What do we do now with many covid-19 cases in Nigeria?

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22nd March 2020

Doyin Odubanjo

Business Day

Doyin is a public health physician and Executive Secretary, Nigerian Academy of Science

As we all probably know, the cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria have been on the increase and increasing along with the panic. Is it time to panic? Not at all! It’s only time to re-evaluate our strategy which has been generally good so far. Let me say at this point, that having COVID-19 cases in the country should not surprise us nor should it surprise any country. Unfortunately, that is one of the costs of globalisation – diseases travel as far and fast as people and goods can move around the globe. In short, it is more a matter of when, and not if, COVID-19 will arrive in any country.

Let me also say that border closures, as seen in many countries, may last a while but are impractical in the long run. Economic downturns and consequent possible civil disorders are threats to long term shutdowns. In a country like Nigeria, that is unaffordable even with armed forces that are already stretched thin with other security matters. Also, with border closure, when would we reopen? When there are no more cases globally? As long as there are cases anywhere (irrespective of the numbers) the risk still exists even if minimal. At such a time as we reopen borders, would our surveillance system still be functional enough to pick cases up or it would have gone into a sleep mode.

I write this out of some annoyance – at the panic being spread around using the mass media, social media, and any other means and, sometimes, by those who should know better! I am annoyed that every Nigerian now has become a public health expert telling the government what to do instead of listening for what they are to do. I write this to say that diseases come and go but mankind remains and will overcome. I write this to say that this would be taken care of by simply doing what we are meant to do and allowing the experts to do their job. So, as a country, what are we to do now? I have some random thoughts to share.

Stop the panic!

The biggest pandemic at the moment is not the outbreak of a virus but of fear! I talked with someone in a country with a high burden of COVID-19 and he told me how the fear is really tormenting for him and others. In fact, he says just thinking about the situation made him feel like he had the symptoms. His friends also felt the same way sometime or the other. We do not need to panic. In Nigeria, most people found to be positive for the virus have only had mild to moderate illness and have been recovering well. Even a vast majority of their contacts did not catch the disease. In Wuhan (China) where it was first reported, there was no new case today and most people have recovered/are recovering. It doesn’t even mean China has totally relaxed but they have shown that even a very bad situation can be taken care with a cool head and the right strategy.

Read the full article at Business Day