Lai Mohammed, The Minister of Information and Culture, HAS said the rising spate of fake news and misinformation, in spite of repeated caution by government, is distracting the fight against Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Alhaji Lai Mohammed stated this in Abuja when he featured on the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum to give an update on government’s efforts toward containing the coronavirus pandemic.
Lai Mohammed said that the government is particularly worried about unverified local therapies circulating in the social media as a cure to COVID-19 when in actual fact, no known cure had been developed for the disease.
“If you go by Whatsapp platform, there are so many myths and cure for coronavirus today. “Some people will tell you, it cannot affect Africans or the disease is not even existing at all, while some will say, all you need to do is to take garlic, take ginger.
“As we speak today, there is no vaccine or medicine for COVID-19. “The only weapon to combat the virus is what we called Non-Pharmaceutical Intervention (NPI), which are largely sensitisation, advocacy, keeping very good hygiene, social distancing, not shaking hands and no gathering.
“These are the only effective ways to contain the pandemic and that is why governments are declaring total lockdown.
“Once it starts spreading, no healthcare in the world can survive it,” Lai Mohammed warned.
Lai Mohammed said that if Nigerians do not change their ways, the country might witness an upsurge in infection of the deadly disease.
“I do not want to raise any alarm, but give a scenario – if one per cent of our population is infected, that is two million people.
“We do not have two million beds in all our hospitals combined, it is not a joke and that is why Nigerians should take the Government seriously.
“You see, COVID-19 does not kill as fast as Ebola, even SARS, but the damage it does to the economy, the social dislocation is worst.
“I pray that we overcome and contain COVID-19, even if we do so next month, the effects will still be felt for many more months.
“The country’s benchmark for crude oil, for instance, was 57 dollar per barrel, but, unfortunately, that has gone below 30 dollars and the implications on the economy are grave.”
He said that Nigerians should appreciate the fact that the pandemic is a real war.
“Clearly, the pandemic is a real war, but the enemy is invincible and the only control is if they obey the simple rules of self-isolation, social distancing and personal hygiene,” he stressed.
Lai Mohammed regretted that many Nigerians are living in denial, while many more do not even believe that the disease is real. “As a matter of fact, I was informed that a cleric on Radio in Akure was saying that the disease was not true but just a hoax. “In Katsina State last week, an entire Police Station was burnt down by an irate mob that felt angered that they were not allowed to attend the Friday Juma’at service.
“In Plateau State also, there was a violent protest by some Muslims while some Churches are also saying “don’t mind government, it is not our portion.
“When you look at those that have been afflicted by this virus anywhere in the world, you will see that nobody is immune,” he said.
Lai Mohammed also accused the media of sensationalising reports on those who had contacted the virus, saying that such posture was not encouraging people to come out for testing.
He reiterated that COVID-19 is not a death sentence and Nigeria had recorded a good feat in containing it with the present figure of 184 confirmed cases, 20 certified recoveries and discharged, and two deaths.
He said that the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), had started undertaking some clinical trials of drugs for Covid-19 treatment, but needed to be certified globally.
The minister commended some media organisations, including NAN, for disseminating timely, educative and informative materials to the public to contain the virus.