COVID-19 troubles all, not only Abba Kyari, Nasir El-Rufai, Bala Mohammed, et al

In Nigeria, since the Coronavirus disease, otherwise called COVID-19, has spread out of China, there has been an interesting pattern about who is getting infected.

As the coronavirus has spread around the world, the virus for some reasons unknown to men, has affected the affluent and the socially well-connected, as well as working-class people. 

Coronavirus disease is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, and has since spread globally, resulting in the ongoing 2019–2020 coronavirus pandemic.

Its common symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, sore throat, loss of smell and abdominal pain. While the majority of cases result in mild symptoms, some progress to viral pneumonia and multi-organ failure.

As of April 2020, more than 1.47 million cases have been reported in more than 200 countries and territories, resulting in more than 86,900 deaths. The virus is mainly spread during close contact and by small droplets produced when those infected cough, sneeze or talk.

These droplets may also be produced during breathing; however, they rapidly fall to the ground or surfaces and are not generally spread through the air over large distances. People may also become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then their face. The virus can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours, experts say. 

Experts say coronavirus is most contagious during the first three days after onset of symptoms, although spread may be possible before symptoms appear and in later stages of the disease.

It is almost like the global spread of COVID-19 has impacted a certain strata of society. The strata of people who fly jets, elite and politicians.

Oftentimes, in outbreaks in Nigerian – take cholera, for example – the disease devastates low-income neighbourhoods first. It’s far more likely to turn up in densely populated working-class and poverty-stricken areas than in Maitama or Asokoro districts in Abuja or Victoria Garden City, Ikoyi or Victoria Island in Lagos.

COVID-19 seems to be behaving differently. Once it departed from China, the global spread of the virus has touched the highest echelons of the society in every country it knocked and penetrated its doors.

In Nigeria, first, it was the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr Abba Kyari. Then, the son of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. The pandemic moved to Bauchi state and got hold of none other than the governor, Bala Muhammed. In Oyo and Kaduna states, the same scenario took place with governors Seyi Makinde and Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, respectively, getting knocked by the pandemic.

Though the poor and vulnerable have join the train of the infected, little is reported about that as the rich have hijacked the headlines for themselves, making the common people to describe COVID-19 as the disease for the rich people.

Of course, reasons have been advanced for the rich and powerful getting infected by COVID-19. One reason, and it is a very important one, is that with few testing places, personnel and equipment in place, it is the elite who are getting tested and more quickly so.

Another reason peddled by the masses is that the rich in Nigeria who have, through unjustifiable and corrupt means, cornered resources of the state and, in the process, pauperised the populace and subjected them to many forms of degradation and sufferings, are now getting their comeuppance.

While this is true as most members of the ruling class in Nigeria are known more for their corruption, embezzlement of public resources and disregard for the welfare of the poor, it is absurd, however, to believe that God has visited COVID-19 on the leaders as punishment for their sins against the poor.

In fact, even more absurd and wicked is to celebrate, as people here do, the fact that, at least for now, COVID-19 is a disease for the rich and powerful in Nigeria. No, it is not. COVID-19 is a pandemic that poses threat to every person regardless of class or status, and the country’s economy.

However, while in Nigeria, like in virtually all developing countries, the rich who are infected such as the Kyaris, the Makindes and the El-Rufais can handle themselves with relative ease and convenience, the poor cannot.

Thus, countries, especially the developed ones, must protect their developing colleagues and their people from the coronavirus pandemic. Governments in wealthy countries must not ignore the plight of poorer nations battling the coronavirus disease, which is no respecter of class or status or region, if the world is ever to bring the pandemic under control.

Already, in countries worst hit by the pandemic like Spain, Italy and the United States of America, coronavirus is deepening the consequences of inequality, pushing many of the burdens onto the losers of today’s polarised economies and labour markets.

Research suggests that those in lower economic strata are likelier to catch the disease. They are also likelier to die from it. And, even for those who remain healthy, they are likelier to suffer loss of income or healthcare as a result of quarantines and other measures, potentially on a sweeping scale.

Yet, the single biggest way to protect ourselves and others from coronavirus is to limit contact with others. For myriad reasons, this is far more accessible for wealthy people. COVID-19 didn’t create these disparities, of course. But it puts them into sharp focus and highlights the need for countries and individuals to help each other.

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