By Talemoh Wycliffe Dah
The influence wielded by the current plague is phenomenal. The fears it generates are rabid, including the postulations, calculations and miscalculations of everything to do with its contraction, spread, containment and even essence. Discussing them now is not just putting down history that might otherwise be lost but may also help in perfecting our efforts at fighting it.
The main fear is the possibility that we will not be able to contain it. As an invisible foe contracted through droplets, aerosol and fomites, the demands on us to contain it exerts a difficulty on us because it calls for a change in our mannerism, behavior, habits and routines, things that are most difficult for humans to adjust. Everybody must have caught himself several times coughing into his fist or sneezing into his palms rather that doing the prescribed things. Another reason for this fear is the fact that countries with the best technologies are recording case fatalities in their thousands daily. Also the consumables for self-protection are scarce. Even when you have them and adopt the habits for protection, many in our midst will either lack them or refuse to adopt the proper habits, hence your vulnerability.
Part of contraction fear in Nigeria at the moment is the invitation of Chinese medical personnel into the country to accompany medical devices graciously donated by their compatriots to us. The government has tried to allay this fear by saying that they are not coming to treat patients as a slight to our medical personnel. But medical personnel speak out because it is first their call to do so; they are not wanted at the moment for fear of bringing more of the viruses. It is advisable for the government to listen because it is rare that 100% of Nigerians will have the same opinion on any subject, as is the case in hand. But if the government chooses to go ahead, one only hopes that as visitors from a country where the virus emanated from, they will be tested, kept in isolation for two weeks and retested. Only when they test negative twice will they be allowed to mix with us. Even this is dangerous because the virus can be found in fecal matter for several weeks according to some studies.
The fear of increase in crime is a reality because whatever we do we will not meet everybody’s needs, especially those who have to work daily to find food. Theft and robbery will be individual or small unit crimes but when the whole community feels caged and starving, a riot may break out. This riot may happen also if religious expressions continue to be muzzled for long. For now our religious leaders have done well in persuading their followers to not congregate. What of businesses and offices that are left unfrequented? They can be easily burgled. Government efforts of giving hand outs and educating people must be appreciated.
The world economy is already getting crippled. The fear that this will get worse, to paralyzing levels, is also real. At the family level, it will lead to untold hardship.
The worst of the fears is the essence of the pandemic. Is it a natural phenomenon or not? Should conspiracy theorists be right, that the virus was man-made, that 5G is harmful, that microchips presented as vaccine will be for ID2020 and for the internet of things so we too could be controlled, etc, etc, most of us will be paralysed with fear of the unknown intention.
Then the calculations. The mathematical model for the spread, everything being equal, is frightening; thank God everything will never remain the same. The incubation period and the rate of spread has informed the calculation of the lock down period. A mortality rate is calculated, but thank God it has not been so. Even if people were dying without being tested, we would have heard from at least the social media. One is tempted to say that there is a yet unidentified element among us that keeps the mortality rate and possibly the infection rate down, in spite of our less than perfect systems and compliances. Nigerians fear that the Chinese medical brains coming may undo our present low figures.
Talking of low figures one must mention the issue of our medical workers. A head count and profiling of this subset of the population must be done. They commute intra and inter-state every day, care for patients while poorly kitted, interact with increasingly annoying overzealous security men daily and get home to their families. Should these be infected, the spread will be logarithmic and render useless the gains of lock down.
An aside calculation should also be the security men. Lock down from other places they work has availed the roads of all types and numbers of security men and women. We should calculate how many are needed and the rest should sit at home. It is authority that is used to stop vehicles, not physical force, else we should use bulldozers and trailers to curtail movement.
The number of people who come out daily has surprised and disturbed the authorities because of their miscalculations, making them to ask the already overzealous security men to do worse. But this is because of miscalculations. In an estate of five hundred adults, you are likely to have twenty medical workers, twenty security personnel, fifty civil servants that are senior grade and a few people working in each of the essential services. But you will also have a few people who will seek each of the essential services, bringing the total in the region of one third to half of the population of that estate, a crowd that will infuriate the authorities as flagrant disobedience to lock down orders. The number of people on the streets and roads now, if you calculate well, are less than what should be expected, given our realities.
The other calculation is who to help with food or essential commodities handouts or cash. This is difficult to get right, even if you know their addresses. Fear of how long the event will last will make even those who do not need it to collect it. Besides, the truth is that as most of the middle class has joined the lower class, the numbers cannot be satisfied by government efforts. Some religious organisations have put out handouts already. Could using the same outlets be a more acceptable way of reaching the numbers in need?
Connected to distribution of needed things are the number of tonnes of grains and silos in our strategic grains reserve. As these are being depleted, what further calculations are we making to replace them, seeing that our grains production ability have already been decreased by the myriads of security issues COVID 19 met on ground when it arrived?
In our prevention and containment COVID 19 efforts, the monitoring and evaluation component should pick our fears and miscalculations and these should inform our prosecution of the war.
▪ Dah lives in Abuja, and sent this via email@example.com
By Talemoh Wycliffe Dah