Despite the daily rise in the number of infected persons, nearly three in every ten Nigerians believe they have some form of immunity to the coronavirus, a recent poll reveals.
The latest survey from NOIPolls Limited, a country-specific polling service, shows that poor knowledge and perception of the virus is still rife, even as fact-checkers and health officials work furiously to provide accurate information and save lives.
Nigeria has 442 infections as of Thursday night with 13 deaths but about 6 per cent of Nigerians in the survey consider the COVID-19 outbreak in the country to be fake.
They believe the outbreak “is real in other countries but not in Nigeria.” Some said it is propaganda and a means for the government to embezzle funds. Others said they have not seen anybody infected by the virus in their states, hence their disbelief.
This is certainly not true, according to Nigeria’s infectious disease outfit, NCDC, and evidence from patients who have recovered as well as families of those who have died from the virus.
The poll was conducted in the 1st week of April when Nigeria had 174 confirmed cases. The results of the survey obtained from Nigerian adults (above 18) in the six geopolitical zones of the country were released on Tuesday.
The poll result revealed that almost all adult Nigerians (99 per cent) are aware of the outbreak of coronavirus disease in the country. About 87 per cent of respondents said they are concerned that they may contract the virus.
The survey found that Nigerians rated the NCDC high in providing information or updates on COVID-19 and testing to those who need to be tested in the country.
Nigeria’s minister of information, Lai Mohammed, on Thursday at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) briefing, noted that the results of the survey have dispelled the ‘fake news’ that there is not enough awareness of the virus in the country.
“There are talks that the National Orientation Agency (NOA) is not doing enough to enlighten Nigerians… its fake news,” he said citing the NOIpolls as a proof.
However, a further dissection of the survey revealed that many Nigerians are misinformed and or poorly informed, giving credence to concerns raised by experts that social distancing and lockdown measures would not work unless communities are properly sensitised and educated.
A total of 28 per cent of adults polled said they are immune to the coronavirus without providing any scientific evidence to back their claims.
Majority (42 per cent) of them held this belief mainly because they believe in God, while many (35 per cent) believe they are immune because they observe proper hygiene which prevents them from contracting the disease.
Some (11 per cent) said “being black and African” makes you immune while others still believe the country’s hot weather neutralises the severity of the disease.
These narratives are similar to those shared on social media in mid-February when no case had arrived Sub-Saharan Africa while Europe and South-east Asia were seeing daily spikes in the number of infections.
Despite numerous fact-checks proving otherwise and the steady daily rise in cases in Nigeria, the narrative is still being circulated widely, especially on the grounds that high alerts of cases have not started appearing in Africa compared to Europe and America – the hotbeds of the virus.
Experts have cautioned against comparing country by country bases as each nation’s testing capacity varies.
The World Health Organisation officials said the statistics in Africa are likely to significantly underestimate the true number of cases due to low testing capacity, raising concerns that the disease may soon overwhelm the continent’s under-resourced health services, if care is not taken.
The alarming rate at which COVID-19 is killing African-Americans than any other group in the U.S. suggests that the virus knows no borders, race or colour.
With regards to the perception of the lockdown orders, 77 per cent of Nigerians polled said the decision of the federal government is appropriate.
In his second national address since the outbreak of the pandemic, President Muhammadu Buhari on Easter Monday extended the two weeks’ total lockdown in Abuja, Lagos, and Ogun states by another 14 days.
Most respondents think it is appropriate because they believe it is the best way to control the spread of the virus in the country.
However, 18 per cent consider the lockdown to be too extreme. While 65 per cent of the respondents opined that the lockdown should be extended to other states, 35 per cent did not think so.
Meanwhile, 72 per cent of respondents specified that they have concerns about the lockdown.
These concerns included lack of food for the poor (40 per cent), that people will die of hunger (21 per cent), of economic hardship (13 per cent) and the survival of those whose livelihood depends on daily hustling (9 per cent) amongst other concerns mentioned.
The Economic Commission of Africa (ECA), warned that over 300, 000 Africans could lose their lives due to the continent’s struggling economies.
Currently, many citizens are defying weeks-long lockdown by going about their daily activities especially after palliatives have not been proportionately shared.
Compelling people to stay at home without providing them with palliatives will only make them undermine safety protocols, experts say.
They said lockdown will only work through proper community engagement, sensitisation and efficient sharing of palliatives.