In December 2019, there arose several cases of pneumonia from an unknown virus in Wuhan, China, which was later named Coronavirus disease 2019 (abbreviated as COVID-19) following laboratory researches. This infectious disease inflicted severe acute respiratory issues on any human that contracted it. The COVID-19 outbreak has since spread around countries and territories in every continent across the globe.
Currently, there are several ongoing efforts to curtail the spread of the deadly disease which is mainly driven by human-to-human transmission and it is accounting for about 3.25M confirmed cases with over 230,000 deaths and 1.01Million recovery as at the time of writing this piece.
One important measure which governments of the world have taken is the LOCKDOWN – which speaks of confining people to their homes for a given period of time in order to reduce and or control the spread of the virus. Another is the compulsory washing of hands or use of alcohol-based hands sanitizers, putting on of face masks, and keeping physical distances when in contact with other humans.
These measures are commendable as they have drastically reduced the possible health hazards human to human contacts would have caused but not without other consequences to mankind (especially the lockdown). Some of the consequences are the shutting down of school until further notice, the closure of places of worship, the closure of production companies and offices. These have indeed slowed down the global economy.
The resulting economic hardships and or disruptions are happening at a significant cost to the world. The United Nations Trade and Development Agency (UNCTAD) estimated that it would cost the world a whopping US$2 trillion this 2020.
In a country like Nigeria which is rated as the poverty capital of the world with an estimated 87 million people living on less than $2 a day threshold, many who thrive on daily pay from their self-employment are being hit severely by the lockdown, inflicting more pains than even virus.
Countless homes are going to bed and rising up hungry. Thanks to well-meaning Nigerians who are doing their best to support the people and government to offer palliatives to cushion the impact of hunger on the populace. The question now is, for how long can this last? Many who can afford the expensive data have resulted to homeschooling their kids with available educational resources online while the others who cannot fall back to one on one teaching of their wards with available printed educational materials. No one knows how long we would have to teach them.
Recently, we got a report that the price of the country’s major foreign exchange earner; crude oil has dropped drastically to a negative digit globally (-$37/barrel), a phenomenon which economists say has never happened in the history crude oil trade. Prior to this time, it used to be the result of low or no demand for oil. The federal budget of Nigeria for the 2020 fiscal year was projected to collect revenue to the tune of N8.24 Trillion, an assumption premised on increased global oil demand and stable market with oil price benchmark and oil output respectively at $57 per barrel and 2.18 Million Barrels Per Day. However, this fall in the price of oil has negated this plan. How will Nigeria survive?
One sure way would be for the Nigerian government to lead a drastic economic diversification drive.
The pandemic has also exposed the vulnerability of the systems of man. It has shown how we value things over people. Take for example our health facilities and infrastructures across the globe, we have not invested enough in them, many of the existing facilities cannot handle the increasing number of cases. Many countries like ours lack adequate laboratories to conduct the test to contain the spread of the virus. Most hospitals and health facilities that could not handle the health hazards are either operating below their capacity by taking a few health cases or shutting down completely.
No one knows when exactly the cure for this disease would be found, nor do we know how long we need to linger before it becomes safe to continue on our businesses.
The recent news of the proposed ease of the Lockdown order by the Nigerian government comes with mixed feelings for us. You may wonder why. Firstly it’s a good move to reduce the hunger challenge besieging many businesses and families, seeing that not enough plans have been put in place for the people in emergency cases like this one.
Reopening economic activities without proper safety measures being put in place might result in an exponential increment in the number of cases that might emerge. For instance, the public bus system which many operated in time past with reckless abandon to environmental and health safety of their passengers has not changed in any way in the past five weeks. The health and safety consciousness of both drivers and passengers alike has not really changed. These transportation services do not have the needed equipment to carry out tests before allowing passengers on board.
Secondly, there is observed poor sensitization on the danger the virus poses to humans and ways to reduce its spread in some parts of the country. Therefore, reopening the country for business without proper sensitization and adequate testing might not be the best approach at this time. The government needs to get back to the drawing board if not, we may be setting everyone up for a second and bigger phase of the outbreak in Nigeria