The coronavirus has regularly been termed ‘Old people’s disease’ but the stats are beginning to change as more young people seem to be showing severe symptoms. The recent death of the baby in Chicago and Luca Di Nicola 19 who was described as “fit and healthy” in the UK raises a few eye-brows. The president, due to the increase of coronavirus cases, ordered the lock down of Lagos state and Ogun state, as well as the Federal Capital Territory which are the major cities affected by the virus in Nigeria. The lock down in Lagos state implies that young people are confined to their homes and can’t go out to have a drink or party with friends anymore. As there are rumours that the lock down is going to be extended, it’s hard not to wonder- ‘What is the possible effect on the youth in Lagos?’ ‘Is the myth that the virus doesn’t kill or severely harm young people true?’ And then, ‘How can young people contribute to the curb of the virus in Lagos?’
To address these questions adequately, it’s important to know what we are dealing with.
WHAT IS THE CORONAVIRUS?
According to WHO, the coronaviruses are a large family of viruses known to cause illnesses, such as, the common cold, middle east respiratory syndrome (MERS), and severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). However, COVID-19 is a new strain of the coronaviruses that hasn’t previously been detected in humans. It is said that more strains of coronavirus are likely to be identified in future, which could be due to the fact that there are several coronaviruses still common in animals that haven’t yet infected humans. The problem with the virus is the fact that before one shows symptoms, one might have infected others. Unlike similar viruses, there is a possibility that even asymptomatic patients can infect others (though this isn’t fully confirmed). The symptoms are; fever (high temperature), dry cough and breathing difficulties however in more serious cases; it causes pneumonia, multiple organ failure and sadly death. It is also advised that one should look out for flu-like symptoms (headaches, sore throat, runny nose and nasal congestion). The incubation period is suggested to be between 1 – 14 days in some cases 5 days however a new study by an American scientist suggest that it takes an average of 11 days for symptoms to start manifesting.
WHO also states that the virus is transmitted through droplets when an infected person sneezes, coughs or speaks. And states that you can be infected by breathing in the virus if you are within 1 metre of an infected person. It specifically states that the virus is not airborne.
According to the official report, we are expected to wear masks as it will reduce our chances from breathing the air of others who are infected.
We are to engage in more sanitary behaviour by washing surfaces such as railings, door nobs and others. We are also to avoid touching these surfaces and if we happen to cough or sneeze, we should use a tissue preferably or our elbow to cover our nose. If we use a tissue, we are to dispose of it as quickly as possible.
We are also expected to be more sanitary; we are expected to wash our hands regularly with soap thoroughly and then when we don’t have access to soap, use hand sanitisers of 75% alcohol and nothing less.
We are to engage in ‘social distancing’ meaning reduce close contact with friends and people in general.
However, with all these safety measures Nigeria like its counter parts has initiated a partial or total lock down of some of its major cities such as Lagos which then leads one to the next issue.
WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF THE LOCK DOWN AND THE VIRUS ON THE YOUTH IN LAGOS?
“I’m enjoying my time with my family, also work hasn’t been as intense, loving it!” a 23 year old Lagosian said,
“for me, it’s a time to reassess my discipline” said another,
“sometimes I worry about whether I’ve contacted the virus so I try some of the recommended tests, I also call my friends and loved ones to find out if they are okay and try to exercise round my compound”
“I’m loving the time with the family, but I miss going out and hanging out with friends although I’ve connected with way more friends than I did pre-quarantine because I’m spending less time working”
“finding a balance between working from home and house cores can be difficult, I miss being able to hangout with my friends”.
These comments suggest that young adults are responding positively to the lock down situation. These are unusual times, everyone is forced to either work from home or given some extended holiday due to the lock down. Most youth in the age group of 19 – 30 seem to be focusing on the silver lining as it encourages one to connect with family which is often lost when one is a young adult trying to make ends meat. However, we know Lagosians love the night life and to ‘jaiye’ at any opportunity we can. I mean it makes sense, it keeps us sane, and helps us take out time from work, stress, and the hustle. But the streets are silent these days, Friday nights in Lagos look post-apocalyptic compared to the insuperable traffic one sees on former nights.
To talk about the youth in Lagos in some ways could be very complex because there are different youth in different social classes and age groups. These are the effects on the upper middle class and middle class young adults, for the poor young adults, it’s a different story. Lagos state hosts about 22 million people and majority of that population are youths. Many youths in the city are co-bread winners for their families as they work hard to support their siblings and their families. They share the same concerns with older adults that “what is killing them isn’t coronavirus but food” as without them being able to go out to work, they cannot earn money to support their families just like their parents. Although the positive effect of connecting with family remains, it’s hard to focus and enjoy these moments when there is a rumble in all tummies. Some young ladies in the same age group (19 – 30) are married with kids and the lock down has a massive impact on their ability to care for their kids as they and their partners can no longer work. It is reported that youths in their hundreds stormed Agbado-Oke Odo Lacal Council Development Area (LCDA) “…insisting that they could no longer stay home as they were hungry and couldn’t go out to work and earn a living.” For poorer families, it’s harder to take their minds off their worries as they might not be able to afford to spend money on data, the conditions of unreliable electricity could prevent some homes from leisure time with their favourite shows. Unfortunately, some of the youth in Lagos do not have homes or families to go to. “There are a lot of boys in the streets with different minds. Some go and steal because most of them can’t bear the hunger…” Solomon Ekelo.
