By Chikezie Ogbonna
Adorned in his work apron and negotiating price with a customer for the amount of meat to be sold to, Mr. Okoye a Pseudo name for a popular meat seller at Mayor Market, located at Enugu South Local Government area of the state, which is part of the state capital and an ever busy market, seems to care less about the social distancing and lockdown directive of the Enugu State Government following the COVID-19 Pandemic in the country and across the globe.
“My brother, I don’t know what the virus is about, I heard it is only rich people and white people it kills. At least, it hasn’t killed any of the poor ones like us and I don’t think this will affect us, because it is the sickness of the rich. Government is just trying to create fear in us because they too are mainly affected and they can not travel abroad for treatment.
“See, nothing will happen to us and as you can see, it is business as usual over here, nobody is panicking, just that the cost of everything has gone up and it is even affecting the business”, Mr. Okoye said.
This incidentally has become the growing belief among people in Enugu State. Since the COVID-19 became a reality, many have been caught up with the level of conspiracy theories as well as misinformation that has continued to trail the virus spread.
Sharing the same believe with Mr. Okoye, is a small shop operator at Awkunanaw street, same in Enugu South Local Government area, who simply identified herself as Agnes. She believed that the Virus cannot be spread among poor people like her and many others while warning that with the 14 days sit at home, hunger will certainly chase many out even before the end of the sit at home.
A drive through town on Monday, 6th April 2020 witnessed what looks like business as usual in most parts of Enugu Metropolises.
People were seen carrying out their activities like always. There was nothing like any form of social distancing. A place like Abakpa Market by Texaco Bus stop, Emene, especially the Orie Market, still had crowds in their thousands rubbing bodies against in each other as usual in a normal market scene.
Traders already have converted the main gate of Holy Ghost Cathedral as an epicenter of trade following the total closure of Ogbete Main Market.
It will be recalled that the Enugu State Government on March 27th in a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Simon Uchenna Ortuanya, ordered the closure of land borders as well as all markets in the state, “no matter the size, till further notice, with effect from 6pm on Tuesday, the 31st day of March, 2020”.
The statement added that other categories exempted from the closure include “those dealing on food items, water, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and other basic items of daily domestic need who must comply with the standard hygiene protocol as stipulated by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), including frequent hand washing with soap, use of sanitizer and social distancing.”
Fortunately, the state has only recorded two cases since then while the country has over 238 cases currently with 35 discharges and 5 deaths.
However, the level of compliance amongst citizens in the state portrays the increasing level of misinformation as well as the ignorance inherent amongst them as regard the Virus.
One week into the 14 days lockdown by the state government it has almost remained business as usual. While many businesses and outlets are closed, so many others have gone about doing business as usual.
Meanwhile there was partial compliance on church closure on Sunday. But, notably, some churches defied the directive which has generated controversies already.
As the country is fighting assiduously hard in containing this, the coming days will determine if the restrictive measures will be relapsed or extreme ones enacted. The level of the virus spread will determine, and much more needs to be done by government to provide palliatives for the people.
But at the main time, Government should not relent in its effort and further expand awareness efforts to the people on best ways to stay safe and protected from any possible infection.
Government should also braze up to assist genuinely following the ensuing economic heat it will have on the people as anticipated and predicted by experts. As it stands now, people are only managing and praying hard that the lockdown doesn’t last beyond the 14 days period.
Already, the Enugu State government is doing much in ensuring that the state is highly prepared to handle further infection if the case arises. This has drawn commendation from many quarters including the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC).
Also, as a matter of concern, the citizenry should wake to her responsibility and do the needful by promoting social safety. The real information is out there at the public domain and it is advised that individual efforts should be made to decipher fake news from real and factual ones. Social distancing as advised by the health experts should be maintained at all time and personal hygiene should be taken seriously.
As it is already known, the virus doesn’t spread on its own, people spread it and as such, everyone has a part to play to curb a possible pandemic.