COVID-19 Around the World

Aminat in Nigeria

Stories about COVID-19 from different corners of the world

Experience of the Residents of Lagos State

Lagos state in Nigeria, the commercial capital of the country, announced its first case of COVID-19, on February 27, 2020. It was an in-bound Italian national.

Then came a period of quiescence, which was however temporary. The country subsequently recorded a flurry of cases within a few weeks. They were mostly returnees from Europe, Asia, and America.

We soon saw activities in all schools and universities in the country being suspended. The measures affected all aspects of human life, including trading and religious activities. Three states with highest number of cases had stricter rules, including Lagos.

Distribution of food items at Lekki Ajah axis in Lagos State

Food items and money were distributed to the less privileged by the government and good Samaritans. Corporate organizations and individuals in Nigeria also rose to the occasion by donating money and other necessary infrastructure towards combating the coronavirus. A rapid medical response team was formed and isolation centers were built. COVID-19 testing capacity increased daily and infection awareness was intensified. Wearing of face mask in public places, hand washing, and social distancing were encouraged.

Neighborhood food markets popped up, with trading activities allowed on alternate days to prevent large gatherings at the central markets. All other non-essential markets and businesses were shut down and travel restrictions put in place. Timely government action not only saved the state from wide dissemination of the coronavirus, but also helped calm frayed nerves through daily briefings and updates to the public.

Union Bank of Nigeria front view on May 4 ,2020

Initially, ‘Lagosians’ thought the lock down was to be observed by choice; non-essential traders went about their businesses as usual. Intra-state public buses continued to ply the regular routes, with minimal compliance to guidelines and safety tips. It took the intervention of the Nigerian Police Force to ensure the restrictions were respected.

The burden of boredom, hunger, and inability to make daily livings started telling on the residents of the state. This effectively divided the community into two, with the well-to-do advocating for sustained measures to curtail the spread of the virus, while the less privileged would rather resume their daily activities at the risk of being infected. Understandably, the less privileged were more worried about hunger and loss of their livelihood, without sustainable support from the government. In the bid to prevent contracting COVID-19 infection, some ‘Lagosians’ employed the use of local and home remedy (the medical benefits are unknown) as fever was listed as a notable symptom of COVID-19.

The pandemic itself, activity lock-downs, other COVID-19 induced consequences gave insights into developmental gaps in Nigeria, and Africa at large. Nigeria, the giant of Africa, realized health workers needed viable health insurance coverage, hospital systems require total overhauling and monitoring by health regulatory bodies, the need to review activities in the education system, and many more. 

The state government discovered more about the level of poverty, literacy, and importance of bridging the gap between government and the citizens. According to passersby television interviews, some claimed to have learnt the importance of child-spacing and family planning, monthly savings, and education. Although a few people claimed to be indifferent about the consequences of the pandemic.

Food market after lockdown relaxation in Lagos State, Nigeria.

On May 4 2020, the lock-down in Lagos state was relaxed. New guidelines such as compulsory wearing of face-masks and social distancing were issued. Markets are allowed open every other day, but religious places are to remain closed. Public buses were instructed not to exceed 50% passenger capacity and businesses to restrict the number of occupants. ‘Lagosians’ were encouraged not to hide symptoms, self-medicate, or stigmatize anyone. The swift and prompt actions of the Lagos state government are commendable as it contributed towards slowing the spread of COVID-19 infection here significantly.

Aminat Teriba, Nigeria

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