By Dr. Dons Eze
Initially, we were greatly releaved when we saw that like in many other sectors in Nigeria, the South East geopolitical zone was being “marginalized” by coronavirus, currently ravaging the country and the world at large.
Any time we looked at the number of people infected with coronavirus, state by state, or zone by zone, as being rolled out by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and we saw the South East trailing behind, we took in its strides, and concluded that COVID-19 was just following the same pattern of marginalization of the zone. So, we were never bothered.
Painfully, however, within the past one week, the narratives have changed. We have seen that the number of people who have succumbed to coronavirus attacks, together with the accompanying deaths, in the South East have risen sharply.
From less than 100 cases, and three deaths in the entire South East prior to the relaxation of lockdown some two weeks ago, the number of people infected with coronavirus has jumped to 613 cases and 17 deaths as at Wednesday, June 17, 2020.
In other words, within just a little over one week, the South East zone had recorded a total of over 500 new COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths since the lockdown was relaxed. Of these 17 deaths, Anambra State had recorded nine, followed by Enugu State with five deaths, and Imo State with three deaths.
At the same time, the total number of COVID-19 cases for each of these five South East states, as released by the NCDC, as at the same Wednesday, June 17, were Abia State, 174 cases; Ebonyi State, 162 cases; Imo State, 136 cases; Enugu State, 76 cases; and Anambra State, 57 cases.
Sadly, too, it seems that those infected with the disease from the South East zone were not recovering very fast. Out of these 613 reported cases, only 181 patients were said to have recovered and discharged, with more than 400 cases still active. This is very worrisome and disturbing, particularly now that we seem to have entered into community spreading of the disease.
It is therefore a wake up call for all and sundry. Let all hands be on deck in the fight against this monster. No more sitting on the fence. Both the government and non-governmental agencies should join hands to embark on awareness creation on ways of preventing the spread of the pandemic.
We however acknowledge the efforts of Enugu State government in trying to improve the standard of healthcare facilities in the state. For the past one or two weeks, we have been reading stories about Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi criss-crossing the length and breadth of Enugu State, inspecting health institutions, ordering the improvement of their facilities, and awarding contracts for the construction of new health centres. This is commendable.
We have also seen new life, fresh air, being breeded into the Colliery Hospital, Enugu, which has now been designated as isolation centre for COVID-19, through massive reconstruction work going on there. These are some of efforts by the government aimed at containing and managing the coronavirus pandemic in the state.
However, while the government may be doing its utmost to ensure the containment and management of coronavirus, the same may not be said about majority of our people who are cynical or skeptical as far as the issue of coronavirus is concerned. These people, including some supposedly educated or enlightened people, do not believe that coronavirus is true, or that it even exists in Nigeria.
They see it as a hoax, a fabrication by those in authority, aimed at siphoning government money. They will argue and ask you: “show me that person with coronavirus, or a person who died from coronavirus”; “if they say that coronavirus has no medicine, why is it that some people have been recovering, and being discharged”?, etc.
In the process, they will not observe any of the protocols recommended by the NCDC aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus. They will not wear face masks, nor maintain social and physical distancing in the market, or inside the church. Any wonder that coronavirus is spreading like wild fire since the relaxation of the lockdown.
While not listening to the antics of these detractors, we would want the government to step up efforts at ensuring the containment of coronavirus and fighting it to submission. We may not advocate for another total lockdown due to its economic implications, but we will want the government to urgently begin the enforcement of all protocols necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus, such as the compulsory wearing of face masks in markets, in churches, in public transports, and not crowding themselves in markets, in churches, and inside buses.
Nigerians hardly obey simple rules unless they are compelled to do so. Very soon we will begin to see people fixing wedding ceromonies, burials, etc., and people will be crowding there. The government should therefore rise to the challenge before it becomes too late.