Coronavirus: Nigerians Overseas Share Their Lockdown Stories

April 5, 2020

Planet Earth on vacation. That’s the way some funny character described the pervading lockdown across the globe on social media. For the first time in living memory, all major cities/countries of the world are either on partial or total lockdown, or contemplating one. Otherwise bubbly cities like New York, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, London, Berlin, Rome, Milan, Lagos are now like ghost towns. And usually overcrowded tourist sites such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum both in Paris, Times Square and Central Park both in New York, The Taj Mahal in India, the Great Wall in Beijing – China, Walt Disney in California have all gone empty for weeks.

For probably the first time in history, the Kaabah in the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican City of Rome, two top religious centres in the world, received no visitors, as they were closed for days. All sporting events, including the globally renowned English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga, Italian Seria A, the French Lique 1, Wimbledon Tennis Championship; even the world’s largest sporting festival, the XXXII Olympic Games billed for Tokyo, Japan in July this year has been postponed, altering for only the second time since inception, its regular four year rotation. Also, businesses have closed and according to the head of the International Monetary fund, IMF, the global economy has officially entered recession – the second in less than two decades.

All because of the rampaging Coronavirus.

But how are Nigerians in the diaspora coping with the lockdown, especially those in some of the virus’ hotspots?

It’s depressing not to be able to attend ‘owanbes’ – Folake Jubrilla, London

Folake Jubrilla, 51, lives in London, United Kingdom. She is a teacher/Learning Advocate (Primary School) and an MC on the side.

In all her two and half decades in the UK, she has never witnessed any lockdown of this nature; and nothing near it.

Presently, she works from home, mostly doing online training courses and completing course assignments.

She has been stuck indoors, courtesy of the government’s lockdown of the city for two and half weeks, and still counting. “I actually think there might be an extension,” she says – perhaps until the virus is curtailed and it is safe to mingle again.

Her thinking is probably based on the scary number of cases and fatality figures emanating from the Health Department. The UK throughout last week, announced unprecedented number of cases and deaths, sending panic and fears across board.

Asked how she has been spending her time. Jubrilla said, “I read books or watch films on Netflix when am not doing my online training course. Even before the lockdown, I have been used to staying indoors during the week, although I socialise weekends. Quite frankly, it is very depressing having to just stay indoors without being able to socialise with my Yoruba Owanbe crew.”

Asked to confirm the news that stores have gone empty due to panic buying, Jubrilla said, “Yes, food and essentials have gone empty at the stores because of panic buying. Depending on what you like to eat, people hurriedly stocked their home with food items. I also did. I stocked my house with my traditional food stuff and less of Oyinbo foods. Thankfully, the government has put an order in place to prosecute anyone who increases food prices because of the current situation.

“Old people have a free first to buy opportunity ahead of others. Key workers like those in the health sector and the likes must be allowed to buy food first and people are told to buy just three items per person, so that supplies can go round. Food stores are also open but people have to adhere to the social distancing rule. Also, the panic buying has subsided and the shops are becoming packed again.”

On the scary fatality figures, Jubrilla said, “We only hear of fatalities on the news and newspapers; personally, I don’t know anyone who has lost their lives to the virus. I have however seen people who said they had symptoms like cough and cold. Even I had cough at some point, which was why I stayed home for three days before the government declared the lockdown.”

The mother of one however said she is not sure of the speculation that the virus affects more white people than black. “I don’t know about the virus affecting more whites than black. What I know is that it attacks older people more, regardless of their race. I have seen videos of black people on their hospital beds appealing to people to stay indoors; as they have been infected and could tell that the virus is real.”

Boredom not an issue, I work mostly from home – Niyi Adebayo, Lanham, Maryland, USA

For Niyi Adebayo, a journalist, publisher and therapist based in Lanham, Maryland, USA, boredom has not been an issue, as he belongs to the essential workers category and thus exempted from the lockdown.

