Twice Bitten, Thrice Shy: Expediency Of Warding Off COVID-19 For The Third Time (OPINION)

By Isaac Asabor

There is no denying the fact that Nigeria has battled twice with the COVID-19 pandemic in the past one year and few months. It would be recalled that the first case of the pandemic in Nigeria was confirmed in Lagos State when an Italian citizen who works in the country returned on February 25, 2021 from Milan, Italy through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, whereupon he fell ill on February 26, and was transferred to Lagos State biosecurity facilities for isolation and testing.

Against the foregoing backdrop, it is not an exaggeration to say that the pandemic left Nigeria, which is unarguably a home to Africa’s largest economy, devastated as it was at the time facing consequences of the recession that started in 2014. The pandemic, no doubt, came at the time the country was seeing progress in its oil exports. Since then, Nigeria has been struggling to reignite its economy as the damages of the then novel coronavirus persisted. Thus, it is not an exaggeration to say that the country’s dependency on oil exports, along with the inevitable effects of a country-wide lockdown for the most part of 2020, are twin reason for Nigeria’s economic downturn.

But alas! As Nigerians were basking in the euphoria of the pandemic that was easing off, it was officially announced in December 2020 by Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 that Nigeria has entered a second wave of coronavirus infections. He explained that the number of COVID-19 cases detected in the country in the spate of two weeks as at the time of the announcement indicated that a second wave of the outbreak has begun.  Mustapha stressed that the country was at risk of losing not only the gains from the hard work of the last nine months (as at the time of the announcement) but also the lives of citizens.

Ostensibly accentuating the implications of the second wave of the pandemic at the time, he said, “We are in a potentially difficult phase of the COVID-19 resurgence. Accessing the hope offered by the arrival of the vaccine is still some time ahead.”​​​​​​​

However, taking a cue from the famous English saying “Once bitten twice shy”, Nigeria, no doubt may be beaten thrice if the equally admonitory aphorism that says “Twice bitten thrice shy, is not heeded to.

The reason for the foreboding fear over a third wave of covid-19 cannot be farfetched as there are indications that it has started or about to start.  For instance, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State has warned of a possible third wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the state, and Nigeria by extension.

In a statement issued on Sunday evening, precisely July 11, 2021, and personally signed by him, Mr Sanwo-Olu reeled out statistics of the increasing number of cases in the state and the need to buckle up, especially as the Islamic religious festival of Eid-l-Adha beckons.

The governor said the number of confirmed cases, which had earlier reduced to one per cent average as at the end of June, has suddenly increased to 6.6 per cent rate as of Thursday, July 8.

In the same vein, and ostensibly expressing his fear, the Director-General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chike Ihekweazu on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 warned that Nigeria was at high risk of a surge in COVID cases. He emphasized at a media parley that the risk was even higher with the emergence of the Delta variant of the virus.

To reinforce the view that the fear is not in any way unfounded, the management of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) has ordered students to vacate hostels on campus over fears of COVID-19.

The action was taken on Tuesday after a number of students were reported to have contracted the disease. The development led the school management to convey an emergency Senate meeting on Wednesday, July 14, 2021.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the Senate said the students who tested positive for the disease, are being treated, and contact tracing already in place.

“The situation is, indeed, worrisome especially noting the reluctance of the majority of students to comply with the COV1D-19 prevention protocols,” the statement read.

“To avoid the escalation of cases on campus, the University Senate at an emergency meeting held on Wednesday, 14th of July 2021 approved that all students vacate the halls of residence by 12.00 pm on Thursday indefinitely. Lectures for the rest of the semester will continue to be delivered virtually with effect from 26th July 2021.”

Sources within the school equally confirmed receiving a Whatsapp broadcast message from the Dean of Students Affairs (DSA) informing them to leave the school’s hostels.

“Lectures for the rest of the semester will be delivered virtually with effect from 26th July 2021,” the message added.

Before now, UNILAG’s management had raised the alarm over “flu-like symptoms which are similar to COVID-19.

“The Medical Centre hereby assures all members of the university community, ,that all necessary actions in line with the federal and Lagos State Government guidelines have been taken regarding this potential threat in our community.”

Without over flogging the issue on how the government can preempt the third wave of the pandemic, permit me to express my view from the perspective of an article written by Dr. Ihekweazu. The article, with the “Six months in the eye of the Covid-19 storm: A Reflection”, was posted on August 16, 2020 on the official website of NCDC.

In the piece which was undoubtedly revealing, Ihekweazu said, “While it is often said that Nigerians are more reactive than proactive, yet, Nigeria was one of the first countries to recognize the risk posed by COVID-19. We started planning the response for COVID-19, very early, albeit with limited resources. A multi-sectoral National Coronavirus Preparedness Group was established by NCDC on the 7th of January 2020. This group included representatives from the Port Health Services of the Federal Ministry of Health, Office of the National Security Adviser, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and partners including World Health Organization (WHO), US Centers for Disease Control and Public Health England. In addition, the Honourable Minister of Health convened inter-Ministerial meetings with the Ministry of Information as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure collaboration across government. By the time the first case was confirmed, our preparedness group transitioned to an Emergency Operations Centre, while Mr. President instituted a Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF), for which the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha has provided extraordinary leadership”.

Against the foregoing it is expedient to give him a thumb up, and in the same vein encourage him not to rest on his oars as Nigerians are unarguably not disposed to be shy for the third time having being beaten by the bug of COVID-19 for the second time.

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