By Ogbuagu ANIKWE
Nigerians are desperately trying to cope with the depression occasioned by our harsh economic conditions. Many will be too happy to comply with the suggestion that Covid-19 is an irritation that should not add to the things that cost us sleep. And thousands will die as a consequence.
On Corona Virus (hereinafter referenced as Covid-19), I have deliberately chosen to interrogate from the space where the truth is currently being tortured by conspiracy theories, fear of a potential world pandemic, and mass hysteria over the prospects of such a pandemic occurring. It is from this space of confusion that I peer at a band of social media netizens gradually gathering to downplay the devastating impact of Covid-19 which is currently flying at supersonic speed to various city destinations in the world from its take-off point, the city of Wuhan, China.
I know that where I stand to look is shaky ground, especially because I do not possess scientific qualifications to make an authoritative alternative pronouncement to what the netizens are saying. I am however persuaded to jump in because neither do members of this happy band, including our Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu. And because we all know that anyone can deploy statistics to mislead.
On the last day of 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) alerted us about Covid-19. Spread on the wings of migrations that occur every mid-January from the Chinese New Year celebration, the virus has today, and in less than three months, spread to 76 countries, infected over 93,000 and led to more than 3,000 deaths.
This is a note of caution to the Covid-19 feel-good islanders, those seeking to reassure us through statistics that compare how we die from Corona from death by other causes. They tell us, and demonstrate with statistics, that compared to other diseases that we take in our strides such as malaria, AIDS, diabetes, cancer and the like, the number of deaths so far from Covid-19 is not such that people of the world should be whipped into mass hysteria. Their point is that more people are killed each day and every month by other diseases listed above than Covid-19 has comparatively managed to achieve in its 7-week run on earth. Since we no longer worry about prior diseases with more deathly impact, Covid-19 should be the least of our problems.
Here are four reasons why I consider this a nonsensical approach, guaranteed to promote the spread of the virus in Nigeria in particular.
One: We are at a point where those with expert knowledge on the virus have maintained that no cure has yet been found for Covid-19 and that the virus is very easy to contract once someone comes in contact with a carrier or the imprints they leave behind. Is this to be taken for granted?
Two: Malaria is curable, HIV is haltable, while diabetes and cancer can be managed for months and years. Corona Virus is a black and white, hit or miss disease that does not brook management of its undetected cases. Compared to HIV which could manifests in two weeks, Covid-19 takes double the time for symptoms to appear. Can we afford to relax?
Three: the epidemic is currently infecting people of the world at an average rate of over 40 percent per week. Epidemics and pandemics are a different class of diseases which, if urgent and mass action were to be ignored, will inevitably lead to wipe out of entire populations. Can we afford this?
Four. If we listen to conspiracy theorists, these modern disease outbreaks are outcomes of deliberate releases (or accidental escapes) of animals used as experiments in the development of physical or population war vaccines. Yesterday, African monkeys were the culprits when HIV was announced. Today, with Covid-19, we hear that bats are to blame. In Africa, it is the rat with many breasts that infects humans with Lassa Fever virus, and bats with Ebola. In every case, all that is required is for one person to make physical contact with the “released or escaped” animal and the rest is history.
Reassuring us that there is minimal danger for Nigeria from Covid-19 is the surest way to fulfill the predictions of both the science experts and conspiracy theorists that the world has seen nothing yet on the potential havoc that the virus can wreak, should any country relax her guards.
Here is my point. Shock therapy used to be a tried and tested treatment for people with depressive symptoms. Majority of Nigerians are desperately trying to cope with the depression occasioned by our harsh economic conditions. Many will be too happy to comply with the suggestion that Covid-19 is an irritation that should not add to the things that cost us sleep. And thousands will die should the virus imported by the Italian spread.
I argue that we should administer the shock therapy to awaken our depressed citizens to the dangers of Covid-19. We have always achieved outstanding success with this strategy to contain severe intermittent virus challenges.