Between COVID -19, Lagosians And New Normal

August 23, 2020

Before the COVID -19 pandemic hit the global community, life in Lagos was like in any other place in the world with hustling and bustling in the cities. The people’s lifestyles, trade, security architecture and transportation system were alright for the people. In this report GEORGE OKOJIE captures the current mood of Lagosians, especially in the highbrow areas where the virus seems to be prevalent.

For Tolani Adeola, a Lagos socialite, if any soothsayer  had told him that in his entire life a time would come he won’t be able to go to club , church and mix freely with his neighbours for months in Lagos he would have told the seer to    swallow his crystal balls and learn a new trade.

For him locking himself up in a lockdown situation, laced with curfew, covering his face perpetually with nose mask, wash hands , applying sanitizers at regular interval, maintaining social distancing with people he had lived with for over five decades in a mega city with a population estimated to be about 20 million people had been difficult.

He said,’’ This place, Eti-Osa area is the real hub of the transmission of coronavirus. How do you explain a situation where you have to live perpetually in fear of contracting a disease that has no cure, you cannot go club, you cannot go to the Church or Mosque , everyone is a suspect as far as you are concerned , if you sneeze or cough in the public you are in trouble.

‘’Initially I gave people palliatives but right now I need palliatives myself. I run an even centre. Since the trouble started my facility has been shut down, we are just struggling to survive. Cost of transportation has gone through the roof, in fact everything has changed. Yes the pandemic helped in terms of family bonding, living most your time indoors, staying out late has been off the picture for sometimes now but if you ask me I need my normal life before coronavirus outbreak back.’’

Tolani’s reckoning tacitly elucidates the situation many people living in the Lagos highbrow areas like Eti-Osa  Local Government that has continued to witness increased cases of COVID-19 cases, ranking tops among other local government areas in the state found themselves.

As of August 20, 2020 the confirmed cases of coronavirus patients stood at 50.488 and the breakdown of the cases shows that Lagos alone has 17,092.

Before now, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 had as of Monday, June 29 ranked to be among 18 others across Nigeria with the highest cases of the highly contagious disease.

The development has continued to trigger fear among the residents of the area. Till date as Lagos State remains Nigeria’s epicentre of the virus, Eti-Osa, has continued to occupy that position for Lagos. The local government hosts some of the most expensive estates in the state, including highbrow Banana Island, Lekki Phase 1, Victoria Garden City (VGC) and Ikoyi.

Of course an expert has linked the increasing figure to the testing and the willingness of the enlightened and elite class, many of whom live in highbrow Eti-Osa local government area of Lagos, to subject themselves to tests.

Throwing more light on the trend, the Director-General of the Nigeria Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Babatunde Salako (professor) explained that this may also be playing a role in what is happening in Eti-Osa.

He said, “I have speculated on this before, it’s probably part of the community transmission. Besides some of the inhabitants of the LGA are in the elite class who probably could get tests done in public places, but now that Lagos State government has brought in private hospitals and laboratories, these groups of people are comfortable to patronise them. So more tests are being done among them.’’

For the Chief Press Secretary to Lagos State Governor, Mr. Gboyega Akosile who defeated the monstrous virus after several weeks of battle to tell his story said the pandemic is better imagined than experienced.

He said, ‘’It began with a feverish condition on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. I usually don’t joke with my health so I stopped at a pharmacy on my way home, got an anti -malaria drug with some Paracetamol and I used it as recommended.

‘’I must state here that I have never completed a full dose of any malaria treatment or drugs before getting back on my feet in my adult life, never! In fact, you would have to remind me sometimes before taking my drugs because I would have felt well after taking the second dose. This time, I completed the malaria medicine yet there was no improvement.

‘’By Thursday (July 2) evening and Friday (July 3) morning, my health condition had started to deteriorate. The feelings gradually moved from headaches to severe body pains and cold. Same day, I had the responsibility to organize a media briefing for my boss. I didn’t raise the alarm just yet because everybody was wary of everyone else, especially if you showed any signs of illness. But the truth is I was sick, terribly sick.

‘’I told my wife on Thursday evening that there was a need for us to get tested for COVID-19. I convinced her that we needed to clear all doubts. She understood clearly, knowing it may not be out of place that I had been exposed to the virus, especially now that Lagos was experiencing a rise in community spread.

‘’We drove straight to the Yaba Infectious Diseases Hospital on Friday morning and in less than an hour; the very efficient Lagos health workers in charge of sample collection and testing attended us to.

‘’I remember how much I tried to keep more than two metres away from some colleagues who had come to me for some clarifications on issues or points raised by Mr. Governor. Since I was not sure of my status, I needed to take responsibility by ensuring that nothing was discharged into the atmosphere from my side.

