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COVID-19: Nigeria had the opportunity to contain the virus but blew it

COVID-19: Nigeria had the opportunity to contain the virus but blew it
March 27
09:02 2020

BY TAOPHEEK BABAYEJU

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On the 11th of  January 2020, China reported the first novel coronavirus related death of a 61-year-old man who had visited the animal market in Wuhan. Twelve days later, exactly on the 23rd, China took a proactive measure by imposing a strict lockdown in Wuhan, suspending flights and trains and shutting down subways, buses and ferries in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.

On the 21st of January after, a man in his 30s from Washington state, who had traveled to Wuhan, was the first diagnosed case of the deadly #CoronaVirus in the United States. A day before, Japan, South Korea and Thailand also report their first cases.

On the 5th of February, more than 3,600 passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship were quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, Japan, while passengers and crew undergo health screenings. The number of confirmed cases on board the ship would eventually swell to more than 700, making it one of the largest outbreaks outside of China.

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On the 14th of February, Africa recorded the first confirmed case on the continent in Egypt. Nigeria did nothing, the government made no pronouncements of proactive measures to fight the impending danger. On the 27th of February, the first known and confirmed case of coronavirus was recorded when an Italian citizen tested positive for the virus in Lagos,  Nigeria. Consequently, on the 9th of March, the second case of the virus was reported in Ewekoro, Ogun State, of a Nigerian citizen who had contact with the Italian citizen.

The Lagos State government and the neighbouring Ogun State swung into action with measures  aimed at containing the pandemic. The NCDC has also played it’s part based on its mandate to control diseases. But our borders remained opened without clear procedures to screen passengers and isolate both foreigners and Nigerians citizens coming from the already infected countries.

The Nigerian government announced the closure of land borders only two days ago when the virus had found it’s way into major cities, claiming its first victim and infected top government officials. How could a nation with the largest population in Africa, with obviously poor health system be so careless? Between February and now, we did not make provision for isolation centres in the six geo-political zones, no ventilators or deployment of healthcare practitioners in readiness for the worst. The citizens also, instead of putting pressure at right quarters were busy creating jokes out of a very bad situation.

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The government should have proactively shut down the boarders over a month ago, even before any case is detected, and make special arrangements to quarantine Nigerian citizens returning into the country, in order to curb the spread of the virus. It is a known fact that Nigerians are everywhere, China, US, Europe, UK and all the infected countries. Almost every politician or well-to-do family has their kids studying abroad, perhaps the more reason why it was difficult for our politicians to take the right decision at the right time.

Judging by the timelines of the spread of the virus, Nigeria had all the opportunities to minimize the spread of the virus, but like every thing else we chose to react instead of being prepared. Now that virus has succeeded in penetrating the highest and the low, may be we will learn to take pragmatic and proactive decisions for the sake of the majority above the sentimental comfort of the privileged few. As for the masses that have started jubilating about the infection of highly placed individuals, Covid-19 is an epidemic, nobody is safe, hence we are all at risk.

Let us all #StaySafe and #TakeResponsibility.

Babayeju is a former vice-president of Project Management Institute, Nigeria.

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