By Idris Mohammed
The recent outbreak of the disease in the world called coronavirus also known as Covid 19 attracted attention from all corners of the world. In fact, there is currently no topic of discussion globally apart from this pandemic disease.
The virus which has its major symptoms like cold, fever and difficulty in breathing causes a lot of untimely death and crippled all social and economic activities in most of the countries in the world.
According to the World Health Organization, the disease spreads via droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes and his/her droplets land in the mouth or noses of the nearby people. People could also be infected by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
As a result of its widespread, World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it as “World pandemic disease” and set out the necessary guidelines in order to reduce its spread and growth globally.
The most popular method recently introduced to reduce its widespread is social distancing; the concept refers to limiting public gatherings as much as possible, this limitation includes keeping at least one and a half meter distance between yourself and anyone that is sneezing and coughing, staying indoors, avoid crowded places like religious grounds, markets and shopping malls.
Other measures include washing hands regularly sanitizers, using face masks and general body hygiene in order to strengthen one’s immune system.
Just like other countries in the world, Nigeria is not left behind in calling its citizens to adopt social distancing in order to avoid the widespread of diseases. Part of measures taken to ensure total compliance to this, was the closure of all the schools in the entire country and calling the religious bodies to adopt the measures by minimizing large crowd in worshipping centers.
However, the measures are confronting serious setbacks from some Nigerians, especially religious clerics and groups who feels that it is not proper to restrict people from attending gatherings for religious activities.
The common notion against social distancing from some of religious and traditional fanatics that social distancing is a tactic from the western world to erase religion from the minds of people by distancing them from their places of worship should be looked into from true religious perspective.
The term “Quarantine” has been stressed in both Islam and Christianity as one of the best measures to take whenever people are confronted by a disease outbreak. But a lot of these religious leaders have turned around it and continue to deny the existence of the pandemic disease just because of the social distancing measures. In Islam for example, there is this popular Hadith that talked about social distancing. It was reported by Aisha (RA) wife of the Prophet Muhammad, she said, “I asked the Holy Prophet regarding an outbreak of pandemic disease and he said, ‘it is a calamity from the Almighty Allah, afflicted to whomever he so wishes, and it becomes a blessing to believers’. ‘No person would be affected by any pandemic and decided to stay at home (self Isolation) until he received Allah’s total protection against it’. He added. (Ahmad 26780)
This is a very big problem, especially in a country where the majority of the people are very serious about religion and most of them fail to differentiate between scientific researches and religious scriptures.
As we are all aware, many people, especially at the local areas, tend to believe more with their pastors or imams on the way forward about the disease than the medical professionals. On this ground, some of these religious leaders are complicating the whole issue in the country through their misinterpretation, misrepresentation and misinformation.
Another challenge to social distancing is our culture and resistance to change from one behaviour to another, especially such actions that have to do with daily life routine. Take an example when the HIV/AIDs broke out, the country faced serious challenges in sensitizing the population to use protections to avoid contracting the disease.
Despite rigorous campaigns and sensitization, a significant number of Nigerians still don’t believe in the existence of HIV/ AIDs. The same thing now applies to the current coronavirus. Majority of people do not believe that coronavirus exist, especially when you engage them to embrace social distancing in public places. They tend to be giving flimsy reasons and excuses.
Just yesterday, I met a young man fighting with the Bank security personnel because they ask him to wash his hand and apply sanitizer before gaining access into the banking hall. How on Earth do you think such a person can distance himself from social gathering?
In addition, the government needs to intensify efforts towards ensuring that people adhere strictly to the measures given by health personnel in controlling the widespread of the disease. This is because many ill-informed people are shunning the instructions given by the government, thinking that the disease is not real or cannot infect a common Nigerian.
In order to encourage people to stay at home, the government should create conditions that encourage people especially youths whose schools have been shut down to stay indoors or face the wrath of the law.
Regular electricity supply and slashes in the cost of internet data should be adopted to enable people to get connected for the frequent update on the state of the nation.
At this trying time, Nigerians should remember that fighting coronavirus is everyone business; all Nigerians should take responsibility in preventing the spread of Covid 19 and talk to one another on avoiding large gatherings, hand washing, self-isolation, disinfecting surfaces and sharing of information from official sources. With these, together we should overcome the pandemic disease.
Stay at home, stay safe and respect the instruction from government agencies and medical professionals.
Idris Mohammed, a Lecturer at the Department of Mass Communication Usmanu Danfodio University Sokoto, wrote this from Funtua
He tweets @idris4P