A United States, US-trained Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr Abdul-Jhalil Tafawa Balewa, has barred his mind on the easing lock down amid Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Nigeria.
Dr Balewa said the federal government should order a community lockdown in a bid to tackle the spread of the virus.
In an interview with our correspondent, Balewa faulted the decision of the government to gradually ease the lockdown when COVID-19 cases are still rising in the country.
Do you think the government should have eased the COVID-19 lockdown at the time it did?
Right now, we should be worried about community infection. We have a lockdown, and it was not seriously taken into consideration. In some of the isolation places, we had people that just came back from the diaspora. Now, no matter how likely infected somebody is, not knowing the immune compromise of people around you is dangerous. That is why one of the major barriers to the spread of this pandemic is testing, which should be readily available, but we don’t have that. Some people who want to be tested can not easily reach NCDC because they may not have labs available.
Needless to say, we are not prepared for anything like this in Nigeria, we don’t have a reserve of foods, our food security is very low, so it will be hard to ask people to stay indoors without having anything to do.
God forbids that in another 19 months, we will have a population explosion, so there are so many things wrong with having people stay home when there are no social cushions for them, like food and money to buy essentials. We were not locked down long enough, and if we were, we wouldn’t need to lock down those in the farming communities because they don’t have much interpersonal space reduction. After all, they have a vast expanse of farms, and very few people work there. But it’s the people in the cities with large population densities which need to be kept apart. A lot of the monies going out to build bridges should be diverted to palliatives for people.
It would have been better if the lockdown was not broken; however, it would have been enhanced by giving some palliatives that would make life a little more comfortable for the urban dwellers. Right now, we still don’t have enough testing centers, especially in higher population density areas.
Now we should be worried about community infections, people who work with some of those infected. COVID-19 is wrongly tagged rich man’s disease because it affected those who traveled to the epicenters of it in the world or those close to them, however, you have those who work for these people like cooks, house girls that are at close proximity and they have larger families either in the suburbs or hinterlands where accommodations can’t help them adhere to social distancing. They mostly don’t have access to the health care facilities where they go for a test, so they try to treat it with homeopathic medicines until it blossoms.
What is happening now is really bad, and we need to be careful. We need to be able to lockdown communities, especially the cities and suburban communities where people are very close to one another. Still, we can’t lock them down without giving them something to survive on.
The lockdown should not have been eased when it was because our graph is still climbing, we have not reached the peak, and we don’t know when that peak is going to be. It’s only when you get to the peak and start climbing down to when you had deaths comparable to when it just started rising and going to what in Mathematics is called asymptotes almost close to the exergies but not zero that’s when you may ease the lockdown.
Things would have been better for Nigeria, but we have an abbreviated health care system that has been left to rot over a long period. However, the presidency is doing the best it can in a terrible circumstance.
How best can Nigeria tackle COVID-19 at the community stage, looking at the fact that the federal government has admitted that community infection is currently ongoing?
There are several ways of tackling this first is the quick test Colloidal gold test that is available also, what has been done to this family of viruses like HIV AIDS brought us much closer to understanding retroviruses. We know that Chloroquine disables ACE2, which is the Angiotensin-converting enzyme two with terminal glycosylation which leads to the morphological change into emptying the RNA pathogen into the cytoplasm, now since ACE2 is a receptor found on the wholesale required on COVID-19 to be able to empty its RNA into the whole cell. We have access to this in abundance, we have Dogonyaro, we also know that garlic is rich in zinc, Chloroquine which we get in Dogonyaro is Allophonic that is attracted to zinc-Irons which have been known to do very well in France, parts of the US, Italy. However, I don’t understand why we keep following reactions that Western countries that want their pharmaceutical companies to do well come up with some idiotic new mildly useful moiety that does not help us rather, it makes us poorer by spending monies we don’t have.
How do you think the government can best tackle the COVID-19 spread at the community level?
Seventy percent of our population are agrarian, so they live in an open environment. Still, I’m talking about areas where the population density is high, and the government needs to lock such areas down. To have the infection stay within the communities some people will have antibodies to this virus. Then you can treat the sick with that; however, the science behind this does not require one to be an Albert Einstein to understand. Still, we need particular levels of Biosafety labs to say level three or four. We don’t have those in Nigeria so it’s a bad excuse to tell people we are looking for those with antibodies to take care of the broader population.
In a daily bread environment like ours where most people leave on meager means of day-to-day or salaries and in a case like this hoodlums will have to be locked down. Several things can happen, which include an increase in crime rate but only among the so-called rich, so I think the palliatives should be in two forms; those donating to the government should look towards food. We have severe food insecurity. We are making use of all the reserves we have now and very few people can plant some more due to the forbidden Boko Haram, herders disturbing farmers and so on. We need to take care of the poorest of the poor first. Now, you will also realize that if this class gets anything free, they will feel such should remain because our mentality is very feudal. It’s not in our nature to be safe because we always have an abundance of things like raw materials and so on. They need to be warned that this will take some time and get them set up first.
While this is being done and testing expanded, the government should go into the second stage of bringing in more palliatives meant for everybody because at this level, the poorest of the poor have been warned. The media need to get on their skates and translate a lot of health information into languages that people can understand that make meaning and not reading numbers daily of people without faces that nobody knows. They keep saying this number discharge, this number dead, who are these people?
Is the approach of the Federal Government towards the containment of the virus satisfactory?
We always seem to wake up late, but I must commend the president, and this is what I would love to see him do often, whenever there is a problem, get specialists and people of knowledge to resolve it. Even though it took us a little bit late to wake up, we appear to be unaware.
