COVID-19 Pandemic: Reality, conspiracy theories and confusion, by Prof. M. K. Othman

Professor M. K. Othman.
Professor M.K. Othman.

In the year 2020, COVID-19 pandemic is the most horrible and ravaging global phenomenon whose devastating effects continue to bear on us directly or indirectly.

As I am writing this piece, 6th August 2020 at 1340 GMT, Covid-19 Pandemic has globally claimed 712,183 lives with 6,106,945 active cases and 12,207,505 recovered or discharged cases. In Nigeria, the Pandemic caused the deaths of 927 people translating to four deaths per million Nigerians. Additionally, the active and recovered cases were 11,798 and 32,165, respectively.

These figures may not be exactly as they depend on the ability of a country to trace and test all the potential COVID1-19 carriers; the figure increases with the number of people tested over a time period.

In Nigeria, only 1,473 people were tested out of every one million Nigerians from a total population of 206,592,298 people. In the global table showcasing the COVID-19 Pandemic victims, Nigeria held the 48th position out of 215 countries considered in the statistics.

The United State of America topped the table as the worst affected country with deaths of 161,660 people out of a total of 4,975,279 cases and 2,541,460 recovered cases in the country’s population of 331,192,837 people.

The 215th country in the table was Anguilla, an eastern Caribbean island, which is a British overseas territory. Anguilla is a country covering 91 square km with a population of 14,254 people recorded three Covid-19 cases with 100% recovery without death and active cases at the time of writing this piece on 6th August 2020.

Infections, deaths and recoveries are stack reality of COVID-19 Pandemic facing the world. Unfortunately, we continue to record new cases on a daily basis in spite of our concerted efforts individually and collectively to flatten the trajectory and end the infection. Prayerfully, sooner than later, the efforts will pay up.

However, there is a need to significantly comprehend the origin and modus operandi of the Covid-19 so that our efforts can make the desired impacts. This is really the crux of the matter. How did the world get this mess of COVID-19 Pandemic with its unprecedented and unbearable consequences?

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2) is solely responsible for causing COVID‑19 Pandemic. The outbreak was first identified and reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, the People Republic of China.

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and then finally declared it a Pandemic on 11th March 2020. In the last two decades before the pandemic, the world witnessed two major Coronavirus endemics; Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and SARS 1, the so-called “Swine Flu”.

MERS and SARS 1 were equally deadly, but not easily spread compared to COVID-19. Between late 2002 and 2003, an emerging pathogen from an animal was noticed to be infectious to human beings and causing severe respiratory illness in China.

It was reported to be the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV). From China, it spread over 26 other countries, infecting at least 8,098 people and killing at least 774. A virus similar to the one that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 caused SARS, but its impact is monumental and incomparable to SARS Virus.

This is in spite of having a relatively high case of fatality rate of 9.6 per cent, compared to the current estimate of 1.4 per cent for COVID-19.

When COVID-19 came calling, the world was certainly unprepared for its devastating effect. There were panic, anxiety and uncertainty across the globe. Borders, schools, offices were promptly shut, domestic, international flights and road transports grounded and we were all seem to be afraid of each other to avoid infection of dreaded COVID-19.

Words like lockdown, social distancing, stay home and safe became our daily utterances. It was like the world has come to an end. Experts who developed the so-called COVID-19 prediction models heightened the fear.

In the second of April 2020, the Economic Commission for Africa predicted the deaths in Africa to be between 300,000 and 3 million people. It was in this melee that confusion and conspiracy theories were created.

The first of these theories is blaming 5G Internet service for the cause and spread of the virus. The electromagnetic spectrum is alleged to spread a biological entity in the world. Many video clips were circulated via social media discussing this possibility. Can this be true? The World Health Organization (WHO) had to point out that viruses cannot travel on mobile networks, and that COVID-19 is also spreading rapidly in many countries that do not have 5G networks.

The second theory involves the vaccination activities of Bill Gate, the American multi-billionaire funder of vaccines across many countries. He was alleged to be planning to use Covid-19 vaccination program to implant digital microchips that will somehow track and control people across the globe.

How truthful is this theory? This may not be unconnected with the belief of experts who consistently and continuously assert that COVID-19 has no cure but only vaccines, which are currently being developed.

However, several other experts have claimed to develop a cure for COVID-19. One of such claims is that of a lady, Dr Stella Emmanuel, Cameroonian, Nigerian trained medical doctor living in the USA who claimed to treat 350 COVID-19 patients with different health complications without a single fatality.

She used a combination of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and azithromycin (AZ) for the treatment. She got the support of many medical experts including that of Dr Douste-Blazy, French medical personnel.

Dr Douste-Blazy started a petition that was been signed by almost 500,000 French doctors and citizens urging French government officials to permit physicians to prescribe hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus patients early before they require intensive care. Can’t the claim of Dr Emmanuel be verified? The world seems not to be in a hurry as some experts coloured Dr Emmanuel claim politically.

Another theory is the claim that the virus escaped from a Chinese lab. The city of Wuhan in China is the original epicentre of the COVID-19, which also hosts Wuhan Institute of Virology where researchers have been studying bat coronaviruses for a long time.

This was too much of a coincidence, why did COVID-19 originate from a city where scientific experiments on coronaviruses were being conducted? When the virus was observed, why was the city not completely quarantined until the infection was absolutely treated? Yes, if Wuhan city was the timely quarantined, it would have saved the world the hysteria, lockdown, destruction of economies, complete reengineering of humanity and creation of new normal.

This also lends credence to the belief that COVID-19 was created as a biological weapon. Many people still believe in this assertion. According to Pew Research, “nearly three-in-10 Americans believe that COVID-19 was made in a lab, either intentionally or accidentally, the former is more popular: specifically, 23 per cent believe it was developed intentionally, with only 6 per cent believing it was an accident”. The world has to investigate this conspiracy theory.

There are many other theories that time and space may not permit me to write. Meanwhile, the situation in Nigeria is simply “copy and paste” of whatever the developed nations were doing in terms of strategy to address the COVID-19 issue.

Many people at the helm of affairs used the situation for personal aggrandizement. A case of NDDC in which 1.5 billion Naira was shared among the staff as “palliative” is one out of several unknown cases.

Generally, there is a lack of sincerity in the way COVID-19 issue is being handled at both states and federal levels. This is a subject for another day.

In conclusion, COVID-19 is still ravaging the land; it is our absolute responsibilities, both the leaders and the followers to fight it using indigenous and unorthodox remedies. Several Nigerian experts are ready to make a contribution.

The likes of Professor Haruna and Co are handy and readily available in this direction. Yes, Nigeria can make a gigantic breakthrough by finding the remedy for the global malaise, COVID-19 Pandemic.

Finally, we have to prepare our mind for another bigger fight of reviving the post-COVID-19 economy and bring back our normal, pre-COVID-19 life. It will certainly be a herculean and gargantuan task.

Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.


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