The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced since World War Two. Since its emergence in Asia late last year, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica. But the pandemic is much more than a health crisis, it’s also an unprecedent socio-economic crisis. Stressing every one of the countries it touches, it has the potential to create devastating social, economic and political effects that will leave deep and longstanding scars. UNDP is the technical lead in the UN’s socio-economic recovery, alongside the health response, led by WHO, and the Global Humanitarian Response Plan, and working under the leadership of the UN Resident Coordinators.

Every day, people are losing jobs and income, with no way of knowing when normality will return. Small island nations, heavily dependent on tourism, have empty hotels and deserted beaches. The International Labour Organization estimates that 195 million jobs could be lost. The World Bank projects a US$110 billion decline in remittances this year, which could mean 800 million people will not be able to meet their basic needs.

IN the time past, humanity had battled fierce global health scourges which threatened to wipe human beings off the face of the earth. The Biblical tale in the Pentateuch had it that God sent plagues and pestilential diseases to punish the obstinate Egyptians for refusing to let the people of Israel return to their home country. And we read about the Influenza and Spanish flu which decimated the populations of countries in the past. There are still in living memory other pestilences which caused unquantifiable fatalities in our world. However, with the passage of time, and with mankind’s pushing back the frontiers of knowledge of medical science, nobody thought about the likelihood of the emergence of a deadly disease which would afflict humans and defy cures as the COVID-19 is doing now. Before the deadly Corona virus started sweeping across the world with its ferocious noxious effects, HIV and AIDS had afflicted millions of people globally.

Unlike the COVID-19, we can escape being infected with the HIV by practicing safe sex, making sure that we are not transfused with HIV- infected blood, and insisting that surgical instruments are sterilised before they are used to treat us. However, a person can contract COVID-19 disease by embracing a carrier of the disease. It can be contracted by inhaling and ingesting droplets of sputum or spittle of an infected. When an uninfected person comes into contact with surfaces infected with the COVID-19 disease, the person will contract the disease. That is the chief reason our maintaining of high level of personal hygiene has become very imperative in combating the spread of the disease. More than that, we should practise social distancing: hugging people and shaking their hands are forbidden in this period of Corona virus pandemic. And we should stand six feet away from the person we are talking to. It is sad and incredible that this disease, the symptoms of which include persistent coughing and high fever, has no known cure now. However, unconfirmed medical reports have it that chloroquine tablets have proved effective in stopping the replication of the virus in human bodies, while our intake of vitamin C strengthens our immune systems against the adverse effects of the disease. Since the outbreak of the disease in Wuhan province in China in December 2019, it has spread to countries like Italy, Spain, France, and the United States of America, causing deaths. More so, it had caused deaths of thousands of people in China before the scourge abated there. Recently, it has been reported that the disease caused the deaths of over 700 people in Italy in a day. It has caused a great number of fatalities in Iran, Spain and America, too. When Nigerians thought that the COVID-19 pandemic was a fairy tale told by unemployed gossipers and busy-bodies, an Italian business man brought the disease into the shores of Nigeria. That index case, a national of Italy, had recovered from the illness after undergoing monitoring, isolation and treatment at a hospital in Lagos. But, now, not a few Nigerians have contracted the disease, including Abba Kyari, a top aide to President Muhammadu Buhari. Some members of the ruling political elite and other well-heeled Nigerians are believed to have contracted the disease owing to their travels in America and Europe, which have become the epicentres of the disease. The spread of COVID-19 in states across Nigeria has caused the shut-down or lock-down of states like Lagos, Kaduna, Rivers, Enugu, and Anambra. Federal civil servants had been ordered to stay at home. In Anambra, in addition to stopping civil servants from going to work, banning social gatherings (weddings and funerals), markets in the state would be shut down, starting from March 30, 2020. And, many states in the country are gearing up to prohibit inter-state travels and close their markets.

As COVID-19 pandemic continues its deathly march through the continents, our government should see the need to build good hospitals and equip them with pieces of modern medical equipment, improve the welfare conditions of medical practitioners and approve periodic refresher courses  and trainings for them. Again, COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of our having a robust and prosperous economy, which is not dependent solely on proceeds realised from crude oil sale to survive. If Nigeria were an economically prosperous country, our leaders could dish out economic stimulus, welfare package and other financial handouts to millions of poor people, who are caught in the web and quagmire of the national lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.