Recently the NCDC Chairman was invited to China not because we were so knowledgeable about this disease, but Nigeria is the seventh-largest country in the world, so we must be part of the leadership of the community of nations. However, we still did not plan a longer horizon, but I think the country’s leadership has tried all in all. Now it behooves on us to train more medical personnel with physicians, nurses, physician assistants, technicians, lab technicians, veterinary medical technicians, and Veterinary medicine doctors because they are at the forefront of most pandemics. They are the first major pull of knowledge for the rest of the health community.
Why is Nigeria concealing the identity of COVID-19 patients unlike the Western world where they are revealed?
I think there is a good reason for it but I don’t want to make excuses. However, there is an issue of confidentiality in medicine as you need to protect the identity of your patients, especially in a contagious environment such as ours. However, confidentiality became very strong in people’s thoughts because communication has improved, and people around the world in the most indulgent environments know that they should be protected.
If people are not told that this virus is real, then the chances of dealing with more deaths are higher. That’s why the west had no qualms about “commiserating” with those that died of the virus so that people who knew them can get tested. This has nothing to do with sexuality or morality; it’s just about being and that’s the difference.
Should Nigeria look towards herbal concoction as an antidote for COVID-19?
When you say cure, I will like to hold it with a little pinch of salt, Dogonyaro and Chloroquine are being used as antimalarial for a long time now for Diabetes and it grows in Savannah and Sahel in Africa. HydroxyChloroquine is a homolog of Chloroquine found in France, Italy, Spain and the use of it has alienated the pressures brought on by infections of this virus and has also helped the people get over the infection faster. We also found out that the use of garlic helps. There is a perfect reason why all these things I mentioned are in that Madagascar concoction. As I said earlier there is an enzyme called Ace 2 angiotensin-converting enzyme, it helps the virus to be able to stand on top of whole cells and empty itself inside, however, Chloroquine is Homophobic which provokes the production of zinc-iron which inhibits the conversion of angiotensin enzyme and it slows down glycosylation.
Most Pharmaceuticals have botanic origins, it’s from plants that we can extract medicines that have cured so many diseases, not just this case. Each time we make anti-viral vaccines, but we have never been able to arrive at a cure. For instance, in countries that give anti-flu vaccines, especially in the US you will see that people are taking it every year because this flu pathogen mutates. However, the vaccine they are looking for now has never been done in the history of man. For me, it’s dangerous and we should not allow ourselves to become genetically modified organisms because what is going to happen is that they will attenuate this virus that will make it slow down then let it go into man’s DNA. In there, they hope it will have an abatement of its activities. I think that is extremely dangerous because apart from medicine God, the ultimate maker has made us complete to now introduce androgen of COVID-19 into ourselves is not done.
I do support anything that would bring cure so long as it is properly tested and the percentage of curettage is much higher than that of harm. If there is no harm in that, then it’s even more preferable.
How soon should the world expect a vaccine for COVID-19?
I think in the US they are trying to rush it, which is a major mistake, there is a minimum of 14 months before getting to level one for a clinical trial, so I don’t see anything happening before two years. Though I’m not a fan of GMOs, so I won’t advise anyone about taking them. We have things that can bring relief like Nim, garlic. However, a lot of western-trained doctors don’t want to be seen as homeopathic, they wish to remain with something Pharmaceutical that was made in some factory and the idea is that we don’t have docent in homeopathic medicine. Still, in this case, I think there is a good argument for homeopathic medicine. People should not be forced into taking the vaccine; it should be voluntary.
What’s your take on the Quarantine bill before the House of Representatives?
There is a bill in the House on Quarantine and I think it shows the inverted thinking of our elected officials. I have no idea who is promoting that COVID-19 bill where they will have an appointed person as the head of NCDC to have this damning right over people’s lives.
The NCDC DG is appointed not elected and is a scientist, not a trained lawyer or police officer, so why did they (lawmakers) even come up with that only God knows. I think money is the root of sins. I’m not shy or afraid to say that due to the level of corruption in Nigeria, someone may have bought those lawmakers because no one in their right senses will come up with anything as such. I saw some of them on television saying Nigerians misunderstood the bill. They haven’t given us any reason to understand before we can misunderstand. I think they all need to be quarantined in a psychiatric environment.
At a point, we thought we had reached our peak, then the gradual easing of lockdown began, we needed to wait for a week or two to see the ratio of infected people. When the testing improves, we will find out that there is a radical upshoot and we have to wait until we get to the other side of the curve when we are almost down to where we started before then can be released again. As for the time frame, it will take about four iterations that would be close to about 84 days or even 63 days long. The government needs to gird its loincloth for now and hope that with the many churches and mosques we have in Nigeria, prayers said will be answered even though we can’t go in there now.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, will life ever remain the same, especially for Nigerians?
Life will never remain the same again; nowhere in the world will ever be the same again. We used to have parties where people gather together or riot together or mass protests, but it would be rare as time goes on because I’m sure that the new types of viruses and diseases we will have will cause inter-human distance or social distancing to be a new reality. Nigeria will not be the same, I thought Ebola would have taught us some lessons because I saw people at bus stops in Lagos lining up waiting for buses, but as soon as the last case was scaled off, people started acting like Nigerians again. However, this virus is almost a certain death if not instant, so when people close like neighbours, family members start dying, and Nigerians will be of better behaviour.
Advise the government on further ways of containing the virus’ spread in order to deflate the curve.
We should increase testing.