Can we afford to lose this war?
Earlier today, I attended an event in another South East State, for the first time since the national lockdown to control the spread of COViD-19, and wore my face mask as I normally do while in Abia. Amazingly, people were looking at me as if my other name is Lagbaja (or may be an active COViD-19 carrier who escaped from an isolation center) and even the photographer at the event couldn’t understand why I refused to pull down my face mask for one minute to take pictures.
The most shocking part was the fact that most of those I met at the event were young educated Igbo men and women who should be at the forefront of the fight against the dreaded coronavirus disease.
Naturally, I had to apologize to the organizers, gave my excuses and left the event back to Abia. “Vuum ka nma karia ventilators na ulo ogwu”. (Better to run than to be on ventilators in a hospital)
Many may have seen the following confirmed COVID-19 numbers from the South East, as at 14th August, 2020:
Permit me to help us understand and put those numbers in perspective:
- The numbers represent only confirmed cases among those tested in each state and so far we are yet to test up to 2% of the population of the region. Moreover, the number of confirmed cases in each state is mostly related to the number or tests carried out per state with Ebonyi and Abia followed by Enugu leading in total number of tests conducted so far. Note that States that are not testing enough are even more dangerous for the region.
- Reported and unreported deaths from COVOD-19 is increasing in the region with more people dying without being tested than those who actually died after getting tested.
- There is no definite treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 available in the region or even in Nigeria as a whole but those diagnosed early of the infection have better chances of survival.
- The best protection from the disease is to wear face masks when outside the house. It is absurd to wear face mask out and remove it to take pictures or drink at events without maintaining social distance of a minimum of 2m.
- While most young persons might be asymptomatic and mostly have strong enough immune system to fight the disease they are also largely responsible for spreading the disease to their parents and grand parents who are vulnerable to the most severe reaction to the infection and even death.
Two weeks ago in Abia, we lost a final year student of Michael Okpara Universty, Umudike, who tested positive to the virus but refused to come in for treatment and isolation until he was in a desperate condition. By the time his relatives managed to force him to our isolation and treatment facility, his SPO2 (level of oxygen in his blood) presented on arrival to the facility was reportedly 34% (as against normal of 95-100%) and within 12 hours of critical management with the best available medical resources, he died.
As sad as his case was, this week recorded an even more painful case involving a young pharmacist who reportedly claimed to be able to treat COViD-19 in his pharmacy outlet. He went down with the infection and chose to “treat” himself against advice from even close family members. After 5 days of literally gasping for air his friends and family members bundled him into a vehicle and showed up at the isolation and treatment center where the medics immediately commenced managing him in a holding facility while waiting for his test result after struggling to get samples from him. He presented with SPO2 of 36% on arrival and was confirmed COVID-19 positive but didn’t make it beyond the night of arrival. He died! One can only imagine how far he may have spread the virus.
The situation I observed in that Southeast State, I was told, mirrors what obtains in Onitsha, Awka, Abakaliki Owerri, Enugu, Aba and Umuahia. Meaning that our people are either sacrificing their lives in search of livelihood or simply refusing to protect themselves thereby potentially attempting suicide or murder.
Forget the declining numbers from NCDC dashboard, COViD-19 infection is actually not declining in Nigeria. It is either the states are no longer testing enough or major laboratories are running out of sample collection and/or testing materials. Either way, we are not better off in August compared to July. If anything, the infection and mortality rate should be increasing as only very few states are making real efforts to control community spread of the virus.
Finally, I will like to offer two free pieces of advice to everyone: take responsibility for your own protection and ignore the idiotic talk of stigma from testing positive. Do not rush to pay condolence visit to anyone who dies until you are sure of the circumstances that led to the person’s death.