It is said that the Lagos state government like the federal government, will be sharing N20,000 to vulnerable families in the state however, many states that they haven’t seen the money. With regards to the federal government, the minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadia Umar-Farouk says that the federal government would give out N20,000 to vulnerable families for the next 4 months to vulnerable households in Abuja, Ogun state and Lagos state. Many have opined what is the definition of ‘vulnerable’? how is the government going to identify those who are indeed the vulnerable in the society? To reply the second question, Bashir Ahmad posted on his twitter page that the government claims to have identified 10,695,360 vulnerable individuals in the different states however the question still stands how where they identified? That being said, the intention to feed the nations vulnerable whom ever they may be, is a step in the right direction and we only hope the government keeps to its word to serve its citizens. However, the situation in Lagos seems different, the Lagos government on their official handle on Instagram @Lagosstategovt, have shared pictures and videos showing government officials handing food items to the Ram Sellers Association, pictures showing food distribution at Agbado Oke-Odo LCDA, Aminkanle/Agbado, showing food distribution at Ikorodu Central LGA, and a touching video on a physically challenged teacher Mr Abiola Fakoye thanking the government for supplying his family food. Also, the fact that some areas have reported an improvement in the electricity supply, suggests that the government is working. One also has to commend the unrelenting effort of the brave medical staff at Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba. The Lagos state government stated the hospital has recorded a 100% recovery rate on its Instagram page, despite the inadequate resources given to them to help treat patients. The ability of the health sector to contain the ebola virus in 2014 and their speedy reaction to the coronavirus, is enough evidence to show that they deserve our gratitude, support and encouragement as they continue to risk their lives to save yours.
MYTH BUSTERS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS
Based on the first reports from China, it has been promulgated that the virus doesn’t really affect young people unless they have contacted some underlying illness. However recent reports from Europe and US seem to suggest otherwise. The US has reported that in the city of New York 1,160 people have been hospitalised 38% of those where from ages 20 – 54 CDC Reports (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention). An instagrammer in America Ireland Tate 21, once made the statement “if I get it I get it, it’s not a big deal”. After testing positive and experiencing the symptoms said, “The point is that we can flatten the curve, we can give healthcare workers less to worry about if you would just stay inside.” Also, South Korea reported more than half of their cases have been under 50 between the ages 20 -29. So yeah, we aren’t invincible it does hurt us. A 13-year-old girl was reported to have died by the virus in the UK and many other cases. These might be scare tactics to encourage the youth to take the virus seriously as some Nigerian youth still believe today ‘the virus no fit kill black man’ or ‘e no de kill young people’. The recent stats prove otherwise however even if the effect on young people isn’t that serious What about your loved ones? Your older siblings, parents, aunties, and uncles? This forces one to think of our impact on not only our lives, but the lives of people around us. Although it is reported by WHO that 95% of people in Europe that have died from the virus are elderly, younger people are also at risk especially if you’ve had any underlying illness you either know about or don’t know about. It is also stated that the infected individuals might suffer life-long lung damage.
HOW CAN WE CONTRIBUTE TO CURB THE VIRUS?
The youth needs to act responsibly complying with the regulatory laws; firstly, stay home unless it’s to buy food or essentials such as drugs, and then just heed the safety precautions. Our first duty is to keep ourselves safe to protect ourselves and our families. Then we need to think what we can do to help our society, how can we get proactive? we can continue to share information of safety precautions on social media, we can promote awareness of the effects of the virus, we can follow the example of celebrities and individuals who have donated millions to help the government cope with the virus. Obviously, we know a few of us aren’t millionaires, but something as little as N20,000 can go a long way to maybe the security guard at our office or any person we can contact in need of some support. We could also surf the web for NGOs attempting to help the poor and donate to them to broaden their reach. Or just reaching out to people in general, call anyone on your contacts, have a laugh, encourage them, it helps to improve mental health. This could be the time to start those videos you’ve always thought about, post something on YouTube or IGTV, it could be on the Nigerian mentality or creating awareness for mental health issues in Nigeria. These are ways we can get involved in the development of our society physically and mentally.
The pandemic has changed the lives of everyone, but one great quality of human beings is our ability to adapt to changing circumstances. The federal and state governments have made some promises we hope would be fulfilled. The Lagos state government has made a commendable effort. However, the fact that many Lagosians are still awaiting food supplies and there isn’t a clear definition for vulnerable suggests that there is still work to be done. Regardless of the government’s efforts, the youth needs to play its part to help the world heal from the virus, and they can do this by staying safe, helping others, and thinking about how they can contribute to ease the tensions of our nation in these trying times. To challenge citizens to contribute to the public good, a wise man once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you- ask what you can do for your country”.
Philip Oke MVMF research analyst & Editor