COVID-19: Close to Home

“No you can not go to Enugu, it’s not safe!” my father screamed. I had never seen him so angry at my sister but she screamed back, ranting about how she was tired of everything; the lockdown, being broke and how she had lost 3 months of life, further prolonging her stay in school. She looked defeated like something was broken in her. I felt bad for her because she was already so close to the finish line.

She wanted to go back to school to prepare for her final exams but my father was having none of it because of the pandemic. The government had banned all forms of interstate travel, people were not allowed to move about freely for travel or any form of business and she felt stuck.

Waking up daily to messages from the Nigerian centre for disease control (NCDC) who provided health tips and safety measures concerning the pandemic, and falling asleep to news of the exponential rise in the number of cases became our reality. While our leaders battled the pandemic, communities battled rouge vigilantes like the “One million boys” fraternity, hunger and starvation, and a major ordeal that many do not often speak of, the mental turmoil of feeling stuck.

As I write this, today the 7th of July 2020, there are 11, 981,313 Coronavirus cases, 547,324 deaths and 6,925,830 recovered worldwide, and Nigeria has 29,789 confirmed cases and 669 total deaths. The Nigerian presidential task force has turned deaf ears to the public pleas on relaxing the lockdown guidelines because of the severity of the pandemic. This action has led to a butterfly effect that fans out to the areas of migration, interstate movement, reintegration and cross border exchanges.

Visa on arrival issuance has been suspended for travellers from 15 countries which include: Sweden, China, Italy, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Norway, Japan, France, Netherlands, Austria, South Korea, Spain, Germany, The United States of America, and Iran. Returning travellers are also monitored for 14 days by the NCDC and Airport health authorities. Airports have been closed to international flights, travel to and from other states have also been restricted except for essential services.

A major effect of the closure of airports and travel is the separation of families. A dear friend of mine is stuck in the United States solely because the immigration laws do not allow him access to cross borders.

Another case study is what happened in Anambra state in May. The state government erected a gate on the Niger-Delta bridge to restrict influx following the guideline of interstate border closure, this action led to the trapping of hundreds of people in Delta state for days, without food, water or shelter.

As time has gone by, the lockdown rules have allowed for movement during specified time periods and banned movement at certain hours. This triggered a question on everyone’s lips “Does Covid-19 have off-hours?”

The virus is airborne, transmitted via respiratory droplets, and given the state of the guidelines, some set of people are allowed to freely move around while others are not. It makes no sense how Nigeria believes that COVID-19 cannot be spread at certain times of the day.

The economical backlash has come hard with the cost of imported goods increasing and the businessmen blaming it on the economic recession and how their profit needs to be maximised, regardless. This continues to fuel the hunger and starvation because food is no longer affordable or easily accessible. The face mask that is vital or the survival of our species during this period has skyrocketed in price to about $1 per face mask in a country where 82 million people are said to be living below the poverty line at less than $1 a day.

While many of our international and local travellers are bearing the brunt of this pandemic, there are also stories of the effects on internally displaced and vulnerable populations.

It is well known that a pandemic of this magnitude is fuel for complex humanitarian emergencies such as the unrest in the North-eastern area of Nigeria caused by the Boko Haram insurgency, worsening problems like diarrheal diseases, civil unrest and malnutrition.

With regards to other vulnerable populations, there has been an increased incidence of the number of reported rape cases and gender-based violence since the beginning of the lockdown given the fact that perpetrators are now locked in with their prey and due to the stiffness of the migration laws in the country currently, there is no place for victims to run.

There are currently no set plans for immigrants or emigrants of the country since the lockdown continues to be unravelled, but so far, as with any other country, Nigeria has held fast to its restrictions on entry and exit visas and closed its international borders to slow down the pandemic. Migration from the country was simply non-existent until the Federal Government began to phase the lockdown, however, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop. The most recent change has allowed for movement between the hours of 4 am till 10 pm with the resumption of domestic flights and interstate travelling on the 1st of July.

My sister and I recently discussed our mixed feelings about the pandemic; we talked about the new phase of the lockdown and how she may soon be able to make her way back to school as soon as an opportunity presents itself. She asked a question that I do not have an answer to “What if this pandemic never goes away?”

This thought echoes in our minds even though we try not to think about. What if this pandemic persists and this becomes our new way of living? How can we make the best of it? Can we even make the best out of it?

There is much at stake and more to be addressed; from poverty and economic crisis to the issue of migration and travelling. I believe that this is an opportunity for our ever-evolving world to find solutions to this new problem and adapt to our novel reality. We must not lose hope, despite all that is happening, we have so much to learn.



Medical doctor. Creative writer. I write about stories, writing, health and wellness.

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Chinaza Ebere Eziaghighala

Medical doctor. Creative writer. I write about stories, writing, health and wellness.