May Lagos not be like New York

By Amara Christa

Forget Washington, New York is the heart of America. Overlook Abuja, Lagos is the soul of Nigeria. These cities, despite not being the official capitals of their countries, bear the brunt of the good and the bad times. They are currently bearing the brunt of the Coronavirus.

Viral diseases, such as COVID-19, have the capacity to travel via aeroplane, train and buses. New York and Lagos have people trooping to them daily from all over the world. They also have internal visitors coming from other parts of the two countries.

Trains and aircraft carry multiple passengers and risk-bearing viruses. Long haul flights see people going in and out of the toilets, a veritable avenue for the transfer of viruses. With New York and Lagos receiving more visitors than their sister cities, the risks are higher.

Of the 81 cases in Nigeria so far, Lagos has 52. There are clear signs things will get worse for this city and state, which Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is trying his best for. The state is projecting 39,000 cases, if our people refuse to heed advice.

The Italian index case, now discharged, came in through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos. The cases in Ogun, Oyo and Ekiti have links with Lagos.

New York’s death toll has reached no less than 400, accounting for over a third of all U.S. deaths. And the figures are doubling every three days. Lagos cannot afford to find itself in this situation its ‘sibling’ is.Over 1500 people have died in America so far. There are over 100,000 cases of Coronavirus in the U.S.

With New York’s effective rail system, which is used by many of the folks there, put fire on the mountain. This good development, which makes it a city of choice for an average United States-bound visitor and even resident, I suspect, has fuelled the spread. This mass transit system has the potential for mass spread of the pandemic.

An overwhelmed New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said President Donald Trump should ‘order factories to manufacture’ medical equipment. Cuomo said if he had the power to invoke the Defence Act he would do it in New York.

Cuomo said most of the dead in New York were over 70, a unit believed to be susceptible to the disease. This cluster has also suffered more all over the world.

The severity of the New York situation can be gleaned from the fact that just three weeks after its first Coronavirus infection was discovered, the figures ballooned so much that it became the epicentre by accounting  for approximately five per cent of the world’s confirmed cases. Hospitals in New York now have a surge of patients.

Like New York, the Lagos’s cases are mounting. From one case some three weeks ago, we have over 50 cases. Lagos, like New York, attracts people from all over the world. They come with the good, the bad and the ugly. Coronavirus is the ugliest they have come with. United Kingdom returnees account for the bulk of the cases in Lagos.

It is good that our international airports are now closed. That way we stopped new cases from being imported while we manage the internal ones.

Banks in Lagos have tried. They have ensured fewer than 20 people are in the banking halls at a time. Customers using ATM are made to use hand sanitisers. Most formal establishments have taken necessary precautions and the state government’s holiday to most civil servants is a step in the right direction.

But, the problem is the informal sector. For the bulk of this week, Ojuwoye, Idumota, Osodi, Oyingbo, Iyana-Ipaja and Egbeda, among others, were still packed with people who are ignorant of the gospel of social distancing. Okada, despite the restriction, still operate and riders are carrying two people who are ignorant of each other’s medical history. There is no distancing in danfo and Keke, despite the government’s advice. Passengers are still packed like a sardine for profit.

A novelist and poet, Lola Shoneyin, narrated her experience with an artisan she tried explaining the pandemic and how to avoid it. The artisan, after she has preached the gospel of social distancing, asked her if she was home. He still wanted to visit a woman who just preached distancing to him. From experience, this is still the way many in the city view the situation. Many do not just get it. And I fear this ignorance will put us in trouble if care is not taken.

We are a nation of millions of poor people, who live on what they earn each passing day. If they do not earn money on a particular day, hunger will befriend them. Even professionals live from hand to mouth. Saving is difficult for the bulk of the people and, as such, they will have nothing to fall back on.

In New York, residents stocked their homes with food and other essentials. People in Lagos and, by extension, Nigeria cannot do that. Reason: We do not have a credit system. New Yorkers and other Americans were able to stock their pantries because of the credit card system. Credit cards in Nigeria are ironically held by the rich and middle class. The poor, who actually need them, are not captured by the financial system and have no way of accessing this card, which helps the multitude in the developed world.

New York is dreading what April has in stock and fears May could be worse. Cuomo fears between 40 to 80 per cent of the population risks getting this virus. Scary!

My prayer: May Lagos not go New York’s way. We do not have the capacity to cope.

My final take: From the look of things, our roads will be rough and we have to be prepared. This is a battle we must win. We defeated Ebola and must defeat Coronavirus. In defeating it, we must rein in the folks roaming the streets. They must not continue to roam like lost cows. We are endangering ourselves and others by continuing to crowd parks, playgrounds and public spaces. It is time we stopped.

A word on insensitive ASUU

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is a joke. Whatever sympathy I have for the organisation was withdrawn on Monday when it announced a strike over government’s insistence that it must be part of a federal pay system.

At the time ASUU announced the strike, universities all over the country have been closed, meaning there is not much for members of the union to do on campuses.

My main grouse about the whole strike is the timing. The world, including our dear country, is facing a major pandemic. No one has a formula around the COVID-19 pandemic and the only thing ASUU thought of contributing is to announce a strike. The Federal Government has its hands full and ASUU will be the least of its concern now.

Going on strike at a time like this when our world is changing in such a way that none of us knows the outcome is the height of irresponsibility. ASUU has scientists in its midst, who should be busy in their laboratories helping the world to defeat this virus, but all it thought of doing is to announce a strike at a time when we are not sure that Nigeria will be able to meet its financial obligations if this pandemic continues to rubbish the price of our Almighty black gold.

Shame ASUU. Shame!

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