COVID-19: Changing Lifestyle of Nigerians
The average Nigerian is hospitable and compassionate, and would never resist a physical touch to express either of these. She would ‘share’ and ‘jointly use’ anything; clothes, food, private space and also give a total stranger a ride in her private vehicle.
To her ‘over-crowding’ is an alien term—and a meaningless one too. Most remarkable about her is the tendency to become sympathetic at the sight of a person vomiting, coughing or suffering any form of pain. Greeting is incomplete without body contact via handshakes, hugs or a pat.
She is a social butterfly. Weekends, for her, are for partying and hanging out. Globally, she is revered for staging the best social gathering or party because she celebrates every occasion with fervor and splendor. Be it birth, death, graduation, a newly acquired property, name it. Even the daily close of work is celebrated with a late night hangout—and when it’s a Friday, it could last till dawn.
The rich would travel abroad at the slightest opportunity—for education, healthcare or even to simply celebrate an occasion. Europe, the United Arab Emirate, Asia and America are their favorite destinations.
But all of that are fast-changing with the global Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) crisis, a disease that has never been previously identified in humans.
Twenty eight days into the onset of the disease’s outbreak in Wuhan, China, and its subsequent rapid spread to Europe and America, Nigeria and in fact, Sub-Saharan Africa, felt invisible due to the myth that the virus cannot survive hot-humid regions.
But three months into its outbreak, and with the number of its victims daily increasing exponentially worldwide, that invisibility cocoon appears to have suddenly eluded the nation.
With 51 cases reported in the country already as of Wednesday night by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and victims including big shots in public office, the virus has turned a reality to the average Nigerian.
As of Thursday, Vanguard Allure observed that social distancing, which is the biggest gospel against the spread of COVID-19, had become lifestyle to a large extent among Nigerians, even in the use of public transport system.
“Most passengers now prefer to be driven alone instead of being conveyed alongside others; more like a hire. This is causing other pedestrians to stay too long at bus-tops but I think it’s a reasonable step even though it makes movement more expensive,” Emma, 36, a tricycle operator at Magodo area of Lagos, told Vanguard Allure.
The same was observed at the Alimosho area of the state.
Homes now safe havens
Social activities and gatherings are observed to have greatly waned, and anyone organising a party risks doing so at a huge loss because many appear to have suddenly learned to “Stay Home” for safety.
Like in China, Italy and many other parts of the world where couples are experiencing having to spend more time together indoors, hotels, club houses and bars are already crying foul in most cities in the country as men who, usually, would stay out late at night after close of work, have suddenly imbibed the habit of running home for safety. Interestingly also, the ones who never held any divine being sacred or were ever seen in church, have suddenly assumed the role of Spiritual Heads.
As Mrs Christiana Santani, a Lagos housewife puts it, she no longer has to worry about morning devotion in her home these days.
“My husband is the first to wake up. Before my alarm rings, he is up already and has woken-up the children. I didn’t know he could be such a prayer leader. You need to come and see how he analyses the Bible.”
Surgical face mask, the new fashion
Although the use of surgical face mask has been widely said to be useless unless one is a carrier of the virus, Vanguard Allure observed that the mask has become a hot fashion accessory aside being considered a shield against the virus.
Since the outbreak on January 28 in Lagos, both hand sanitisers and face masks have become luxury, with many supermarkets selling a 100ml sanitiser for as high as N7,000. Both commodities didn’t take long to become scarce; the same way panic-buying due the fear of a national lock-down has made even staple food items become luxury.
But while the face mask could not be manufactured locally, many individuals have since taken to producing their own sanitisers; especially as over a million ‘Do It Yourself’ (DIY), videos have since flooded cyberspace.
While the scarcity of surgical face masks (manufactured using non-woven fabrics made from plastics like polypropylene) persist, Vanguard Allure observed that various items ranging from cotton handkerchiefs to randomly-picked stretchy fabrics, have been adapted, regardless of the nature of their fabrics.
“DIY face masks are also trending here in Abuja. I couldn’t get a surgical face mask to buy. So, I simply went to my designer to create one for me. Now, I am able to cover my nose and mouth. This one is made from Ankara fabrics; it’s not stretchy though. At least it won’t let me touch my mouth and nose when I am outdoors,” Bukky, an Abuja-based journalist who was on a visit to Lagos, told Vanguard Allure.
Efficacy of DIY masks
This appears to be the trend globally as surgical masks become scarcer. Even the Queen of England has also taken hers a notch higher by ensuring her outfits match her custom-made masks daily.
A Benin-based medical practitioner, who preferred to be identified simply as Dr. Osayiwense, however told Vanguard Allure that not all masks meet the purposes of surgical masks.
True to his argument, a recent USA Today report on the efficacy of DIY face masks also quoted a U.S. Army New York National Guard Physician Assistant, Captain Michael Doyle, who is the commanding officer at the drive-in coronavirus testing site in New Rochelle, New York, as saying: “The only way to actually prevent you from inhaling the virus, is the N95 mask.”
According to Doyle, while the homemade alternatives can create a loose-fitting barrier that may mitigate the spread of some germs, they are not designed to block the spread of COVID-19.”
Most significantly, Vanguard Allure observed that Nigerians have become less-compassionate towards ailing people, particularly those coughing or vomiting. Instead of the usual ‘sorry’ and ‘bless you’ you receive when coughing, you become a suspected COVID-19 carrier and observe no one risks standing near you. For instance, passengers in a public transport were said to have gone into frenzy earlier this week in Lagos when a middle-aged woman kept coughing repeatedly.
A glimpse of the future
In the light of the on-going lifestyle changes, it won’t be out of place to conclude that by the end of this global health crisis, the world would have changed forever—including Nigeria. Everyone would have become more hygiene conscious, less of a social butterfly and more IT-compliant in an attempt to deal less with human beings and cash. Also, education delivery, mode of worship, governance administration and general work life, would have changed. Already, the outbreak is reinforcing class difference in education as, while children of low-income earners simply hope to return to school and continue their education someday, their counterparts are enjoying non-stop education via e-learning portals provided by their respective schools.
By Josephine Agbonkhese