast spread within a short period that sees health workers at the front line of combating the virus, also infected.

As the world faces confusion on ways to manage the spread of this virus, it is obvious that as a nation we must wake up from this current inaction and do everything to curtail the spread while hoping for a vaccine in the months ahead.

The major preventive method still includes good personal hygiene, washing of hands regularly, avoiding hands touching our face and distancing yourself from people who are sick. Also seek medical attention if you have symptoms like coughing, difficulty breathing and fever.

We must all continue to hope and hold on to dire words of encouragement like those shared by the Director-General of the World Health Organization at the March 9th media briefing, He said:

“We are not at the mercy of this virus,” 

“All countries must aim to stop transmission and prevent the spread of COVID-19, whether they face no cases, sporadic cases, clusters or community transmission.

“Let hope to be the antidote to fear.

Let solidarity be the antidote to blame.

Let our shared humanity be the antidote to our shared threat”