With the gradual spread of Coronavirus in Africa and the yet-to-be-discovered cure for the disease, many people have been encouraged to practice social distancing in a bid to flatten the curve and stop the spread of the virus.
COVID-19 is a disease that causes a respiratory illness with flu-like symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty in breathing. This virus spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.
While health practitioners have been regularly pushing out information about the virus and encouraging people to wash and sanitize their hands, one of the most effective ways of flattening the Coronavirus curve still remains ‘social distancing’.
Coronavirus in Africa
A few weeks ago, the Western world was frantically trying to find out how Africa, a continent with many 3rd world countries and – in some countries – terrible or non-existent healthcare system, has managed to keep the Coronavirus at bay. They had a lot of theories and myths; perhaps it’s because Africa is hot, perhaps they have no data and they are underreporting, perhaps they have been conducting no tests, perhaps they can handle it better because of Ebola and malaria…
Today, the reverse is the case. There are over 700 recorded cases spread across countries in Africa; 4 countries in North-Africa, 13 countries in West-Africa, 7 countries in Central Africa, 8 countries in Southern Africa and 11 countries in East Africa have one or more recorded cases of Coronavirus. Most of which were transmitted by Europeans coming into Africa.
The good news is that as ‘potent’ as the virus is, African countries have been able to reduce the spread by banning flights from highly-infected countries and encouraging citizens to practice social distancing and stay in their homes – for those who can.
There’s only one major problem – the disbelief of the citizens of less-infected countries that the virus exists or is in their country, the faith of religious people who think that they can fight the virus by praying against it, and the insistence of some religious leaders to mislead their members and hold religious services. All these, rolled into one, will perhaps pose as the biggest threat to the fight against Coronavirus in Africa.
The Naysayers Who Are ‘Testing God’
On Sunday, a Nigerian Pastor, Kingsley Innocent, AKA Talknado, in Abia state was ‘caught’ on camera telling his church members that there is nothing like Coronavirus in Nigeria and even if it ‘shows up’ in Nigeria, it will dry up immediately. He was heard saying “what is Coronavirus when there’s ‘corosive’ anointing?” “Coronavirus is just a fallacy”, he said.
VIDEO: A Nigerian Pastor Kingsley Innocent (Talknado) Based In Aba #Abia State Telling His Congregation That #Coronavirus Is A Fallacy, Doesn’t Exist In #Nigeria#COVID19#COVID19NIGERIA #CoronavirusOutbreak #CoronaVirusInNigeria #Coronavirusupdate pic.twitter.com/529sJKpmQY
— SaharaTV (@SaharaTV1) March 23, 2020
Aside from the irking confidence with which he spoke, the most worrisome part of the video was the cheering and claps of agreement from the church members. How will they perform social-distancing when they don’t even believe that this virus exists?
Senegal currently has a reported case of 56 people who have tested positive to Coronavirus and the numbers are going higher. Even with this, hundreds of Muslims took to the streets to protest against the arrest of their Imam who flouted the rules and held a service after the government banned public gathering.
South Africa has over 240 people who have tested positive to Coronavirus, still, some religious leaders are “reluctant to abide by the government’s ban of not more than 100 people in gatherings.”
Malusi Mpumlwana, the general secretary of the South Africa Council of Churches, called them the “naysayers who are testing God” and warned them to stop ‘creating a situation where people will infect one another, and where Coronavirus is going to explode’.
Why are people hell-bent on attending religious events and ‘praying away’ the virus when they can just obey the rules and sit at home?
South Korea as the ‘Scapegoat’
For a while, South Korea had only 30 people who tested positive to Coronavirus and the situation was being properly managed… until Patient 31 was ‘discovered’.
Patient 31 – who is also known as the ‘super-spreader’ – had gone to a church known as Shincheonji to worship, even after she exhibited symptoms of the virus and public gathering had also been banned in South Korea. She, in turn, infected over 1,000 people in the church, who also went to their various homes and infected other people. Within weeks, South Korea had over 4000 cases on their hands and Coronavirus became “very difficult to control”.
The Road to Destruction
A few days ago, Shehu Garba, the Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, attended an Annual Leadership Lecture after Nigerians have been advised to avoid public gatherings.
Please find time to join us at the Barewa Old Boys Association (BOBA), 2020 Annual Leadership Lecture, where I will be speaking on “Media and Democracy: Challenge of Journalism”. pic.twitter.com/o3OJ4s7GG2
— Garba Shehu (@GarShehu) March 21, 2020
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) held a rally in OYO state where returnees fro the UK attended without first self-quarantining themselves.
Pastor Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church – A.K.A Winners Chapel – held a full-blown service on Sunday where the jam-packed congregation prayed against Coronavirus.
President Muhammadu Buhari attended a Juma’at service where Coronavirus was prayed against.
The FCT Minister granted COZA (Church of Zion Assembly) permission to host a church event where thousands of people were expected to be in attendance. This event was later canceled after public backlash.
Davido, after coming into Nigeria from a high-risk country, has allegedly not self-quarantined and has been seen in the company of many people.
All these prove one thing – that in Nigeria, Coronavirus is still seen as a joke and people are not ready to take the responsibility of flattening the curve.
With the epileptic healthcare system and the blind faith of Nigerians who still insist on attending parties and going to their various religious institutions, we might be on the road to destruction if this virus spirals out of control.
What Can Africa Do?
Anointing oils and Tesbihs will not work against Coronavirus. As we wait for scientists and medical practitioners to come up with a solution, we have to play our roles as citizens by sitting in our homes – for those that can, washing and sanitising our hands regularly, avoid touching our faces, and social-distancing ourselves. Stop going to parties, clubs, bars, conferences, mosques, churches and so on. In fact, any event where people will be gathered.
Africa can learn from South Korea and avoid their mistakes. We can stop the spread to give health practitioners the strength to concentrate on those already infected.
You will also be saving yourself. In a continent that cannot boast of a super healthcare system, you will be doing yourself a huge favour when you practice social distancing, wash your hands and remain healthy. If not, OYO is your case if you test positive for the virus.
It is also time for us to invest in science and take better care of our healthcare system. Micro-biologists – who are perhaps already working in a bank – should be given a platform where they can practice, doctors should be paid their salaries. Doctors in Nigeria currently work under the most horrendous environment – they cannot fight a pandemic this way. We should also have money set aside for pandemics, healthcare facilities should be up to par and more hospitals should be built and heavily funded.
Now that African leaders can no longer travel ‘abroad’ for their ‘medical check-ups’, perhaps it will propel them to create a better healthcare system in their various countries.
As citizens, we should also stop spreading fake news. Lime and hot water do not work! Gin and herbal drinks do not work as a cure for covid19. Consume information released only by your minister of health and medical practitioners.
Practice social-distancing, wash your hands and maintain good hygiene and please and stop attending events/mass gatherings.
Save yourself and others who will come in contact with you.