“That allows me to go out, should there be any need. However, I really don’t have to go out of the house because my services are allowed to be provided remotely via telephone or other online technological devices. The lockdown in my state officially began this past Monday March 30th; however, my family have been on a self-imposed lockdown for about 2 weeks now as a precautionary measure. Having said that, it’s hard to know precisely when this lockdown will be over.”

On how he and his family have been coping in the lockdown, Adebayo said, “My family and I have been coping well. My children’s classes are now conducted online via their respective colleges’ online platforms and my wife also has the privilege of working from home, if she chooses to, because she also belongs to the essential workers category.

“Talking about boredom, I’d say that has not really been an issue because we have all been very busy.  Nonetheless, I still miss some of my outdoor activities like hanging out with my family and friends.”

About food and other supplies, Adebayo, who publishes the African Mirror Newspaper in the USA, said, “We have enough supplies for now, but even if we run out of stuff, we can always restock.”

Besides, he says there’s a plan in place by the government to support any struggling family with food items and other basic needs.

Speaking on the rate of fatality, Adeniyi said, “The virus is no respecter of any race, color, age or gender. I don’t know the exact figures right now, but it will be an understatement to say the situation is scary. Everyone is genuinely concerned but we believe in the power of God to stem the tide. So we’re hopeful.”

It’s a peculiar experience for me – Ifeanyi Nwabichie, Paris, France

In the words of France-based Ifeanyi Nwabichie, “This lockdown is a rather peculiar experience because I have never had to work from home this long before. It has come with a lot of adjustments, especially getting used to staying indoors. Frankly, it hasn’t been exactly rosy.”

Although he concedes that people can move because stores and other essential service providers are available, he explains that “They need to have a permit. You can get the permit online. Workouts are also permitted but it has to be done close to your residence. Failure to abide by the rules attracts a fine.”

However, he says working from home has followed the normal routine. “We hold online meetings within the normal work timeframe; for my team, we have daily meetings to catch up, work and monitor progress reports.”

How boring does it get? We asked.

To this she said, “Definitely there’s a lot of monotony. You do the same thing while you’re confined to the same space. Throughout yesterday, I didn’t step out; some others haven’t left their homes for three days. So yes, it gets boring. I try to deal with it by doing catch up with family and friends; and by trying to replicate what we do in the office, like having time for lunch break without the luxury of going out.”

On the scary figures, Nwabichie said, “As of today (Tuesday), we have over 52,000 cases and over 2,500 deaths. The information reverberates everywhere. Even online, everybody is talking about the coronavirus; and I must confess it adds to the mental pressure. It’s not pleasant knowing that people are dying every day. Personally, I’m worried about how the figures are escalating very quickly in France; but I’m even more concerned about Nigeria, because France has a certain level of efficiency in its healthcare system. The fact that they are struggling to contain the spread of the virus, as advanced as they are, sends a scary message. Most hospitals are filled up; they are moving people to other cities; to Germany; they recalled retired doctors, engaged student nurses…. It’s demanding.

“I’m trying to imagine how some of the hospitals in my neighbourhood in Gbagada, where I used to live will handle a situation like this. And I’m talking about Lagos. For other states, it will be way impossible for them to handle. Aside the deficiency in infrastructure, it will be really crushing economically.  Think of cutting off the means of livelihood from people who survive on their daily earnings. Telling such people to stay indoors is like telling them to die of hunger. Let me not even talk of petty traders who survive on selling perishable goods. As a finance person, I’m concerned about the economic impact this will have on Nigeria’s economy. As it stands, the naira is already losing value, depreciating to other strong currencies, partly because of the fall in the price of crude oil.

“Aside that, will people continue getting paid if the lockdown persists in a place like Nigeria?

“In France, the government has earmarked 300billion Euros to help SMEs and independent workers. They have instructed banks not to collect interest on loans and are giving opportunities for more loans. These are some of the palliatives to stimulate the economy and help cushion some of the effects of the outbreak.”

Asked if she knows anyone who has died of the virus, Nwabichie said, ‘No.’

