John ODHE, Yenagoa
Coronavirus otherwise known as COVID-19 is a killer disease that was confirmed in Wuhan, China, in September, 2019. The deadly and highly contagious disease is spreading like wildfire across the globe. The World Health Organization (WHO) has since declared the coronavirous a pandemic, having affected almost all the nations of the world.
After the world struggled to flatten the curve of the virus to a significant extent close to the end of 2020, there were glimmers of hope around the world that the end of the disease could be in sight soonest. However, the joy of the world was cut short as WHO alerted on imminent second wave of the Coronavirus. True to the forecast by the world health body, the second wave of the pandemic began to sweep across countries of the world with double and triple rate of infections, as against previous times.
Since its outbreak, the COVID-19 has infected millions of people and claimed an outrageous number of human lives. In the same vein, the destructive ailment has grounded many economies around the world and triggered untold hunger and hardship to survivors. Indeed, no country hit by the viral disease has ever remained the same. For instance, international price of crude oil, which remains the mainstay of many countries’ economies, including Nigeria, collapsed to its lowest in many years as a result of the lockdown declared by all COVID-19 affected countries.
On February 27, 2020, the monstrous pandemic arrived in Nigeria without invitation. Initially, not many Nigerians believed the killer virus to be real or having any effects to take human lives. It was so until the stubborn disease began to chop down both the high and the low in different parts of the country. Most of the doubting Thomases, who later lost their relatives and loved ones to the virus or even got infected directly, finally became advocates of the fight against the spread of the disease.
In Bayelsa state, the first case of the Coronavirus was recorded in April, 2020 with an Ogbia Local Government Area lady and civil servant as the first victim. Even though the index case survived the viral attack, many other Bayelsans who later contracted the virus were not so lucky. COVID-19 has consumed a number of Bayelsans, notable amongst whom is elder statesman and former governorship candidate, late Chief Francis Doukpola.
As it stands, Bayelsa has lost twenty-one lives to the disease between April last year and now.
Despite radio jingles, visual campaigns and advocacies on television, awareness publications in newspapers as well as the social media, towards the need for citizens to be cautious about the spread of the pandemic, the average Bayelsan is still recalcitrant about keeping COVID-19 protocols as ordered by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Independent observations by our correspondent show that most Bayelsans, especially those resident in Yenagoa, the state capital, do not adhere to COVID-19 guidelines.
It is observed that caution has been thrown to the wind as majority of the people go about their businesses without recourse to the use of facemasks. Moreover, social distancing, which is one of the key guidelines to check the spread of the disease has become almost non-existent in public gatherings. On the roads, for instance, it was observed that tricycle operators still maintain four passengers, one in front and three at the back, per a tricycle while commuters are on their bare faces.
At eateries, clubs, churches and market places, the washing of hands and wearing of facemasks have become things of the past. The few places where wearing of facemasks are still in use, according to our observation, are the financial institutions. Even at that, we found out that the facemasks are not being put on properly but used as mere formality to gain access to the banks for financial transactions. Many bank customers are often seen hanging their facemasks on their chins, just to prove that they have it on them.
TNN learnt that in the face of the second wave of the Coronavirus which is currently ravaging the world like never before, some Bayelsans still wear the coat of doubts, questioning the reality of the global disease. TNN sampled the opinions of some Bayelsans on their perceptions about the Coronavirus. Their responses were shocking.
When asked why he fails to put on his facemask inside a tricycle, a young man who may be in his 30s, who gave his name simply as Ibipre said “what concerns me with facemask? Is it because of their Coronavirus? That sickness is for the big men and the white men. Let them enjoy it, it’s their own.”
Another resident, who identified himself as Peter Emekwe had this to say: “l don’t even have the facemask and even if you give it to me for free, l won’t wear it. Let the police come and arrest me and l will tell them my reasons. How do you expect me to be wearing something that will suffocate me while some people are using Coronavirus to enrich themselves?”
Meanwhile, the commissioner for Health in the state, Dr. Pabara Egwele has cautioned all residents to adhere strictly to COVID-19 guidelines for the sake of their own health and those of others around them. He pointed out that those who are still in doubt of the existence of the dreaded pandemic were doing so at their own peril. The commissioner, in a recent statement, also revealed that the ministry of health would soon organize a health summit where issues concerning COVID-19 and other health challenges would be extensively discussed and lasting solutions proffered.
Egwele also revealed that the state would soon receive its first 586 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government. Describing the 586 vaccines to be received for over 2.5 million Bayelsans as grossly inadequate, the health commissioner, however, noted that the distribution of the drugs would target frontline health workers across the state.