Abuja, Nigeria. March 18th, 2020 – Daily, new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) emerge around the world. What is certain from China to Italy to Iran etc. is that nations and continents are being affected by the rate at which the virus spreads. People are being quarantined in hospitals and aboard ships in distant ports, and the movement of labour and vital supplies has been significantly distorted.
Nigerian recorded its first case of COVID-19 on the 25th of February 2020 with the index case being an Italian man who works in Nigeria and flew into the commercial city of Lagos from Milan. Since then Nigeria has recorded an additional 2 cases – contact of the index case and an independent woman who arrived from the United Kingdom on the 13th of March, 2020. Given this backdrop, NOIPolls conducted a public opinion poll to gauge the perception of Nigerians regarding the awareness, mode of transmission, symptoms and to ascertain their awareness on possible preventive measures of COVID-19. This poll was conducted at the time Nigeria had only 2 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The poll result revealed that a vast proportion of Nigerians (84 percent) are aware of the COVID-19 virus disease and this cuts across gender, geographical location and age-group with at least 73 percent representation. The awareness level is not surprising given that the health authorities have through various media platforms informed Nigerians of the illness and have assured Nigerians that they can manage the spread of the virus, when the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the country in February 2020. Also, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) issued a public health advisory to inform Nigerians about symptoms and preventive measures and has provided a toll-free number for guidance.
With the incorrect news of immunity being spread it is alarming to note that the poll revealed that 26 percent of Nigerians nationwide held the perception that they are immune to the virus. Further probing showed that Nigerians who held this belief have based it on their faith and religious beliefs (40 percent) and the perception that they have a strong genetic make-up (30 percent) that is resistant to the virus. Additionally, other opinions on immunity to the virus includes, that the Nigerian weather is too hot for the virus to survive in(17 percent), and that their personal herbal remedy will protect them from the virus (8 percent), while others have the idea that the COVID-19 is not an African disease rather a western disease (5 percent).
On panic level, with reference to being infected by the virus, 63 percent of Nigerians disclosed that they are concerned that they may contract the virus. With regards to knowledge of the symptoms of infection, cough (45 percent), fever (33 percent) and sneezing (25 percent) were identified as the top three symptoms of the virus while body contact with an infected person was mostly mentioned as one of the primary ways of spreading the virus.
Furthermore, the poll revealed that 50 percent of Nigerians do not have information on preventive measure against the coronavirus disease. This implies that about hundred million Nigerians are at risk of being infected with the disease. Nevertheless, it is heartwarming to note that 45 percent stated that regular washing of hands is one of the measures they would take to prevent the spread of the disease. Interestingly, it is very important to note also that a vast majority of Nigerians disclosed that they would be willing to report (97 percent) and be tested (97 percent) if they show any sign of COVID-19 as well as willing to be quarantined (97 percent) if they are at risk of spreading the virus disease.
Currently, COVID-19 has been considered a pandemic as a result of its speed and scale of transmission. It is pertinent that the Federal Ministry of Health and all stakeholders, continue and ramp up their efforts in ensuring that the cases of the virus infection can be reduced in Nigeria, and ultimately contain the virus. Also, more needs to be done in terms of a nationwide campaign to sensitize more Nigerians on the preventive measures against the virus disease as 50 percent disclosed that they do not have information on preventive measures against the virus. These are key findings from the gender equality poll conducted in the week commencing March 9th, 2020.