By Chinaza Oluigbo
These were my sister’s exact words following a sneer and her usual sarcastic laughter. She said this in response to the announcer whose voice boomed from the radio announcing 118 new cases of the Corona Virus recorded in Nigeria on the 19th of October 2020.
Sadly, this is the reality of many Nigerians, nobody seems to care anymore. Why should they? There are a lot of myths surrounding the COVID-19 virus. This has especially increased after a lot of sectors relaxed the precautions and instructions for effective management of the pandemic. The travel borders were opened after a long period of no travel, the educational system which is unarguably the major place of contact for children and youths have resumed. With the restoration of some form of normalcy to everyday life, the pandemic has become almost unreal to many. A lot of Nigerians have thus relaxed the practice of safety precautions.
Casting our minds back to when it all began, on the 27th of February 2020 when the virus was introduced to the country by an imported case from Italy. It was greeted in the usual way most people greet new information. With a shrug! It felt remote, removed from our relevant reality as Nigerians. Everyone went about their businesses without ruffles. After all, we survived the Ebola outbreak, what could be worse? So people didn’t immediately adhere to the precautionary measures put out by public health institutions. Many Nigerians were then shaken to their core and everyone retreated to their houses following the government-issued lockdowns. The ministry of health had promised to do their best so that Nigerians would be free from the menace as soon as possible.
However, things did not happen as they anticipated. The virus dragged on for months and months. It even led to the death of the Late, Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff of the President. We all quivered and held onto our masks like our only lifeline.
With the relaxation of the lockdown, a lot of people were bombarded with so much information verified or unverified, it was taken as authority. So many misconceptions concerning the virus spread in the country.
One of the major reasons for the spread of myths is the distrust of the government and people in authority. This distrust has been built overtime from past failures and disappointments. A lot of people believe that the pandemic is a political strategy geared at getting money from international sources and amassing wealth.
The recent unrest in the country led to looting of palliative materials from the warehouses where they had been stored. A lot of citizens went to the warehouses and took huge shares of what was supposed to be distributed to them. This and many other instances of deceit from the government has led to distrust of their words and actions by the citizens. They hence do not believe the pandemic trends as announced by the news and media houses.
Many Nigerians, especially those of the lower class believe that the disease is not for them. They believe the stereotype that since the disease started with the elites who contracted the diseases while visiting other countries, it does not concern them. And so, they just put on masks and carry sanitizers to avoid being accosted by the police with a strong notion that “na rich man Corona Virus dey catch”
Contrary to popular opinion, the pandemic is as real as the creases on our palms and the air in our lungs. It concerns us more than we think. Nigeria has recorded over 60,000 cases of infections by the virus and continue to record new daily cases. Evidence suggests a 52% increase within the short period of the lockdown relaxation.
Often, we are reminded that the pandemic isn’t really a thing of the past yet. It is true that there has been a reduction in the number of positive cases as seen in the daily updates by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). However, this does not mean that we are a country totally free from the virus. There is no vaccine for COVID-19 yet so preventing the spread of the virus should be a priority to prevent a second wave. Putting on a mask, regularly washing hands, and being cautious in social gatherings should not be taken for granted at all.
It starts with our information. We need to know the truth about the virus. The virus still lurks around, and we should always be on the guard. Education in rural communities should be promoted. People need to realize that they are not taking these precautions for the government but for themselves. For the safety of themselves and for their families.
We should continue taking responsibilities to prevent the spread of the virus. Even as a lot of sectors have resumed, it is still imperative that people are made to maintain social distances in physical gatherings. The reality of this pandemic cannot be overemphasized. We should also talk to people who spread rumors and myths about the pandemic. It is our responsibility to let people know that inasmuch as we’re trying to pick up our lives from the shadows of the lockdown and halt, we still have to safeguard our lives. It is a part of life we have to learn to live with.
In conclusion, Nigerians should never stop taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Constant acknowledgement of the pandemic trends would even inspire research and further knowledge on how to combat the infection. It is a fight not just for the government but for everyone no matter how little. Therefore, we should fight with all hands on deck and all efforts geared towards curbing the myths and misconceptions, as proper education will save the lives of our citizens.
This article is sponsored by Nigeria Health Watch with support from Christian Aid Nigeria country office as part of the #COVID19Truths project.