The coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan – in China’s Hubei province, as a localized disease in 2019, and within a short time , it has rapidly crossed countries and continents and become a full-blown pandemic. The disease spread speedily and the first confirmed case of an infection in Nigeria was announced on 27 February 2020, when an Italian citizen in Lagos tested positive for the virus. On 9 March 2020, a second case of the virus was reported in Ewekoro, Ogun State by a Nigerian citizen who had a contact with the Italian citizen.
By 21 March, Nigeria confirmed 10 new cases: seven in Lagos State, and three in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. On 23 March, Nigeria confirmed its first casualty, a 67-year-old male who had returned from United Kingdom and had underlying health conditions. As of 7 April, 2020, a total of 238 cases were recorded
, with five deaths and 35 recovered.
The Government of Nigeria is trying its best to stop the spread of this pandemic and presently many states in Nigeria are in total or partial lockdown. On 28 January (a month before the first case of the virus emerged), the Federal Government had assured citizens of its readiness to strengthen surveillance at five international airports in the country to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) also announced that it had already set up a coronavirus group and was ready to activate its incident system if any case emerged in Nigeria. The government seems to have mobilized quickly – on 31 January, following the developments of the pandemic in mainland China and other countries worldwide, the Federal Government set up a Coronavirus Preparedness Group to mitigate the impact of the virus if it eventually spreads to the country. On the same day, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed Nigeria among the 13 African countries identified as high-risk for the spread of the virus. When on 27 February Nigeria reported its first coronavirus case, Nigeria’s Minister of Health announced that those 60 people who had a contact with the index Italian patient were under isolation – 40 in Ogun State and 20 in Lagos State.
President Buhari has established a Presidential Task Force for the control of the virus in the country. The Nigerian government quickly announced the closure of all educational institutions. It has also postponed the 20th National Sports Festival that was billed to hold in Benin City and the Nigeria Football Federation suspended all football activities for four weeks. On 18 March, the Federal Government announced that travellers from 13 high-risk countries would no longer be allowed to enter Nigeria until the Coronavirus pandemic was over. These are countries with over 1,000 cases domestically. The government also stopped issuance of visas from these countries.
Many states have stepped up to provide emergency isolation and treatment centers. The NCDC has been investing in epidemic-preparedness
over the past few years and has a well-established system of Public Health Emergency Operations Centers (PHEOCs) set up. It also puts out daily updates and issues public advisories. However, Nigeria may be grappling with a testing problem : As on 22 Mar, Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control has only tested about 152 people, which has probably led to a massive under-estimate
of the problem. The Federal Ministry of Health is working closely with States and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to review response activities, and initiate measures to protect the health and wellbeing of Nigerians. The Multi-Sectoral Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), led by NCDC, coordinates the national response activities. NCDC has also launched a WhatsApp Application: A free service set up to provide a central source of accurate, verified and current information on COVID-19 in Nigeria. The Minister of Health also emphasized that the NCDC hotline is available 24/7 and toll-free along with various states hotlines that could be called for direct state-specific questions on COVID-19. It urged its citizens to use them responsibly and for reporting legitimate cases and enquiries.
The government also took cognizance of the tremendous hardship posed by the imposition of a lockdown and President Buhari promised the provision of relief materials for the “most vulnerable”. However, this would no doubt be a limited exercise, considering that Nigeria is a major oil-producing country and its revenues have been devastatingly hit by the oil price crash in recent weeks. Even though the State has received donations from China as well as contributions from individuals and banks in Nigeria, the economic impact is already feeling like far more than the state can handle. Nigeria has therefore now requested $6.9bn from multilateral lenders
for its efforts. As the state scrambles to mobilise finances, its problems are mounting. Doctors in Abuja
- Nigeria’s capital city – went on strike recently due to not having been paid their salaries for about two months. Nigeria needs to act quickly to insure its frontline/healthcare workers. If there’s one lesson the country takes from this crisis, it must be that investing in its people is as important as investing in resilient infrastructures, else the whole edifice will collapse.
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