How COVID-19 impact on education, technology, human development in Nigeria, by Tomori

Prof. Oyewale Tomori

Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, has established how COVID-19 impacts on education, technology and human development in Nigeria.

Tomori, who is also a virologist and pioneer, Redeemer’s University, provided reasons why COVID-19 has so far spared more African countries unlike what is happening in Europe, America and India.

Tomori, who is also a Fellow and Past President, Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS), in a paper titled “Nigeria & COVID-19: Impact On Education, Technology And Human Development” delivered at the 12th Convocation lecture of Bell’s University of Technology (BELLSTECH) on Friday, April 9, 2021 at The Bellstech Convocation Ground, Ota, Ogun State, said: “So, why did we not see the predicted devastation? And what could have been responsible for the woeful failure of the predictions of doom? First these predictions were based not on science but on emotion, misconceptions, and incomplete knowledge of the disease in question and history of Africa’s unpreparedness in responding to disease outbreaks. Africa has a long history of perennial failure in controlling disease epidemics from yellow fever to Lassa and Ebola.

“However, at the time these doomsday predictions were made, very little was known about the COVID-19 disease caused by an evasive and an elusive virus, that will eventually demonstrate its unique ability to survive all that mankind threw at it. It was only much later as the disease spread throughout the world, that we began to know the spectrum of its infection and diversity of the symptoms of the disease. It also became clearer much later that the epidemiology of the disease could be altered by the demography of the location of the epidemic. Older people with comorbidities tend to suffer a more severe COVID-19 disease and die than the relatively younger population.

“The over 60-year-old population in Europe accounted for nearly 95 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in Africa, the median age is 19 years, with 60 per cent of the continent under 25 years of age. There is also the issue that we are not testing enough in Africa and this may account for the low number of cases detected. Africa’s testing rate per million of population is four-six times less than that of Europe or the US. The countries like Taiwan and New Zealand that successfully controlled COVID-19 without resorting to massive lockdown were testing three to five times as much as Nigeria did. In Africa, South Africa tested up to 20 times as much as Nigeria. Our testing rate is 37 times less than the testing average for Africa.

“There is also the issue of our living pattern and style in Africa – where daily businesses are carried out in a more open outdoor arena instead of the highly closeted offices and gathering places in the Western world.”

Tomori said there is no doubt that Africa was better prepared in handling the COVID-19 epidemic than it was for the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa According to the Director of Africa CDC, John Nkengasong, only two countries (South Africa and Senegal) were able to test for COVID-19 in in January 2020 before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Africa. However, he said, two months later through the support of Africa CDC, 43 countries were testing for COVID-19. Tomori said other areas where African countries quickly responded to the outbreak included the setting up of the COVID- 19 task force early in February 2020 by the Africa CDC, even before any case was reported in Africa.

The virologist said wrongly or otherwise, African countries locked down their countries as early as March 2020, within a month of reporting cases, in order to limit the spread of the virus. Tomori said given that more than 80 per cent of Africa’s population works in the informal sector, living on daily earnings, it was an unpopular but courageous decision by many Africa n leaders.

Tomori said the failure for the doomsday Africa COVID-19 prediction was a combination of what the African countries did in responding to the epidemic, and what, epidemiologically, the SAR-Cov-2 virus did not do. “It was expected that African countries would be unprepared and hapless and helpless, as usual in controlling the outbreak. But African countries responded as adequately as possible, to limit the spread and devastation of the epidemic. The virus was expected to spread quickly and widely causing severe disease that would overwhelm the healthcare system, leading to a large number of deaths. Certainly, the virus, epidemiologically, behaved differently in Africa,” he said.

Tomori said in considering the impact of COVID-19 on education, technology and human development, people must appreciate that they are dealing with an ongoing epidemic, the end of which they do not know. “We are dealing with an evasive, elusive and seemingly invincible enemy aided and abetted by our disdain of, as well as our disregard and disrespect for the enemy. During this epidemic, we have demonstrated an aversion to taking the basic non-pharmaceutical interventions- mask wearing, safe distancing avoidance of crowded places and washing of hands – required to rein in the enemy. But let us first assess the state of our nation, before COVID-19 came to knock in nails into the coffin of our education, technology and human development,” Tomori said.

Tomori said despite the relatively low number of cases and deaths, COVID-19 disease has serious and far- reaching impact on every aspect of their life and living – social education, economy and human development. Indeed, he said the impact of the disease would last long after we have brought it under control.

The virologist said the full impact of the disease – the depth, the height and the breath of COVID-19 impact on people’s life and livelihoods – will not be appreciated until much later. “Day by day, we will discover what devastation that COVID-19 has unleashed on our life. Unless we use the COVID-19 as an opportunity to positively turn our nation back to the path of development, we will continue to see deterioration in our development and advancement,” he said.

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