ON February 27, 2020, the Federal Ministry of Health confirmed the first coronavirus, COVID-19, case in Nigeria.
It originated in Wuhan, China but came into Nigeria through an Italian national from Milan, Italy. Nigeria and the whole world have been subjected to a pandemic of hitherto-unimaginable proportions which brought socio-political, economic, industrial and trade activities to a virtual halt.
COVID-19 was not only an invisible enemy, it was also an unfamiliar one which devastated the most advanced healthcare systems. The world has recorded over 114 million cases, 64.4 million recoveries and 2.53 million deaths with the United States, India, Brazil, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Turkey and Germany worst hit.
Initially, experts, including multibillionaire Bill Gates, had predicted that corpses would be picked up from the streets of Africa due to their poor healthcare systems. In Nigeria of over 200 million people, for instance, there were only three testing laboratories. However, for reasons that still baffle scientists, the brunt of the scourge devastated advanced countries more, which probably helped in challenging them to come up with vaccines in record time.
Nigeria has been specially fortunate because in spite of the general lacklustre attitude of the people to efforts of government and the scientific community to keep the spread of the virus under check, the figures after one year of battling the pandemic (February 8, 2021), according to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, were: total number of tests – 1,489,103; confirmed cases – 155,657; active cases – 19,909; recoveries – 133,841; deaths 1,907. The USA alone has recorded over 500,000 deaths.
Also, according to the Director General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Nigeria now has 170 testing labs and is much more prepared to cope with the current and future pandemics. Nigeria has also marginally exited the economic recession the pandemic plunged it into and is on the verge of taking delivery of the first four million doses of the AstraZeneca Vaccine.
We can, with all sense of modesty but deep respects to those who lost the fight, aver that Nigeria has fared quite well. We are in a much better position to complete the fight against COVID-19 than we were a year ago. We not only understand the scourge better, we have also learnt that it is neither a death sentence nor enough reason for us to hide in our homes and risk death by the “hunger virus”.
We must, however, keep in mind that we are still very much in the grip of the deadlier second wave of the pandemic. It is still mutating, and if we remain complacent we risk a third wave.
We must maintain the anti-COVID-19 protocols and keep faith with global efforts to quickly kill off the pandemic.