COVID-19 and Governor Ayade’s intervention
As Nigeria gets petrified by COVID-19, Professor Ben Ayade, the Governor of Cross River State threw up a simple, but far-reaching intervention in the quest to check the menace. Professor Ayade is a microbiologist who should be at home with the resolutions of the complexities thrown up by viruses. Some weeks ago he gave Nigerians a simple antidote. Governor Ayade came up with the policy of “No Mask, No Movement” in Cross River State and spoke extensively about it on Channels Television programme “Politics Today” with videos showing compliance in the state. The governor addressed the subject with his usual passion and gusto coming across as if he was just coming out of the laboratory after an all night reading of a microbiology tome. Ayade’s strategy privileges the wearing of face masks in public as the most proactive preventive solution to the spread of COVID-19 until scientists come up with something permanent.
After Governor Ayade’s intervention of “No Mask, No Movement” a chart made the rounds depicting the efficacy of the strategy. The first set of illustration on the chart indicates that the possibility of a carrier without a face mask infecting non-carrier wearing it is 70%. The second illustration indicates that a carrier wearing a face mask has a 5% possibility of infecting a non-carrier that is without a face mask. The third illustration which is the clincher shows that a face mask wearing carrier has just 1.5% possibility of infecting a non-carrier with a face mask. The message is that the wearing of face mask will drastically reduce the rate of transmission. The chart did emphasize “refuse to communicate with anyone without a face mask”.
As we get frightened by daily reports of the confirmation of more COVID-19 cases we should not fold our arms and let the plague creep in on us. Thankfully, after Governor Ayade’s prognosis, the Federal and some State Governments have announced their intention to enforce the wearing of face masks in public. They should waste no time in enforcing the wearing of face masks whether it is convenient or not. COVID-19 is a matter of life and death and we have been told that it has reached the community infection stage with the likelihood of exponential increase. Right now, nobody knows who a carrier is. Therefore everybody is a suspect. That the confirmed figure of confirmed cases is 4,151 in Nigeria is inaccurate and reflective of our limited testing capacity. If Ghana and South Africa with a much smaller population than Nigeria could have 4,263 and 9,420 confirmed cases respectively, then that of Nigeria if optimally tested should be alarming. The time to curb further spreading then is now.
The sad truth is that COVID-19 is going to be around for quite some time and we must prepare to battle it by preventing it. The World Health Organization had cautioned Africa to expect the worse. COVID-19 has registered its deadly presence in 52 out of Africa’s 54 countries. And it is in all the 16 countries that make up West Africa. We are in grave danger and if this is true then many things will change. Our sense of fashion must change. The face mask will have to become a fashion piece the way head tie, hat, walking stick, wristwatch, earrings and shoes are to us. It sounds ludicrous, but it might be the reality for some time. The social media is already awash with images of face masks fancifully produced with the same fabric to match the clothes the wearers are putting on. Fashion will change considerably.
There is an economic angle to Governor Ayade’s intervention. In enacting the “No Mask, No Movement” directive he also activated the state garment factory to produce face masks in large quantity. And I think they should produce hand gloves too. This is also an economic opportunity for the state to boost its revenue and provide jobs for the people. There will be an increasing demand for face masks in Nigeria and other African countries. Cross River State should develop the capacity to meet the demand. The lockdown in nearly all the states crippled the economy that was already in dire straits. Crude oil has lost value and the states must revive local economic activities to return to a semblance of life. The truth now is that the lockdown was grossly violated nationwide. To avert disaster let the advocacy for face masks kick off now. This is even as we practise physical distancing, good hygiene and stay at home. A stitch in time saves nine. Many countries in Asia and Europe have resorted to the face mask option. Why not do the same in Nigeria and why not now?
Prof. Awhefeada wrote from the Delta State University.
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