By Gbenga Odunsi
As Nigeria further shuts down in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and more cases are being recorded in the country, Information Nigeria takes a look at how the outbreak is affecting the entire nation.
Editor’s Note: This piece will be updated as more reports come in.
In December 2019, public health officials from China informed the World Health Organization that they had a problem: an unknown, new virus was causing pneumonia-like illness in the city of Wuhan. They quickly determined that it was a coronavirus, which is part of the family of viruses that also caused the SARS outbreak. The disease however spread through and outside of Wuhan.
Early evidence suggested that, like other coronaviruses, the virus jumps between people who are in very close contact with each other. It also probably spreads when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Coughs and sneezes produce little droplets of mucus and saliva. If these droplets make it into another person’s eyes, mouth or nose, they can get sick. The viruses in those little droplets can also fall onto surfaces, like tables or doorknobs — if someone touches that surface and touches their eyes, mouth or nose, they can also get sick
The virus is now spreading in dozens of countries around the world. So far, the virus has spread to no less than 190 countries and territories, including Nigeria; over 640,589 people persons have been infected, and nearly 109,000 people have recovered; while more than 29,848 people globally have died from the virus.
What is happening in Nigeria
As Nigeria further shuts down in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, more cases are now being recorded in the country. The virus is spreading through the country, and multiple states and have made emergency declarations. Hot spots include Lagos and Abuja. Other states include Edo, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti, Bauchi, Niger, Osun, among others
Although some states have not recorded outbreak of the virus, they have, however, put measures in place to curb and contain the spread of COVID-19. These measures and their attendant effects will be discussed in subsequent paragraphs.
Education – Closure of schools
The Federal Ministry of Education on March 19 ordered the immediate closure of all educational institutions in the country which includes primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions nationwide.
This directive, Information Nigeria understands, is a precautionary step aimed at preventing the spread of the dreaded coronavirus which has become a global threat.
After the Federal government took the decision to close all of the country’s schools and universities amid the outbreak, many say the measure puts too much pressure on working parents – and won’t help anyway. Feelers pointed out that closing schools seem like an unusual way to go about halting a disease if parents would still go to the office, get exposed to the virus, and return home to their children.
In addition to the closure of schools, the federal government also ordered suspension of orientation and other activities by the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). The orientation exercise commenced on 10 March and was expected to end on 30 March, before it was suspended after just 8 days.
Transportation – Lagos, Oyo States issue guidelines for public transportation
On 23rd march, Lagos State Government issued public transport guidelines to operators and passengers to curb further spread of the coronavirus in buses, cabs, motor parks, and garages.
Information Nigeria understands that the measures were parts of government’s efforts to further prevent a state-widespread of COVID-19. According to Lagos government, it is compulsory for all transport operators to sanitize their parks and garages regularly and continuously at least before and after each trip; All Operators are not allowed to overcrowd or overload their vehicles; there should be no standing in all Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the Lagos Bus Service Limited (LBSL) bus operations; all drivers and conductors should always wear hand gloves and nose guides while in transit.
To further contain the spread of the virus, the Lagos government commenced massive disinfection of usually crowded bus stops, car parks, markets and other public spaces.
On its part, the Oyo state government issued new guidelines on public transportation to ensure proper hygienic standards. The guidelines, amongst others, stated that there must be a minimum of one seat interval between passengers, while tricycles are limited to three passengers and commercial motorcycles are limited to one passenger only.
According to Information Nigeria’s investigation, very few public transporters adhered to the guidelines in Lagos. On three separate occasions when our correspondent made use of public transport, hand sanitizers were not available on the buses. This non-adherence, however, is a sharp contrast to the nation’s fight against COVID-19.
Travel and Tourism industry records lose over travel ban
Nigeria adopted sweeping measures to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, including full lockdowns, shutting down airports, imposing travel restrictions and completely shutting of borders.
On March 18, the government announced it was restricting entry into the country for travellers from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, the US, Norway, the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Those coming from high-risk countries are asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Nigeria expanded its restrictions on March 21, announcing it will close its two main international airports in the cities of Lagos and Abuja from March 23 for one month.
On 10 March, Turkish Airlines cancelled all their flights to Nigeria due to the virus outbreak. On March 20, Nigeria announced the closure of their international airports, Enugu, Port Harcourt and Kano airports from 21 March. It further announced the closure of the remaining two international airports, Abuja and Lagos, from 23 March.
The travel industry is one of the most affected by the coronavirus global outbreak. Investigation by Information Nigeria’s Amaka Odozi reveals that travel ban and restrictions have dealt a huge blow on travels and tours industry.
