The fear of COVID-19 is doing more damages than the illness itself. Nigerians in Lagos and Abuja are already running helter-skelter buying provisions, and drugs, to stock their houses against impending lockdown. Buying food stuffs is ok; what is harmful is procuring and administering drugs, especially Chloroquine, without doctor’s prescription. This is what is reported as happening in these cities. Recently, we heard about people rushed to the hospital as a result of Chloroquine poisoning.
No one should blame these people taking precautions against this deadly disease; the people that should be blamed are those peddling fake news. Our social media is filled with horror stories on the devastating and ravaging effects of COVID-19. The way these rumours go will make you believe that once this illness comes into the country, a death-sentence has been proclaimed on all its citizens. You will hardly believe that you will see the next day if you listen to these mischievous people. They took advantage of the state of the country to instil fear into the citizens.
But as we blame these peddlers of false news, I also blame the authorities that wouldn’t come out straight to answer pending questions posted by people. All they kept telling us were “wash your hands with soap”, “use hand sanitizers”, “maintain distance”, “avoid crowd”, avoid this, avoid that. People have already heard how to prevent it, but they also want to hear how to manage it should they contract it. In fact, they wanted to know if they will survive if they contract it. But instead of World Health Organisation (WHO) and other health authorities providing these answers, they only released partial information on symptoms and preventive measures. Since answers couldn’t come from the right authorities, rumour mongers seized the opportunity to sell their market.
Obviously, WHO has noticed the havoc its “silence” and sketchy information were causing and decided to collaborate with social media platforms, such as WhatsApp and Twitter, to disseminate information on updates concerning this sickness. Though they may not be able to answer all the questions people ask, they have been able to clear the air on what is true and what is false concerning the illness. However, WHO’s efforts to quell fake news will go a long way in saving more lives.
As we commend WHO for its efforts towards fear and fake news control, we have to remember that we still have a lot of problems at hand. One of them is that it is uncertain who has contracted this ailment and who hasn’t. It is worthy to note that no case of this ailment was reported until that of the Italian man on 28th February, 2020. Two weeks after the first case came the second one, who happened to have had contact with the Italian. Days later came the 3rd case, which was independent of the first two cases; and so the number continues rising. This makes Nigerians wonder if there are people harbouring this virus that have not reported themselves. If these reported cases could come into the country with the virus without being detected, it is possible that there are those who came in with the virus that are not among the statistics.
A medical doctor recently expressed his concern concerning this issue saying that those in areas where cases have not been reported yet shouldn’t relax because it is possible that someone somewhere has the virus and is suffering from the ailment but may not go to the hospital. The danger of this is that the person will spread the virus among the locals within a short period. Rumour mongers have taken advantage of this to spread rumours and panics about cases discovered in Onitsha, Nsukka and some other towns in the federation.
This brings me to ask this question, what are the presidential task force and that of state governors on the control of COVID-19 doing to sensitize and prevent the spread of this virus into the rural areas, which is the weakest point of the country? Do those people in the village know that every cough and sneezing should not be taken for granted? How were these taskforces able to make testing centres accessible to the citizens?
Like someone suggested, the only way it would have been easy to trace the influx and movement of this illness in Nigeria is through obtaining data. But then, Nigeria doesn’t have the data on all her citizens. This means that someone could die of COVID-19 and no one will know what killed him because he didn’t go to the hospital. A lot of deaths and their causes are unrecorded in this country.
For this, the government needs to be up and doing if they truly want to prevent this ailment. The citizens cannot do it without the help of the government; lockdown and hand-washing will be abandoned when empty stomach commands. They should reach out to every nook and cranny of the country, so that this disease can be uprooted from its very foundation.
NB: WHO WhatsApp contact is +41798931892. Save the number, find it on WhatsApp and send “Hi”. It will send you a prompt on how to find information on different updates. Kindly spread this number, you never can tell who you might help.