‘’I waited till the end of the press conference, managed to move towards my boss but ensured that I didn’t move close to him. In that socially distanced position, I informed him of my state of health and his response was direct, “have you gone for another test?” He asked because he had mandated his entire close aides to go for COVID-19 test on two or three occasions. He has also done the test repeatedly, just for everyone to feel safe around the office. I answered him in the affirmative, “yes sir, I just did this morning. Results should be out on Sunday.” He then said I should go home for a couple of days. I thanked him and I left the State House.

‘’No sooner had I left the State House than the real symptoms started in a fearful proportion. To be honest, I was scared. I had never felt that way before in my entire life. Driving from Marina to Ikeja felt like travelling from Lagos to New York. The vibrations and other bodily pains I experienced that day can’t be described here. I rolled from one end of the vehicle to another. All I remember was my driver’s voice, saying “epele sir (sorry sir)”. It was excruciating! By the time we got home, my eyes had turned red, with the retinal looking the other way.

‘’My wife took over immediately as the resident nurse. She was scared too but she summoned the courage and took charge. She insisted we went to the hospital. We did. I told the doctor that I had gone for COVID-19 test but he said he would place me on another round of malaria treatment.

‘’I took some shots that evening, repeated them on Saturday morning and evening. I went again on Sunday morning but there was no remarkable improvement. By Sunday evening, our COVID-19 test results were sent to me via email. My worst fear stared at me in the face; we all tested positive for Coronavirus – my wife, driver and I. I immediately called my driver to inform him. Clearly he was asymptomatic because as at that time and up till the time of writing this piece, he had no symptoms. Life has been normal for him. ‘’Nonetheless, I insisted that he should self-isolate at home for 14 days and not go about infecting other people.’’

He added that the doctors reached to handle the treatment called in and asked that they isolate at home and tutored him on all the protocols, most of them he was already familiar with, having been part of the communication team on Lagos State Government’s response to COVID-19.

The media practitioner narrated that he was devastated when the condition of his wife who also tested positive took a downward turn.

‘’Her oxygen level was below the acceptable limit of 95! At first, it fluctuated between 90 and 94; sometimes it would hit 95 so I was hopeful. Her Blood Pressure was also irregular. The value was inconsistent; sometimes good, at another time bad.

‘’On Tuesday, July 14, her SPO2 went down to 88! That was when it dawned on everyone that she had to be evacuated to an isolation centre. She was taken to the Onikan centre, where she received some of the best treatment that COVID-19 patients in the United States of America are looking for.

‘’I don’t get scared easily by anything or situation. This time, I was very scared. I thought the worst phase of my life had come when after three days of her admission, she had not responded well to the treatment. She neither called home nor picked her phone. Everyone was worried.

Akosile now hale and hearty fully back on his beat said. ‘’COVID-19 is not a hoax, it’s very real. Use your face mask, wash your hands regularly, use sanitizer and please keep to the social distance protocols.

Deploying the necessary strategy to defeat the monster, Lagos State Government had since commenced a house to house case identification to detect possible cases of COVID- 19 in the State.

The state’s Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi explained that health workers have been moving from house to house including health facilities in pairs to administer electronic questionnaires to citizens.

He implored residents to continue supporting the government by complying with directives and measures put in place to curtail the spread of the diseases.

To avert rapid spread of the virus , the state government warned private hospitals to desist from managing COVID-19 patients, without permission from the state, as it is an illegal act according to the law of the state.

Abayomi said every COVID-19 patient in the state must be known to the government for adequate data capturing.

Abayomi said, “If you are managing COVID-19 without government permission and we are not capturing you in our database, you are performing an illegal act according to the law of Lagos State.

“We are not saying you cannot manage COVID-19 patients. All you need to do is to submit an application and we will visit your hospital to ensure that you have the required equipment and specialised personnel to manage COVID-19. If you can demonstrate that you can do all these, then we will give you the approval to manage the disease.”

He said the state government increased its testing capacity to carry out more tests every day, saying,’’ We now have the capacity to perform 1000 test per day and we plan to increase the capacity to 2000 or 3000 per day so that we can test anybody that needs testing or wishes to be tested.’’

Abayomi who added that the government generates its own oxygen, said “we normally send our tanks to be filled up but if we have our own tanks then we can generate our own oxygen. As the number of patients are increasing, the demand for oxygen keeps increasing and there are more likely to see people who are in the more severe category of COVID-19. Generally speaking, what they need is an adequate supply of oxygen.

“We are planning ahead so that we won’t find ourselves in a situation where we will have no access to oxygen. By planning ahead, we are going to establish an oxygen generating plant in some of our major hospitals so that we will have an abundant supply of oxygen for our patients.

In a bid to ensure that everyone that requires testing is attended to, the commissioner said the government partnered private sector laboratories.

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