During a phone interview with a Travels and Tour company in Lagos, an employee, who does not want her name in print said the effect of the virus on the travel industry is ‘high’ and ‘tiring’. She stressed that customers are constantly calling to request for refunds of their money and to change their travel plans. Another employee from the same company said: “Booking tickets and vacation for customers is what we do for a living, but now, we are not doing anything.”
Religions adapting to coronavirus
From changing rituals to going digital, churches, mosques, and synagogues across the country are adjusting to fit the new reality
With the number of coronavirus cases on the rise, Nigerians have adjusted to holding Sunday service at home. The Nigerian family typically attends service in the Church, but both states and federal governments have placed restrictions on large gatherings, ordering Churches not to hold service of more than 50 members per time.
While few churches did not gather at all for worship, others did in a bid to call on God for his intervention.
Here’s how some churches, mosques are handling the outbreak.
Winners Chapel with headquarters in Sango Ota, in Ogun state, held church service with few members. Findings by Information Nigeria reveals that Pentecostal Churches in Ikorodu area of Lagos held services on 29 March.
Churches are adjusting to livestreaming to reach their followers. The Redeemed Christian Church of God and other prominent big churches in Nigeria live-streamed its service n YouTube on March 29.
Muslims are not taking the ban on religious gathering with kids glove. In Katsina, some protesting youths burnt down a police station, seven cars, two motorcycles because police officers prevented them from observing their Juma’at prayers.
Nigeria’s economy on the brink
With falling oil prices amid the coronavirus pandemic, Nigeria is predicting a recession that could lead to a devaluation of its national currency.
Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, warned that Nigeria might go into another round of recession if the Coronavirus disease persists beyond the next 6 months. The minister stated that the Federal and the State governments would struggle in terms of revenue, as long as the crude oil price is as low as $30 or below $30 per barrel.
Reason for the dwindling economy is not far-fetched. As the country battles COVID-19, several companies have shut down operations, including Travels and Tourism companies; some other organizations have asked their staff to work from home; states and federal governments have asked public servants from level 1-12 to work from home. The work-from-home order would last indefinitely until the government reviews the situation and decides that it is safe to go back to work.
The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) also directed its members, who are petroleum tanker drivers, petrol station workers, petroleum depot workers, independent marketers’ employees, oil and gas suppliers, surface tankers, kerosene peddlers, and liquefied petroleum gas retailers to stay at home.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad ordered all courts in Nigeria to shut down from 24 March. The federal government also ordered the closure of all land borders for four weeks; The Nigerian Senate adjourned plenary to 7 April, while the Nigerian House of Representatives adjourned indefinitely.
As of time of this report, Lagos, Niger, Oyo, Ogun, Rivers, Osun, Kwara, Ebonyi, Ekiti Kaduna, Kano have ordered the closure of markets to prevent the spread of the virus. Some of these states have also announced an indefinite closure of their sea, air and land borders into and out of the state
Some states that have not implemented closure of markets have however placed ban on clubs, event centres, weddings, seminars, conferences, burials and other large gatherings, except places where food, water and medicals are sold.
Several Nigerian states have enforced total lockdown, restricting movement of residents of the states, as well as closing all business premises.
These directives, coupled with earlier mentioned, have forced the country to record a further drop in economic activities.
List of events and activities cancelled in Nigeria over COVID-19
Comedians and entertainers, schools, politicians across the country are cancelling events in an effort to slow the spread of the novel COVID-19. The situation is has caused panic in the country and state governments, and federal authorities have issued guidance as the disease spreads. Here is a list of some events and activities Information Nigeria knows have been cancelled.
The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) postponed the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) for school candidates indefinitely.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released a statement informing the general public that bye-elections across the country have been postponed indefinitely as a result of coronavirus pandemic.
Popular actress, Toyin Abraham took to her Instagram page to announce that the release of her movie ‘Fate of Alakada’ has been postponed till further notice.
Afro-soul superstar, Bukola Elemide, popularly known as Asa, cancelled her ‘Lucid’ concert in Nigeria due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Comedian, I Go Dye postponed his 25th-anniversary show which was billed to take place on the 12th of April, over Coronavirus concerns.
The federal government postponed the National Sports Festival (NSF), tagged Edo 2020.
President Muhammadu Buhari approved the indefinite suspension of the All Progressives Congress’ (APC) National Executive Council (NEC) meetings.
Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC) announced postponement of its annual convention that attracts thousands of delegates.
National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) abruptly ended activities at orientation camps across the country.
Organisers of GOtv Boxing Night, Flykite Productions, announced the postponement of the 21st edition of the event.
Symptoms of the virus
Information Nigeria understands that COVID-19 typically causes flu-like symptoms including fever and cough, according to the World Health Organisation, WHO.
In some patients – particularly the elderly and others with other chronic health conditions – these symptoms can develop into pneumonia, with chest tightness, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
It seems to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough.
