If you walk around any Nigerian city and try to discuss the coronavirus disease with residents, you’ll be surprised that many people actually think it’s a scam.
In the past few weeks, I have had several conversations about the disease with people like my mechanic, plumber, office staff, and even bolt drivers. Many people believe that it exists in the western world but isn’t in Nigeria and that the government is using it as an excuse to limit religious gatherings and raise money from donors by artificially increasing the number of cases.
Some go further by saying that since they don’t know a single person who’s been infected, it’s definitely a lie.
While one can empathize with their points because the government hasn’t done much to earn its citizens’ trust, the disease is far from being a lie and truly exists. Here are some things to consider before labeling it a scam.
Doctor’s Actually See COVID-19 Patients
Even if you don’t believe what the government says about this topic, you should at least trust information by healthcare professionals who have no ties to the government and have no reason to deceive you.
Many healthcare professionals aren’t even a fan of the Nigerian government and will be glad to expose such if untrue. They have even declared warning strikes recently to complain that they weren’t given enough personal protective equipment to fight the disease.
If the disease wasn’t real, why will they be concerned about their own safety and that of their families?
To be more practical, ask a doctor or nurse or any other health professional you know about their opinion of the coronavirus outbreak and they’ll be in a hurry to tell you this fact: it is real.
Nigeria Is Very Much Connected Globally
If many Nigerians actually believe the disease exists in other countries, why should they think Nigeria was spared despite having a relatively busy international airport and received daily flights from many affected countries?
Prior to the shutdown of the airports, the Lagos airport had daily flights to and from popular cities like London, Dubai, and Atlanta. All these cities reported many cases of COVID-19 and with the number of people commuting, it was bound to come to Nigeria, especially since travel wasn’t restricted until quite late.
Globally, the virus causing the pandemic has infected more than 17 million people and caused more than 600,000 deaths. In Nigeria, there have been more than 42,000 reported cases and over 800 people have died from the disease. The number being reported in Nigeria is possibly significantly less than the true picture since we haven’t started widespread mass testing for the disease.
People Have Actually Been Dying
Many people who have been otherwise medically fine have been dying recently after a diagnosis of COVID-19. If the government could accept that one of its popular figures died from the disease, it should tell you how widespread it actually is.
A former governor who was not known to be chronically ill got the disease and eventually died from it. His cause of death was very much made public.
If you still don’t believe these high profile deaths, you can try to ask your doctor friends or relatives if they know anyone who’s died from the disease, they’ll likely answer in the affirmative.
Personally, I know a couple of people who have died from the disease including a long-time driver of a very close family. Even people who survive it sometimes live with serious complications like scarred lungs.
The reality is that the families of people who died from the disease don’t make public the cause of death to avoid any stigma or unnecessary attention. This is why you probably don’t know any person who’s died from the disease.
How To Stay Safe
At the moment, the disease doesn’t have a vaccine to prevent it or specific medication to cure it. So, the best way to stay safe is to follow the specific prevention tips below.
1. Wear a Mask
COVID-19 is spread by inhaling respiratory droplets. So, when you’re in public, please wear a mask. This has been proven to limit the spread of the disease. It works in two ways. If everyone wears a mask, those infected will not be able to spread it to the people around them. Also, those wearing a medical mask won’t be able to get it from others if they use it correctly.
2. Wash Your Hands Often
Hand washing saves lives. It helps to remove germs that may have accumulated on your hands in the course of your day including the virus that causes COVID-19. Another route through which the virus spreads is if people touch their face after touching a contaminated surface.
Wash your hands with soap as frequently as possible. If you’re out of your house, always carry a hand sanitizer. It also works.
3. Maintain Social Distance
Keeping a distance of about 2 meters between yourself and others in public can go a long way in preventing COVID-19. This can help you when you also wear a mask. Social distancing is not a replacement for the need for a mask or hand washing. All three go together.
Article by Dr. Charles-Davies. A medical doctor based in Lagos.