By Isaac Asabor
There is no denying the fact that it is by each passing day becoming more apparent that not few Nigerians need to be enlightened that facemask should be correctly worn on the face so as to cover the nose and the mouth, and not to be left covering only the mouth or the jaw. The expediency of this view cannot be said to be uncalled for as the reality of adjusting to living with COVID-19, with some of the measures now been used to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus cannot be easily dismissed with mere wave of the hand. Simply put, not few Nigerians, particularly Lagos and Ogun States residents are by each passing day letting down their guard on the use of facemask.
Though the practice has seemingly evolved into a fashion statement for some, wearing of facemask remains one of the primary protective measures recommended by the government as people move about the public space. However, there could be danger ahead if public enlightenment is not aggressively carried out by the government through the information desk of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The onus for the foregoing suggestion no doubt lies on the Centre by virtue of being the sole establishment charged to respond to the challenges of public health emergencies and to enhance Nigeria’s preparedness and response to epidemics through prevention, detection and control of communicable diseases.
To my view, the Centre should go beyond the routine of informing Nigerians about the Statistics of States affected by the disease, number of cases (lab confirmed), number of cases (on admission), number discharged and number of deaths. Without any scintilla of hyperbole, there is an urgent need for the Centre to create more public awareness and sensitize the public on the urgent need to make wearing of facemask a habit as an additional step to curtail the rapid spread of COVID-19.
The reason why it is considered to be too early in this context for Nigerians to let down their guard on the use of facemask can equally not be farfetched as statistical report about the pandemic since the disease finds its way into the country is mind boggling enough to be joked about. According to Statista, “On February 28, 2021, the amount of positive coronavirus (COVID-19) tests grew by 240 in Nigeria, reaching 155,657 cases in total. As of the same date, there were in total 1,907 casualties and 133.8 thousand recoveries in the country. Nigeria is the sixth highest ranked African country concerning registered cases. January 23 recorded the highest daily increase in cases in Nigeria since the beginning of the pandemic”.
In an up-to-date Report, Worldometer, another online Statistical news website like Statista stated that Nigeria’s Coronavirus Cases presently stood at 158,042 on Friday, March 5, 2021 with death rate standing at 1,954, and number of recoveries at 137,025.
Given the foregoing foreboding statistics, it is plausible enough for people to resort to wearing their facemasks correctly instead of endangering the lives of other people. The reason for this cannot be farfetched as “Covid-19 infection of one person is a danger to everyone”.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the reason why health experts have reiteratively been urging the public to wear face masks since the virus became a challenge of pandemic dimension cannot be divorced from the fact that cases of the infection have continued to rise as evidenced in the foregoing statistics, and the reason why there is steady climb of the infection has to do with lackadaisical compliance of the public to what researchers are learning about the effectiveness of face coverings.
A growing number of studies point to the mask as a powerful tool that can help control the spread of the coronavirus, which so far has infected thousands of Nigerians. The following strong reasons have been given by experts on why people have to wear mask based on research conducted to that effect.
First and foremost, facemask does not only protects the wearer but it also protects other people from been infected. It is noteworthy to say in this context that the reason why people should always wear their facemasks, and wear it correctly, is to limit the rate of coronavirus spreads from person to person by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. It is germane to say at this juncture that the extant rule is flagrantly been violated by commercial bus operators and their passengers. To reiteratively put it again, facemasks can block droplets from those that talks with sprinkling of saliva dropping from their mouths, and those that sneeze or cough with droplets been released by the unhealthy action . Unfortunately, wearing of facemask which stands to protect anyone from being contaminated from virus-containing particles that may escape from an infected individual and landing on another person is been seen by most Nigerians as to be loathsome and as a burden.
Again, a school of thought has it that whether the people love to wear facemask or loathe it that it has become a critical part of the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it is believed that Coronavirus disease, just like other confounding diseases that cut across Ebola virus disease (EVD), Lassa Fever and Monkey Pox have come to stay, and in the same vein become critical part of humanity.
At this juncture, it is not an exaggeration to say that every word spoken by Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director General of NCDC, during the one year anniversary since the first case was reported in Nigeria conveyed a great measure of the fierceness of the pandemic as he throughout his speech emphasized the need for continued solidarity and adherence to public health and social measures in the country, with particular reference to Covid-19.
He said, “In 2020, our country truly united in solidarity against the virus. The impact of this has been obvious from small personal gestures such as sharing foodstuff, to collaboration on research and innovation – to regional and pan-African collaboration. Despite the best efforts of government, it will take time to vaccinate everyone against COVID-19. We must keep adhering to the public health and social measures that keep each and all of us safe. This means physical distancing, wearing face masks, practicing hand and respiratory hygiene and avoiding crowded indoor places.”
To my view, every Nigerian that is old enough to understand the danger which the pandemic posed to humanity should resort to wearing his or her facemask and make it a habit. An African proverb says, the millipede that is found crawling on one’s body is removed with bare hands as there is no time to waste by looking for a decent way of removing it. It is time we accepted the fact that Covid-19 has come to stay with us, and we should accept it with every protective disposition we can exude to keep it away from us. To literarily wave the red flag, once again in this context, it is too early to let down our guard on the wearing of facemask.
Isaac Isabor is a Public Affairs Analyst.