By Imgbian Caleb Viashima
Although the Covid-19 saga started in the Wuhan city of China on November 17th, 2019, it turned out to have devastating effects globally. Here in Nigeria, I did not take it seriously. As a matter of fact, when I first heard about it, I jested, saying that the Chinese people and their penchant for eating everything that walks on this Earth had bitten off more than they could chew again. But then the cases started to multiply, and I started to feel sorry for saying that in the first place. People started to die, but even though I felt bad, I wasn’t really worried about it spreading. I believed it was something minor, and it would be dealt with quickly, and gone before it could ever reach our shores like the SARS virus of 2002.
Then I started to hear the news of the virus spreading from one place to another, and before long, the virus was declared an epidemic by the World Health Organization (W.H.O). I started to worry again. I worried about the fact that there were planes now, and all the people travelling could bring it home, but my mind was put to rest by the rumors spreading that the black genes were immune to the disease. There were also rumors that the disease couldn’t survive our weather, so I wasn’t so worried anymore. The symptoms also didn’t really sound like anything to lose sleep over. Then came the President of the United States of America who said that the virus was just like a common cold, and if you took a pill, everything would go away. So I relaxed, and continued to live my life.
Within days, the cases in Italy started to rise astronomically, and their death tolls started to reach numbers that were alarming on a daily basis. There were so many frightening videos online of caskets, and corpses being dumped or mass buried everyday. Then the cases started to rise in Spain, and France, and then the United States of America joined in. The worse came when countries started to shut down. And the world seemed to stand still. Even the Olympics was postponed, football went on a lull, and everyone was ordered to stay indoors to avoid getting sick. Travelling stopped, tourism which is the major source of income for many countries halted, and the WHO declared the virus a Pandemic.
I was a little bothered, but it hadn’t been recorded on the African continet, and for the aforementioned reasons, I was still confident that would not happen. In fact, I knew some foreigners who were here, and refused to go home because they thought they were safe here. Then it happened, and the virus was reported in Africa. I feared what would happen next, and hearing the predictions of people saying the African people would be dead on the streets from the virus was scary. I was so worried, but really wanted to believe the Nigerian government when they said they were prepared for the coronavirus, that they were doing everything they could to ensure the virus did not come home.
Then the worst happened, and the first case was reported in Nigeria from an Italian returnee, who happened to work in construction, and had travelled all the way to Ogun state after landing at the Lagos airport. I couldn’t believe it, how could a country who was prepared for this, have allowed same to happen, allowed a man with a temperature as high as that man’s must have been, and from such a high risk country land in Nigeria without taking him into Isolation, not to talk of leaving him so unsupervised that he travelled all the way to Ogun? I worried and worried for days, but the man was getting better, and they were tracing all those he had come in contact with. I worried, my family worried, and we all started to be frightened about going out for our daily activities.
Then the cases started to rise, and my fear got worse when my neighbor, a woman who sold snacks for the whole neighborhood just disappeared from one day to the next, barricading herself, and the rest of her family behind her gate, not to be seen for weeks on end. My cousin got so scared, she started to imagine herself with symptoms of coronavirus everytime she went to work. Then the lockdown was ordered, and we were really happy to stop going outside because we felt safer indoors. No one in my house left to go outside for the first week, because of the fear of this virus which none of us understood. The numbers seemed to rise at a reasonable level though, and no one had died yet, so we started to think that our fear was unfounded, and the government really had everything under control. I listened avidly to the news everyday for new reports, hoping everyday would be the one they told me they had found a cure, or at least a vaccine. None of which has happened yet.
Then things started to worsen. It wasn’t as much the coronavirus anymore, although we had now recorded one death, and even more numbers of infections. It was now the problems of those who were losing their jobs because of the lockdown. Those who in one day seemed to lose their sources of income, those who came knocking at gates to ask for whatever jobs they could find to feed themselves and their children. Those gathered outside, begging and hoping for paliatives from a government who promised, but didn’t seem to deliver much. Some of them went to the places they expected to receive the paliatives, but got nothing but fliers, and lessons on Covid-19 protocols. Some did get foodstuff and money, but there was no social distancing practiced, or even wearing of face masks from the videos that made it to the internet.