After a week, it can lead to shortness of breath, with about 20% of patients requiring hospital treatment.
Notably, the COVID-19 infection rarely seems to cause a runny nose, sneezing, or sore throat (these symptoms have been observed in only about 5% of patients). Sore throat, sneezing, and stuffy nose are most often signs of a cold.
Cases recorded In Nigeria so far
On 27 February, Nigeria confirmed its first case in Lagos State, an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria had returned on 25 February from Milan, Italy through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, fell ill on 26 February and was transferred to Lagos State Biosecurity Facilities for isolation and testing.
On 9 March, the second case was confirmed, a Nigerian citizen in Ewekoro, Ogun State who had contact with the Italian citizen.
On 13 March, Nigeria confirmed that the second case no longer had the virus in his system and thus tested negative.
On 17 March, Nigeria confirmed the third case in Lagos State, A 30-year-old Nigerian female citizen that returned on 13 March from the United Kingdom.
On 18 March, Nigeria confirmed five new cases of the virus, four of the new cases were discovered in Lagos State, while one was discovered in Ekiti State.
On 19 March, Nigeria confirmed four new cases of the virus in Lagos State. The Nigerian government also announced that the Italian citizen who brought coronavirus to Nigeria has tested negative and was discharged the following day.
On 21 March, Nigeria confirmed ten new cases, seven in Lagos State, three in the FCT.
On 22 March, Nigeria confirmed eight new cases, six in Lagos State, one in Oyo State and one in the FCT.
On 23 March, Nigeria confirmed ten new cases, six in Lagos State, three in the FCT and one in Edo State. They also confirmed their first death, a 67-year-old male who returned from the United Kingdom with underlying health conditions.
On 24 March, Nigeria confirmed four new cases, one in Lagos State, one in Ogun State, one in Bauchi State and one in the FCT.
On 25 March, Nigeria confirmed seven new cases, three in Lagos State, one in Osun State, one in Rivers State and two in the FCT.
On 26 March, Nigeria confirmed fourteen new cases, twelve in Lagos State, one in Bauchi State and one in the FCT.
On 27 March, Nigeria confirmed sixteen new cases, eight in Lagos State, three in the FCT, two in Enugu State, two in Oyo State and one in Edo State.
On 28 March, Nigeria confirmed eight new cases, seven in Lagos State and one in Benue State. On same day, Kaduna state governor, Nasir El-rufai tested positive for coronavirus.
On 29 March, Nigeria confirmed sixteen new cases: nine in Lagos State, and five in the FCT.
On 30 March, Nigeria confirmed twenty new cases: thirteen in Lagos State, four in the FCT, two in Kaduna State and one in Oyo State. Five new persons were discharged with one new death. The suspected cases that Nigeria was tracing rose to 6,000.
On 1 April, Nigeria confirmed thirty-five new cases: nine in Osun State, nine in Lagos State, seven in the FCT, five in Akwa Ibom State, two in Edo State, one in Ekiti State, one in Kaduna State and one in Bauchi State.
On 2 April, Nigeria confirmed ten new cases: seven in Lagos State and three in the FCT.
On 3 April, Nigeria confirmed six new cases in Osun State.
On 4 April, Nigeria confirmed five new cases: three in Bauchi State, and two in the FCT.[53
On 5 April, Nigeria confirmed eighteen new cases: eleven in Lagos State, four in the FCT, two in Edo State, and one in Kaduna State.
On 6 April, Nigeria confirmed six new cases: two in Kwara State, two in Edo State, one in Rivers State, and one in the FCT.
On 7 April, Nigeria confirmed sixteen new cases: ten in Lagos State, two in the FCT, two in Oyo State, one in Delta State, and one in Katsina State.
How to stay safe
Based on what we know so far, you can protect yourself with the same measures you’d take (and should be taking) to protect yourself against the flu: wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, and stay away from people who are ill.
Stay at home if you’re feeling sick, and if you can, stay at home even if you’re not feeling sick. If you’re older or have a chronic health condition — which makes you more likely to have a severe case of the disease — you might want to stay away from crowded places, and postpone any unnecessary travel.
If you’re a young, healthy person, you might not feel very sick if you catch COVID-19. But if you don’t stay home and away from others, you could pass it on to someone who might get really sick. That’s why it’s so important to stay home.
One of the best ways to slow the spread of an outbreak is by staying away from other people, which is also called “social distancing.”
That gives a virus less opportunity to jump from person to person. It’s why there aren’t going to be big events, professional sports, and in some places, school for a while.
Those measures help blunt the impact of an outbreak by slowing the virus. If fewer people get sick at once, it’s easier for healthcare providers to give everyone good care.