BY DOLAMU JAWANDO

“There’s a natural mystic blowing through the air. If you listen carefully you will hear”….Bob Marley.

The entire social media went agog over the weekend when Funke ‘Jenifa” Akindele’s husband posted a video of his birthday house-party, which had more than 20 people including Funke herself and the ring leader of the “Marlians” – Naira Marley in attendance. Obviously, this video went viral for the intended and unintended reasons. And not too long after that, Funke came up to make a post in which she apologized for the mistake they made by hosting a party.

Fast forward to a few hours later… The news had made rounds that Funke was arrested and would be charged to court and on Monday, she had her day in court.

The Magistrate heard their pleas and passed a judgment of 14 days community service, N100,000 fine each, advocacy in 10 important places in Lagos, 14 days isolation and provision of details of everyone at the party.

At the magistrate court, everywhere apart from the court room was rowdy and had more than 20 people in close proximity, taking no precautions as advised in the fight against the Covid19 disease. The attorney general and chief prosecutor had on a face mask -below his chin- which he wasn’t using when he granted a statement to the journalists who were also more than 20 and stood close to each other.

I watched as journalists and security operatives surrounded Funke and her spouse at the magistrate court. I saw only very few of them using facemasks and fewer number using them properly. Another scare for me was their hands – because of the rowdy crowd at the magistrate court they were all using gloved and bare hands to hold unto the railings of the stairs when they climbed up to the court room. But decorum and physical distancing was applied inside the court room as only very few people were allowed in and social distancing was practiced. I guess the magistrate understood the importance of preventing the infection and held her grounds to ensure it was practiced.

The aim of the law which Funke broke, and why she had her day in court was to prevent the spread and transmission of the Covid19 disease, thereby protecting us all. We learnt the highly infectious disease is transmitted in form of droplets from person to person, particularly in close proximity to an infected person who sneezes or even coughs.

Lagos state has spent a lot of resources trying to combat the spread of the disease and even ordered a lock down in the state to further prevent the spread of the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised on five common ways to prevent the spread of the disease which includes washing hands with soap and water or use of alcohol based hand sanitizers, avoiding sneezing or coughing into the open air but rather into the elbow or cough/sneeze pocket, and to properly dispose tissue used into a closed bin and keeping hands away from the face or mouth as that can serve as a mode of transmission also. I bet you are aware that hands have a mind of their own and can pick up anything at any time.

Other precautions include staying at home if unwell and calling the hospital for an appointment before visiting or out rightly calling the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control if you have a travel history, cough, fever or difficulty in breathing for guidelines on the next steps. Lastly, though not in any way the least, social distancing is advocated and remaining where you are, is also a mode of prevention.

Social distancing is also known as physical distancing. This is an infection control mechanism which helps to slow down or stop the spread and transmission of infectious diseases. The practice of maintaining a greater than usual physical distance from other people or avoiding direct contact with people or objects in public places during an outbreak of a contagious disease is known as social distancing. It is done to minimize exposure, curb transmission and ultimately, morbidity and mortality. It is a known, tested and trusted way of preventing the transmission of diseases such as COVID-19.

Humans like you and I are the carriers of the virus and as a result, our ability to practice physical distancing and stay in one place would render the disease unable to move, to spread, and people would not get infected.

Let’s cast our minds back to 2014 when we had the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria. This is a very infectious disease that is transmitted via body fluids which are visible and we can see with our naked eyes. In spite of that, a revered and highly professional physician, Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, paid the supreme price after she got infected with the Ebola disease while managing an infected patient who just flew into Nigeria. And that is a disease that is transmitted by easy to see bodily fluids.

I call you to ponder over the present. This coronavirus is one that is a microbe. It is not visible to the naked eyes yet remains highly infectious. This to me sounds like a very serious problem that needs utmost care to survive it.

The present shutdown or lockdown has come with its own challenges which are economic in nature and as such related to stomach-infrastructure. Of course, this definitely makes it difficult for many more people to obey the rules.

Like the brouhaha that heralded the party throwers was not enough, I happened upon a video showing the gridlock between Ajah and Jakande areas of Lagos state. That was quite frightening! It scared me to bits because it showed the extent to which some residents of Lagos were flouting the State’s call and order for a lock down!

Many of these people were in their private cars and ownership of a private car says a little about one’s socio-economic status. It led me to ask: “Where were they all going?” The only response that readily showed up was “Perhaps to places they may never be able to go to if they get infected and admitted into isolation centers!” I wonder what crossed your own mind.

To the persons flouting the order that can save or waste live, I ask “What makes you unafraid of the coronavirus infection?” “Why are you not taking all forms of precaution against the spread of the disease?” “Do you understand the danger associated with community transmission?” “Have you not read, heard about the multitudes in Italy, United states of America, Spain, South Africa or even China itself?” I guess that just like Funke and her sweetheart, you have no idea!

So what do I know, you ask? Good question!

Perhaps I am just a medical doctor who has worked in Nigeria for over 15 years and closely studied epidemics particularly the coronavirus infection since its outbreak in China in December 2019.

Do you know one person can infect another person who will go on to infect another set of persons even when they may not show the symptoms.

That is what makes it scary! Asymptomatic carriers. The fact that the carriers and spreaders may themselves not show any symptom and as a result, be oblivious of the fact that they themselves are infected. Now imagine how many people each of them will contact in a day…

Do you know that person next to you could be a mobile case of the Corona Virus? Have you given any thought to whether you yourself could be infected and asymptomatic? What does that make you? A threat, a hazard, a danger. Do you now see why physical distancing is important?

Call to mind this scenario. One of three members of staff in a brief meeting is infected, and they do not know they are. They feel well and so attend the meeting after which they have a tete-a-tete. By the time they go their separate ways, they would have shared something which the newly infected take back to share in their units to their colleagues who go to share to their families… yes, and the beat goes on until they each begin to fall ill with coughs, fever and respiratory challenges…

The recovery rate in Nigeria has been encouraging thus far but a few patients have it really bad and as at today it has killed 5 people. The disease, like the proverbial masquerade with a cane in hand, knows no one and no one knows it either. So if all of us like the magistrate in Funke’s case keep out those not willing to conform but instead, practice social distancing in our own space, we will all be safe.

Now, cast that light to get a bigger picture. What if Funke, her spouse, all the guests at the party, the journalists at the courts, the security men, the attorney-general, the supporters, the guys in traffic in Lekki, the people they were going to meet, then you and I, what if we all practice social distancing?

Yes, we will stifle the virus and eradicate it from our environment. We will because we would have cut the human to human transmission which is still the only known mode of transmission.

If doctors are taking precautions, it’s because we know something you don’t.

Protect yourself now; play safe to flatten the curve. What are you waiting for?

Twitter.com/@dollamu

Jawando is a medical doctor and the lead at Firmcare Diagnostics and Medical Services Abuja.

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