Emmanuel Smart, 26, who resides in Ogba, Lagos, has deep lines burrowed in his forehead as he examines his car. The car has been parked for more than three weeks now.
He is not an essential service worker, and, subsequently, not exempted from the stay-at-home order given by the Federal Government since March 29, 2020. His automobile is covered in dust and the tyres have flattened out.
But the reason for his worried look was that the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus pandemic has been on a steady rise in Lagos State, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Already, the total confirmed cases in the country is now over 1000.
Since the first index case was spotted in Nigeria, the novel virus has continued to spread steadily across states in Nigeria. Most recently the growth rate is put at more than half of total cases. Over 200 persons have so far recovered and at least 35 have died.
New cases discovered daily add up to the number of cases in Lagos, which is clearly the epicentre of the viral storm in Nigeria.
As at Sunday, April 26, the total number of confirmed cases in Lagos, according to the NCDC, was 689, with 122 recovered and 19 deaths.
“This sudden increase is disturbing. I think more than the figures aired are actually infected and the worse is yet to come,” said Smart, who works for an advertising agency in Ikeja.
The fresh agitation started on Tuesday, April 21. On that day, 59 news cases were announced, sending a shock wave throughout the state after many had heaved a sigh of relief that no case was recorded the day before.
This development has rattled Lagos residents as anxiety has risen over what is to be expected in the coming days. Since then, the cases have been rising virtually on a daily basis.
“The spike in the figures is really worrisome. I’m amazed how the virus has spread among people so fast. Honestly, the situation is scary as it stands,” revealed Mrs. Dolapo Ebadan.
Some have taken to the social media to express concerns over the escalation of the virus within the state, warning that the state government must work harder to prevent a much worse scenario.
The cause of the acceleration, many have lamented, could be traceable to how the stay-at-home order is being disregarded in some parts of the metropolis. Someone on Twitter wondered how his neighbour could successfully return from Port Harcourt to Lagos amid the lockdown.
“This talk that Lagos is on lockdown is a scam,” he wrote. “My neighbour just returned from Port Harcourt few days ago. I asked him how he did it and he said ‘everything for Naija na money.’”
Other residents who have been following NCDC reports have urged Nigerians to ensure that they comply with the lockdown directive.
“With these rising cases, what is the rush for? You want to go sit in buses and get stuck in traffic for hours risking your lives and that of others because you want to go to the market? Please, stay home,” a Facebook user pleaded.
An author, Toni Kan, also urged people to stay at home, noting that no one has been reported to have died of hunger since the lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State government said it has increased the number of testing centres to cover the 20 local governments in the state. The government said this was to allow easy access and enable about 1,000 tests to be carried out in the state daily. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had also announced that new cases discovered were possible due to the success of the house-to-house contact tracing and ramping up of tests across the state. He also confirmed that community spread was slowly beginning to gain ground in the state.
Residents are already expecting a surge in the number of infected persons and are worried that the lockdown journey had only just begun.
Many hope that the Centre of Excellence would pull out all the stops necessary to stem the tide of the health emergency that has held parts of the world to a standstill.
“It is expected, but we are only running away from the truth. I expect more numbers, if we must be true to ourselves,” Abigail, a health worker, told the reporter.
Mrs. Josephine Okoli, in her interaction with Daily Sun, said she was beginning to get scared with the rising cases and wished she was somewhere safer.
“Now that this thing is spreading every day, the lockdown may be extended. If that’s the case, then we may have no choice. At the same time, we have to worry about what to eat too. There is also the case of insecurity in the land, with criminal groups on the prowl. The ‘One Million Boys’ are making life more difficult. This is a critical time and nobody knows what to expect anymore. I just want this to end so I can go join my family that I left behind in the East since early this year,” she said.
“This match we are playing presently is likely to end in extra time. My people, let us prepare for any eventuality,” another resident, Olumuyiwa Orebiyi, added.
Another resident in Igando, a suburb in Lagos, said extending the lockdown would be like a death sentence for many. But he insisted that it was still safer to take precaution against catching the virus.
“The options are not pleasant at all,” he noted. “It’s either the lockdown and hunger or go out and catch the virus. Then at night, when we should have a little peace, we sleep with one eye open. Only God will help us because it is not as bad in other states,” he lamented.
The notable fear stoked in people by the virus is becoming glaring, as the subject is brought up in almost every conversation in homes and on social media platforms. These days, there are videos making the rounds detailing immune-boosting foods and plants that have become highly sought after. Such foods and plants have been promoted as having the capacity to prevent COVID-19, as no cure has been discovered for the pandemic.
These days, uncertainty still reigns, no one is sure of anything. The state government has announced that, in the coming days, residents of Lagos might be mandated to start wearing face masks in public while it continues to take calculated measures in curtailing the spread of the virus until normalcy is restored. Until then, the state government noted, keeping to the guidelines issued by health experts and agencies would be required for all residents of the state.
Emmanuel Smart said he had decided to restock his home with more food and other necessities, even though he was running low on cash.
“For whatever it is worth, I want to come out of this situation unscathed,” he said.
So, would that mean that one could easily shake off this eerie mood that has descended on Lagos? He didn’t think so.
“I doubt it,” he noted. “Well, at least, not until a cure is found or a miracle happens.”