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In the last ninety days or so, the whole world has been completely thrown into chaos over what people thought was a joke in faraway China. A few leaders and politicians said it was hoax and in some placea, they hid under the myth of strong genetic composition and high temperature and did little or nothing to prepare for a possible outbreak.
Over half a million individuals have contracted the disease; and as many are fighting for their lives in hospital bed, over twenty-four thousand have met their waterloo in the hands of the dreadful Coronavirus-disease.
What seems to be so small (virus) and beyond the sight of human eyes except with the aid of a microscope, has successfully creeped and roped the strong and mighty, presidents and leaders of nations not left-out.
At this stage no one is spared, it is either the virus has embraced you or you are fighting in the grocery shops trying to get the necessary essentials or your finance is bleeding out by the day or you are compulsory imprisoned in a flat or a four-by-four box room otherwise called self-isolation.
In fighting this scourge, many nations have employed different models ranging from herd-immunity, to complete lockdown, self-isolation and the disinfection of towns and cities.
As much as this has proven to be effective in Asia (China, Singapore, South Korea etc), America and Europe in terms of containing the spread to a reasonable extent; how applicable is the models in Africa or countries like India?
Africa especially Nigeria needs to develop a different model to tackle the spread of COVID-19 as the current lockdown or stay-at-home approach will fail in many ways.
For instance, not everyone has the means to afford standard apartments with the necessary essentials such as running taps, multiple rooms, toilets and bathrooms etc.
However, vast majority can only afford single rooms in properties with over ten to fifteen rooms with access to a communal bathroom and toilet.
Oftentimes, you may have more than two individuals living in a single room. With this sort of peculiarities, and not leaving out the mode of our transport and open market system and of course the densely populated cities; the current lockdown will promote quicker infections in crowded properties and a rapid community spread of the virus.
Vast majority of Nigerians are daily earners, and this is the only way they get-by on daily basis; how do we intend to lockdown these folks and keep them on lockdown for two weeks or more without necessary provisions?
Poor preparedness and panic led us into adopting this approach without thinking it through.
What then is the best form of response?
I strongly believe schools should have been left opened especially those in boarding schools (primary and secondary), private universities and religious centres (this window is lost now).
By allowing schools to run, it would mean successful isolation of these individuals from the rest of the populace. Since they were never in close contact with the general public, all we would have done is run the inexpensive temperature checks on daily basis.
What Nigeria needs to adopt at this stage is the ability to test majority of her citizens through the constant monitoring of body temperature. One of the ways to achieve this is by asking individuals to attend religious centres closest to them (by attending religious centres I am not advocating for social gatherings, rather as testing centres and you leave almost immediately) and have their temperature checked (Monday, Wednesday and Sunday) for a period of two weeks.
Based on this simple but inexpensive temperature checks and the characteristic symptoms of COVID-19, we can detect individuals faster and subsequently isolate them for a proper COVID-19 screening, using the standard experimental process by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
We’ve had massive monetary donations from individuals and corporations. We need to use these funds judiciously through the recruitment of Life and Biological science graduates, trained for the sole purpose of COVID-19 screening.
What we need right now is testing and continuous testing, starting with temperature monitoring and the examination of individuals for possible symptoms of COVID-19 at religious or other designated centres when people report for checks.
Again, a good reason why we need to test and continue testing is the case of Chioma, the fiancee of the popular Afrobeat musician Davido. Think for a second if she was never tested, the virus would spread quietly within the immediate household, and by extension to the general public.,f.fw.fè³33
In getting this done, the Federal government of Nigeria should stimulate the citizens using social intervention funds e.g. the direct payment of Ten thousand Naira or more into bank accounts of individuals with Bank Verification Number (BVN) and have successfully completed the first week of temperature check.
While this approach will help alleviate the current financial predicament of many Nigerians, it will also encourage vast majority of Nigerians to participate in the overall exercise.
The payment should run weekly (and for six months) and in the first four weeks that is forty thousand Naira only! Now is the time for the Nigeria government to show social responsiveness and as a people we act responsively by adhering to relevant guidelines from the appropriate authorities.
PI Imoesi, is a Ph.D. Research Fellow – Molecular Neuroscientist at Institute of Medical Sciences,
School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition,
University of Aberdeen.
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