After a while, the happiness, and high from the first time the lockdown began started to fade, and the boredom started to set in. Everyone seemed to be going crazy staying indoors for so long, so we came up with a solution to not always being at home. We started to exercise everyday. So in a way, that was a good thing the lockdown brought to our family. When we started to go out though, we realized it wasn’t just us. It was a lot of people, so many that it seemed the streets were filled with people. It even came to a more amusing conclusion when 100s of joggers were arrested on the streets of Lagos because they weren’t observing social distancing.
Then different stories started to surface about the coronavirus, the W.H.O having their theories, and NCDC here telling us theirs. Conspiracy theories about what the coronavirus was all about surfaced, some saying it was planned to reduce world population by billionaires of the world, mostly Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, then those who were associating the virus to the 5G network, with little videos of proof to back up such theories. It was frightening, it was worrying if all of this were true, but I was, and am still ready to keep an open mind.
And then, the lockdown was finally eased, people could go out without the worry of being arrested, or been turned back without a means of transportation. There was finally Keke patrolling around my estate again, and I didn’t need to walk all the way to the gate before I could get a way out of the estate anymore. People were so happy, and most of them abandoned their exercise routines to get back into the thick of things, only to realize that we were going back into a changed world. There were now protocols to be followed, facemasks needed to be worn everywhere we went. Nigerians who were not used to social distancing, or even the basic hygenic process of washing their hands even once a day, had to learn to wash their hands at regular intervals to keep themselves healthy, and away from the virus. And let’s not even talk about the cost of transportation these days, it could actually make you depressed.
One thing that worried me about the gradual easing of the lockdown was the lackluster attitude of people towards the virus, including the government. I remember them saying that you wouldn’t be able to enter any community markets without facemasks, but this was only enforced for about two(2) weeks, then before you knew it, nobody seemed to care anymore. At least it was so in my area. And a lot of people, myself included started to question if this virus was even real when the cases started to rise radically, and they were easing the lockdown.
Imgbian Caleb Viashima writes from Abuja and can be reachable on firstname.lastname@example.org
Why for God’s sake did they lock us away like animals when the cases were manageable, and few people had died, but were now letting us out and about when the rate of infections were getting higher? Why should we believe what the government had to say when no one I knew, and no one near anyone I knew was sick? Why still would I believe it was really here when there were so many stories coming out from those in the isolation centers that they were treated with malaria drugs? Then there were the videos that showed people in the isolation ward dancing and singing about, how could sick people be so energetic?, Not just this, or even the context of Nigeria that makes me question the virus, what about Italy who came out with a story about the autopsies they had carried out on the patients of coronavirus, and had come to the conclusion that it wasn’t a virus, it was a bacteria? Surely, Italy who were one of the most affected countries had to have been studying this disease better than anyone to understand why so many of their people had died. Then there was also the question of why the W.H.O was so against autopsies for the coronavirus patients, wouldn’t that answer a lot of questions that could finally help us beat this disease? And then came the time when England announced that they were willing to let fans back into stadiums to watch live games by the beginning of the new season, which by the way is only two months away. Why would a country be so ready to risk their citizens if the virus is as deadly as we think it is?
This is just my personal experience with the coronavirus, my personal musings on the state of the world right now. I realize that there are people out there who must have had worse experiences than me. I can’t imagine those who were at the N.Y.S.C camps before the government asked them to go home, and shut down the camps. Those who must have finished school, and hoping for their call-up letters, University students who were about to write their exams, but had to leave the schools for home? And then ASUU added insult to injury by going on indefinite strike. Then there are the secondary school students, and WAEC hopefuls who now face an uncertain future on if or not they will even write their exams this year. Then there are those who lost their jobs, and livelihoods, not knowing where to begin. Turning all of this ppeople into idle minds that will do anything for a little money or entertainment; And people still wonder why there is an increase in physical abuse, in rape, armed robbery, and crime around the country. It’s quite simple really, there are too many idle people about right now.
There are a few people who have benefitted from the coronavirus no doubt, people who have made businesses out of masks making, those who have started online businesses that have succeeded, but we are not all the same people, and cannot all be expected to achieve greatness all at once.
Imgbian Caleb Viashima writes from Abuja and can be reachable on email@example.com