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Lagos, Nigeria. Screenshot from YouTube

Coronavirus could pose enormous challenge to Nigeria

Lagos, a teeming Nigerian metropolis, which according to projections will become by the middle of the century the most populous city in the world, is one of the new centers of the Coronavirus outbreak, according to the Italian virologist Ilaria Capua.

Published: March 1, 2020, 7:45 am

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    The researcher, who currently heads a department of the Emerging Pathogens Institute of the University of Florida in the US, is not so much worried by the lethality of Covid-19 but rather by the “destructive potential of economic, political and social assets”.

    Capua noted on, the collapse of markets in a global atmosphere of economic tensions as well as the hysterical rush to supermarkets and the spread of uncontrolled rumors about the virus.

    Both Africa and the United States, in this context, represent keystones for a possible further expansion of the global reach of the pandemic. “What can happen if the virus spreads to the data centers or campuses of Google, Apple or Facebook? And what can happen if one of Africa’s beating hearts, a city that grows at the rate of thousands of inhabitants a day, becomes the African outbreak of the virus? We do not know,” Capua explained.

    Nigeria has no health care system and a particularly weak and corrupt administration. The 2019 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report released by Transparency International ranked Nigeria as the fourth most corrupt country in the world.

    In the United States, the weaknesses and inefficiencies of a health system as complex as it is unstable, lacks the necessary public power of coordination and control and prevents the country from being able to guarantee a prompt and effective diagnosis of the infection and a proper risk analysis.

    The possible epidemic of the Coronavirus in the US amplifies the problems encountered by critics of the health care model that is excessively centered on the insurance market and on private interests.

    The case of a Miami citizen who was forced to pay a $3 270 medical bill to a hospital he had turned to after returning from a trip to China on suspicion of being infected by Covid-19, is a good example of the challenges facing the US. It is clear that access to a prompt diagnosis could be affected by economic and financial barriers. In South Korea, incidentally, testing for the virus is free.

    Capua also pointed out: “Italy is the first Western country that has experienced the Coronavirus infection on a large scale. For this reason, it is important to be an example.”

    Especially because in Nigeria, the first infected patient was an Italian citizen, and the government now fears an epidemic. Badly governed African countries such as Nigeria could increase in contagion risk due to its high demographic and chaotic social base.

    In addition, Nigeria may have been ready to address a contagion scenario coming from Asia, but certainly not from Europe.

    Italian Professor Aldo Giannuli believes the greatest media, political and economic risk at the global level is linked to a spread of the epidemic in Africa, which would not only create significant social problems but would also contribute to increasing the general sense of uncertainty.

    “The serious fear is that the contagion could settle in Africa where the sanitation conditions are decidedly disastrous and where the epidemic could spread rapidly,” Giannuli warned.

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