Covid-19: Social distancing the greatest weapon

Covid-19: Social distancing the greatest weapon

Thursday, April 9, 2020 1:49 pm

Emeka Oparah


By Emeka Oparah

The details are truly sobering and the projections, nay possibilities, staggering. According to Worldometer, the total number of CONFIRMED infections is 1,521,809 with 88,653 deaths! 209 countries and territories have been affected. This is very grim and scary!

Europe and the US have been badly hit. Italy leads the ghastly table of deaths with 17,669 followed by the US (14,797), Spain (14,792), France (10,869) and the UK (7079). China, from where the outbreak spread, has peaked at 3335 deaths.

Thankfully, Africa has not been so badly hit. Not yet. The continent currently sits at a total of 11,400 cases, 544 deaths and 1405 recoveries across 52 countries. The reason for these comparatively low and cheery statistics is hardly because God loves Africa more or, as some people are claiming, the tropical climate. Perhaps, the best justification is the relatively low international travels between Africa and the rest of the world.

Nigeria has been surprisingly if not curiously lucky. With only 276 (confirmed) infections, 44 recoveries and 6 deaths, the country is in fact luckier than many. This may be a true picture touch wood. It could as well be totally false given that not many tests are being conducted. Reports indicate only 5000 and half tests or so have been conducted in a country of nearly 200 million.

The recent news from Ilorin, Kwara State (Nigeria), where a Coronavirus patient’s status was hid even after his death thereby exposing health workers and several others, is an omnibus sign. The action and pronouncements of some government officials portend great danger ahead. While some are totally and shamelessly against Social Distancing, others are playing politics with the opening and closing of churches, mosques, markets and borders!

What is worse is the general attitude of the people, who seem to have prioritized their sources of income over and above their health and safety. Not to talk of some religious leaders who are seeing the pandemic as an attack on religion because of the lockdown, which is depriving them of their congregations, some say, tithes and collections. All of these point to a looming crisis, a clear and present danger.

Looking back at the Influenza (1918-1920), the world was tortured for 3 years leading to over 500m infections and 55m deaths including 500,000 from Nigeria, one is tempted to be frightened and even pessimistic. The projections, if the figures from the Spanish Flu are anything to go by are staggering. This virus isn’t going away just yet. Even if a cure or vaccine or both are found, it won’t be uhuru very soon. Yet there are great lessons to be picked from that era.

Social Distancing, from historical records of the Influenza, was perhaps the greatest weapon the world deployed back then. As it were then so should it be now. People should accept the clarion call to keep away from each other in order to reduce the spread, difficult as it may seem. If the medical facilities in the more developed parts of the world are buckling under the pressure of the scourge, one can only imagine what will happen in Nigeria with our world class hospitals and other medical infrastructure. God forbid!

There’s also the little matter of global economic recession. It is bound to happen. Predictably, it will hit the most vulnerable very badly. Africa and South America will probably be the worst hit because of the preponderance of vulnerable people in those parts of the world. Even social distancing has an economic dimension to it. It is indeed a privilege for most, all things considered. And this is why governments should put on their thinking caps to find ways of alleviating the difficulties and rebuilding the economies when this storm is over. 

The time to start thinking is actually NOW!

But only the living can rebuild an economy. Probably, the words of the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, best captures what I’m talking about: “We know how to bring the economy back to life. What we do not know is how to bring the dead back to life.” Need I say more!

There you have it. Maintain social distancing. Stay home. Keep safe. Be Hygienic. We will ride this storm-and together we will defeat Coronavirus.

– Oparah, communications strategist, crisis manager, essayist, humorist, humanist, is a top shot at Airtel Nigeria

-Yes International

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