The COVID-19 pandemic has remained a major global health crisis two years on. And while the experience is discomforting in most parts of Africa, the pandemic remains an existential threat globally. The impact of the virus is being felt on every sphere of life even here in Nigeria. Beyond the socio-economic impact, the alteration of life as the world knows it, to say the least, has not been palatable.
According to a report by Statista, an international market and consumer data provider, as of September 17, 2021, the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) had spread to six continents, and nearly 4.7 million people had died from the deadly virus.
To most western scientists, it is curious that the bulk of the casualties are not in Africa. But that does not necessarily mean that the continent has special immunity. Contrary to claims in some quarters, in reality, casualties have been recorded even with the notoriously poor record keeping capabilities in many African countries.
In Nigeria, as of September 18, 2021, 201,630 cases were confirmed, 190,288 cases treated and discharged while 2,654 deaths were recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Even with these statistics, the pandemic seems not to be taken as seriously as it ought to in the country. The not- too- serious attitude of the people to the disease can be attribute to a number of reasons. Most of which include ignorance, apparent low death rate, conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus, a fragile economy and poor handling of the impact of the pandemic by the government.
While the ripple effect of the stress on the economy contributed to pressure on the government not to extend the lockdown, most Nigerians have since neglected the safety campaigns, including wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded spaces and washing of hands.
But what is most disturbing is the refusal to take the vaccines. Although the campaign to take the jab is ongoing, the refusal by many to get it is worrisome. This new concern has been on the rise even as it poses a hindrance to the pandemic’s eradication and the negative effects it is having on the populace.
Taking a bold step over the matter, the Edo State government had launched a proactive measure to ensure people in the state begin to take the jab. The enforcement of restrictions on large public gatherings for persons without evidence of COVID-19 vaccination commenced last week. Civil Servants and other people who could not present their proof of vaccination were refused entry into the Edo State Secretariat.
According to reports, the exercise, which began before 7:00 am on Tuesday, saw the state’s Head of COVID-19 Enforcement Team, Yusuf Haruna and other team members, take charge of entry points. Those who provided their vaccination cards were granted entry while others who could not provide it were asked to go back home. The monitoring team also scanned the cards to be sure that they were genuine before allowing their holders into the premises.
Expectedly, some civil servants said they were taken by surprise and did not bring their cards with them, while those who had them in their offices had to send their colleagues to bring the cards to them at the gate before they were allowed in.
Others who refused to go home despite being refused entry were seen loitering around the perimeter fence, discussing the action and the effects on them.
We commend the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, for taking this bold step. It is clear that such strict pragmatism is needed to ensure that Nigerians realise the severity of the situation, not just to themselves as individuals but the entire wellbeing of every facet of society. And we think other state governors should borrow a leaf from the initiative by the Edo State government.
This approach is expected to attract opposition from some quarters regarding the perceived infringement on personal rights. But desperate situations like the one COVID-19 presents demand desperate measures in the interest of the larger society
As it stands, the nation is faced with the task of protecting society which requires everyone to play a part, in this case, it is to take the vaccine. But governments at state and federal levels need to rise to the occasion and take bold steps even if they infringe on the rights of a few.
Although the reluctance to get the jab is not peculiar to Nigeria, the government has to provide a clearer narrative on why Nigerians should take the vaccine. Other climes, especially the United States of America government is tinkering with the possibility of deploying a much firmer approach to the administration of the vaccine in areas that have shown resistance to it. One critical thing the Nigerian government needs to do, in our considered opinion, is to mount a vigorous campaign to desensitise Nigerians on the conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccine.
While we appreciate the difficulty in securing the vaccines as they are not produced here, this newspaper is compelled to urge the government to continue to ensure that the vaccines are available such that there won’t be excuses as to why the people are not being vaccinated.