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Coronavirus in Nigeria

By Lara Akingbade

Nigeria, regarded as the giant of Africa, is one of the largest countries in West Africa. With a large population, one would wonder what effect COVID-19 would have on the population.

Nigeria recorded its first coronavirus case on the 27th February, 2020 when an Italian citizen working in Nigeria returned from Milan. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control through its Virology laboratory at LUTH (Lagos University Teaching Hospital) confirmed this first case. Ever since then, the number of cases have been on the rise.

The Attitude of Nigerians to the lockdown

Nigerians in urban centres were uncertain but accepting of the global news of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, many among the poor and uneducated were sceptical and suspicious, and some in the rural areas either were unaware or found it difficult to believe that COVID-19 even existed in the first place. Some average and less privileged also expressed their scepticism about it saying it was another government exploitation tactic.

Once the Nigerian Government started to take action, the general impression was that the lockdown would be for a short period of time. However, when things began to stretch and many businesses were told to shut down, the sources of livelihood for a lot of the middle class and lower class became severely affected. Many average people began to question things and say that hunger may likely kill the poor faster than the virus.

In Nigeria, COVID-19 has had a huge effect on the educational system because not everyone or district or constituency can afford the internet based teaching. For example in the Northern part of Nigeria where the enlightenment rate is low, education and online teaching is a major challenge. And where the government makes educational content available online, the less privileged do not have the gadgets and required devices.

Attitude to Social Distancing

For a community that thrives on doing things in groups and communal living, social distancing was difficult for the regular Nigerian. The average Nigerian is very much used to being touched, hugged and believe in the human connection being brought to life by the sense of touch. The social distancing rule is perceived as a rule that would take away their sense of belonging, security, support and sanity.

As it is with other countries, some people adhere to the social distance rules while some others do not, with the reasoning that it is impractical. It has been seen that in the rural communities, choices are limited as many people live together.

As at 30th August, 2020, the number of cases were 53,865 with 41,513 being discharged and total deaths were 1,013. The demographics: Male-34,250 (64%) while Female-19,615 (36%). The most affected age group were between age group 31-40 (25%).

The highest cases were recorded in the business hub of the country- Lagos and the Federal Capital territory - Abuja. The relative high recovery numbers to the number of deaths have had the effect of a misplaced sense of hope & belief in quick recovery. Some of the government measures put in place have included the closure of schools, offices and limited opening days of markets to control the virus and limit the spread.

As the phased easing of the lockdown measures have started in Nigeria, the population anticipates a return to normal activities. However, this has been stalled because the compliance to public safety measures have been much less than hundred percent. The hope remains that conditions in the country will soon return to normal and the effect on the economic, social, religious and the lives of ordinary citizens will be limited.

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