It is impossible that only few cases are in Nigeria. From evidence in other countries, we can boldly project, statistically, that we should have hundreds now, and with so much free movement still, it would soon be thousands.
Nigeria is still trying the old method of tracing contacts that worked with Ebola. In Nigeria, with all its difficulties of contacts (phones and addresses)? By the time you finish tracing the contacts from one aircraft for just one victim, it takes weeks, and to trace contacts of any secondary contacts infected takes much longer.
Coronavirus infects even when the symptoms are not serious, so it’s more deadly than Ebola. It can infect more people faster. Ebola is sudden, with rapid onset and infects by touch, blood or spittle and by direct one-to-one contact, when the person is ill, so it’s easier to track. People can see an ill person and back off. Coronavirus infects by touch of mouth, nose and eyes, as well as by aerosol, droplets from the mouth, when the victim sneezes or coughs. The secondary infections are therefore IMPOSSIBLE to trace as they can be completely anonymous, such as passengers in a shared bus..
The more modern position, developed by the Chinese, is to stop all movement in and out of an area until all the virus is defeated. That is lockdown. No travel. No gatherings. Just only essential movement. I am on lockdown right now in London.
This virus has an Iceberg effect. You are seeing an iceberg but only 1/10th is showing above water. The other 9/10th remains hidden. With all the flights into Nigeria from all the affected countries, some victims not showing symptoms will by-pass airport security. Given trading, business and construction networks across Nigeria, it does not take a statistician to realise that the virus has penetrated the whole country. By the time you identify one person, they have already infected 5 to 10 random persons unknowingly, and the symptoms for those will start showing in 14 days. The ones infected can be anonymous and infect another group of 5-10 random persons. Within two weeks, one person can cause the infection of 50-100 persons.
If this assumption is wrong, it is better to be wrong than to find out that it is true, with all its deadly consequences. Coronavirus is far more insidious than Ebola. It starts infecting before the signs show. Hundreds should already have the infection in Nigeria, but with limited means of testing. The first victim got to hospital too late, whilst waiting for his result.
Black people are not immune as some people claim. Blacks and whites are being hit in the UK and now in Nigeria. It is also not true that our temperature is too high, though that slows it down. It dies quicker outside the body in higher temperatures. As at the time of writing this, Nigeria has 37 active cases, 1 dead and 2 recovered, making it a total of 40 cases. Last Friday, we had 8. At the beginning of the week before we had 1. Having 40 cases means we probably have well over a hundred incubating now. Nigeria may have it in hundreds now, but if we do not act, it will soon become thousands, then millions. It will not stop till we stop it.
The three reasons why we may not be getting more figures may include: 1. The Government is being careful not to alarm people. 2. Access to real time data is hampered by the reporting capacity of our health institutions. 3. Most importantly, testing is not happening as we have limited supplies of testing kits.
I cannot see how Nigeria and Nigerians can cope if this virus takes a hold because we do not have the health facilities and personnel. A sophisticated country like Italy finds it hard to cope, and doctors are being sent in from China, Cuba and other countries to help them. It is best to enforce social distancing and lockdown now that the number seems small, than to wait to find out if we will have it, or be timid about taken drastic and draconian action to prevent it from spreading. We have to act NOW.
Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda and Zimbabwe are all African countries that are taking serious, early, and proactive action to stop the virus before it takes hold. Uganda has not yet got a confirmed case but has shut down flights and all social spaces – churches, mosques, schools, etc – to prevent the virus from coming. Zimbabwe even sent in the police to stop churches and mosques. Ghana and Rwanda are taking very intelligent actions. For Ghana, all passengers arriving are quarantined. In Rwanda, they also have public hand sanitisers.
People have said that India and Nigeria are going to be the worst hit. Simply put, prevention is better than cure. In China and Iran, people were dropping on the streets. Nigeria cannot handle this virus if it takes hold.
But even when you stop it, your country must remain in some level of lockdown, until every other country has been cleared, or some victims from another country may come and re-infect. Coronavirus is a bit like Malaria, in that it can re-infect somebody who has been cured. This was recorded in China. A patient who was cured and confirmed negative, was re-infected and became positive again.
Nigeria and other African countries will have to fight this thing themselves. People from developed countries will not come down like with Ebola when it was only in Africa. Developed countries have to fight their own virus and will have no time for anyone else.
The clear way to stop this virus is by social distancing, self-isolation, quarantine and lock down; going out for only the most essential items and services.
I recommend that the Government makes use of various agencies at their disposal to enforce quarantine, help distribute food and prevent crime.
Government is waking up to its responsibilities and some state governments are shutting down schools; universities have been shut down, but a lot more has to be done.
The Federal Government should move into full national lockdown NOW. I also recommend Government partners with the private sector and NGOs.
This will require some distribution of food and other basic amenities to keep the most vulnerable at home. It is now that Companies, Churches, Mosques and wealthy individuals should use much of their money to distribute to poor areas to help them stay at home.
Above all, stay safe. Share this essay widely. Use your PHONE and this essay to teach and persuade your friends, poor people, rural folks and others who are not listening, especially Business people, PASTORS and IMAMS.
Published by the Anap Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank on 23 March, 2020, with the prior written consent of Sam Agha Egwu. (Twitter: @AnapFoundation)