As 2020 draws to an end and 2021 beckons, it became much clearer that things may never be the same again and for the first time in recorded history, everyone realised how health issues can impact every aspect of the economy.
It did not come as surprise to anyone that coronavirus was the most searched query in 2020 in Nigeria and across the world. Aside officially killing nearly two million people, global economy felt the impact of the pandemic and the effects would be for a lifetime.
According to the recently released Google’s Year in Search for 2020, two out of the top five questions that Nigerians searched for on Google were aimed at equipping them with adequate knowledge on how to develop solutions on their own with which they can protect themselves against the pandemic.
The third most popular question on Google in Nigeria was “How to make hand sanitizer”.
Prior to the introduction of lockdown measures, Nigerians began to buy hand sanitizers in large numbers, resulting in the scarcity of the commodity and prompting citizens to take to the internet to seek guidance on how to make hand sanitizers for personal and/or commercial purpose.
Within the same period, face masks also became scarce in the market resulting in a pack getting sold for as high as N200,000.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Nigerian government subsequently encouraged people to wear cloth face masks in order to reserve surgical and KN95 masks to frontline health workers who were facing scarcity of the much needed commodities.
This resulted in the emergence of new business opportunities as entrepreneurs, especially tailors quickly turned to the internet to learn how to make face masks.
The positive side of the pandemic
Aside from the disheartening outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the uncertainties ahead, especially in developing countries who are yet to access the COVID-19 vaccines, the pandemic has also brought to the fore several components that could be the bedrock of global health in the future.
In his address to mark one year after COVID-19 emerged as a global health threat, the Director General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom, said the pandemic triggered the fastest and most wide-reaching response to a global health emergency in human history.
He said: “The hallmarks of this response have been an unparalleled mobilization of science, a search for solutions and a commitment to global solidarity. Acts of generosity, large and small, equipped hospitals with the tools that health workers needed to stay safe and care for their patients. Outpourings of kindness have helped society’s most vulnerable through troubled times.”
According to Dr Tedros, 2020 has shown that governments must increase investment in public health, from funding access to COVID vaccines for all people, to making our systems better prepared to prevent and respond to the next, inevitable, pandemic. At the heart of this is investing in universal health coverage to make health for all a reality.
“Second, as it will take time to vaccinate everyone against COVID, we must keep adhering to tried and tested measures that keep each and all of us safe. This means maintaining physical distance, wearing face masks, practicing hand and respiratory hygiene, avoiding crowded indoor places and meeting people outside. These simple, yet effective measures will save lives and reduce the suffering that so many people encountered in 2020,” Tedros said.
“Third, and above all, we must commit to working together in solidarity, as a global community, to promote and protect health today, and in the future. We have seen how divisions in politics and communities feed the virus and foment the crisis.
“But collaboration and partnership save lives and safeguard societies. In 2020, a health crisis of historic proportions showed us just how closely connected we all are. We saw how acts of kindness and care helped neighbors through times of great struggle. But we also witnessed how acts of malice, and misinformation, caused avoidable harm,” he added.
In the New Year, the WHO DG said the world would need to choose whether to ignore the lessons of 2020 and allow insular, partisan approaches, conspiracy theories and attacks on science to prevail, resulting in unnecessary suffering to people’s health and society at large. Or walk the last miles of this crisis together, helping each other along the way, from sharing vaccines fairly, to offering accurate advice, compassion and care to all who need, as one global family.
“The choice is easy. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and we will get there by taking the path together,” Tedros concluded.
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