I went to Lagos Country Club, Ikeja, for my tennis games. Many of the club members have started to embrace the culture of no-handshakes, and the use of sanitisers all around the club.
At Ikoyi Club 38, Lagos, when I went the following night, sadly, there was an almost total disregard for practicing any social distancing and handshakes, even though soaps and sanitisers were in the bathrooms.
The following morning, Dr. Akinroye and I resumed our conversation. The night before the Health Minister and his Minister of State had declared Nigeria Coronavirus-free. Dr. Akinroye sent me a mail he received that morning from an international health agency – the Cooper Institute. The following are an excerpt, simple to follow and easy to implement.
“As part of the scientific community with a vested interest in public health and epidemiology, we must stand with the recommendations from leading health organizations. It is better to be overly cautious by limiting close contact with large groups of people than to risk spreading illness to our families, friends and communities.”
“We’ve always said that prevention is the key to living a long, healthy life,” said the Director of Epidemiology at The Cooper Institute. “By restricting contact and adhering to strict cleaning and sanitizing regimens, we can all help flatten the curve of this outbreak.”
Dr. Willis also recommends following the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and other infections disease.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
• Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Maintain “social distance” of at least 3 feet from other people.
• Stay home if you are sick and seek medical attention.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. Use the inside of your elbow if tissues are not readily available.
Clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces daily.
I read through and my worry grew. I recalled that in about a week’s time, some 6 to 10,000 people, mostly sports men and women from all over the country, would be going against the grain of common sense, and engaging in the 20th National Sports Festival, called Edo 2020, in the ancient city of Benin, Nigeria.
Whilst the rest of the world is cancelling all major sporting events and gatherings, even in countries that do not have records of the infection yet, Nigeria is going on with preparations to host the games.
Nigeria obviously does not have the facilities and infrastructure to manage an outbreak of the disease from such a gathering. It is arrogance to disregard the warnings of the world, and take the divine grace of only one infected person so far since the scourge began, as license to take things for granted. With what we see happening in the most advanced countries, we would stand no chance tackling the deadly virus should it descend here with any vigour.
It is better to prevent than to fight against an enemy the rest of the world is battling to even understand.
All around me I see a complacent people and attitude to it, fueled by fake news social media platforms claiming one cure or the other for this unknown virus. There are unsubstantiated claims also that Blacks are immune to it; that the hotness of sub-Saharan region is killing the virus. These are all obviously false theories finding ready converts in Nigeria, and fueling the prevailing lackadaisical attitude.
The reality is that we are in uncharted medical territory. We are taking stupid chances by not paying full attention and ‘preventing’ rather than waiting to be infected first before doing anything.
At the rate the virus is mutating, easily and widely spreading, no chances must be taken by any single country in the world.
My heart comes into the picture.
The National Sports Festival, the greatest gathering of Nigerian youths, the vehicle of development of an entire State, celebrations for which humongous resources have been deployed and the entire country has been mobilised, will not hold if the least necessary medical global protocols demanded by the WHO are to be observed.
In short, the only thing that is holding back the festival from being postponed or cancelled is ‘sentiment’. There is the stark reality that Nigerians are sitting on a dangerous time bomb and disregarding it! The dangers stare us all in the face. The entire world is in panic whilst Nigerians are doing little or nothing visible to the ordinary man on the street, oblivious and disrespectful of the looming catastrophe.
My head tells me clearly what is right that should be done by the sports family where I belong, no matter how painful that would be. The cost of discovering later what we can do now but for gain-less sentiments, may be too high a price to pay.
If I were to be the President of this country, I would do what several African countries have started to do in the past few hours, prepare for the worst before it happens. If Nigeria does not, the country would be a sitting duck when the virus finally arrives here.
Experts have predicted it, inevitably, would and that the Coronavirus is here to stay and will impact every part of the world whether we like it or not.
It is better to err on the side of caution now. That’s what makes sense – Postpone the National Sports Festival to a future date, stop all the major sports events in the country and make a big statement why the country should join the rest of the world in halting this “death on the global march”.