He however does not believe in the myth that the virus affects more whites. “There is no scientific evidence to back that up. Even the talk that hotter climes slow down the spread of the virus has not been scientifically proven.”

The lockdown in France started March 16. It was supposed to last two weeks but has now been extended by four weeks.

It’s like a holiday to me – Nwachi Amadi, Munich, Germany

In Germany, a five-week lockdown has been declared, to last till April 20. However, Nwachi Amadi (not real name) sees it literally as a holiday.

“For us, we are on holiday, we are not on quarantine. The beauty of it is that one is free to go out. The instruction is ‘stay at home’, but it does not mean I cannot go out of my house or take a walk with the kids to get fresh air. Food stores are still open and one can go get stuff. One can also go for workouts, though not as a group.”

Amadi however said children parks are closed to curb the spread of the virus in public places.

Just before the lockdown was declared, she was preparing to go shopping for the weekend. Little did she know that she would end up shopping for three weeks. “Initially people bought out of the fear, not knowing what to expect in the coming days, but things soon normalised after the Chancellor, Angela Markel assured that there’s enough in the storehouses to last the duration of the lockdown.

“So now, even the products that were particularly scarce when the lockdown was first announced, like toilet tissue, mill, rice, spaghetti, are all now available at the stores.”

On palliatives, Amadi says she’ll gladly award the German government a 20-star rating, if there is anything like that. “There are so many measures put in place like the Kurzarbeitgeld, which is a provision for employers to apply for money to pay their staff. The purpose is to reduce unemployment because several employers are laying off workers for fear of not making enough money to fulfill their obligations to them. The government has volunteered to pay 60% of its workers’ salaries to work from home. There is also a provision for tenants not to pay rent during this period.

“There is also the Arbeitslosengelde, for those who are able and willing to work but who lost their jobs. This is actually not new, it has been in existence for years. Your house rent and children’s school fees are 100% paid by the government. You also receive feeding allowance for your family.

Curiously, even Amadi says she does not know anyone who has been felled by the virus. ‘I’ve only seen people on the news. I also know that Germany has the lowest death rate in Europe. We have like 70,000 people who have contracted the disease and just about 600 deaths. In fact, this has raised questions, even from SkyNews, which asked, “Does Germany have a cure for the Coronavirus?”

That question is especially fueled by the recovery rate. Over 12,000 people have recovered.

You dare not flout the lockdown order – Rahim King, Graz, Austria

According to Rahim King, a businessman based in Graz, Austria, the lockdown has been on for two weeks, and it has been total, except for the critical sectors. And no-one knows exactly when it will be called off.

As a police state, King says it is actually very difficult for anyone not permitted to flout the order. The fact that the country also shares a border with Italy, which has been gravely ravaged by the pandemic, has meant the authorities being more watchful.

“Yes, stores are open” King says, “but the crowd is regulated and you can only go out with genuine reasons – probably to buy food or other essentials. Austria has a huge population of old people; hence they have to be careful. Ambulances are at the ready to promptly evacuate any suspected coronavirus cases. They have also instructed people to put on their nose masks and adhere to the social distancing rule between people when and if they must go out.

“From what I’ve heard, the good news is that the virus dies a natural death after some time, and especially in heat or hot temperature. That is why they are predicting that it will be overcome in April, when summer sets in here.

“In the meantime, Austria has some of the best palliatives on ground for unemployed people, even before the virus outbreak, such that they are able to pay rent, feed and take care of other essentials like health. In this situation, I’m sure they will pay about 100 per cent of salaries; and insurance is there to cover health expenses. It is only if you are a high earner that you may be required to pay for your medication.”

Asked if he has he lost any neighbour to the virus, King said, “That is the funny thing about Austria. It is an extremely quiet country – unlike the UK, which has been described as ‘Second Naija’. You hardly know your neighbour here, let alone when he dies. I’ve lived in this building of four stories for five years, and I can tell you that I hardly know any of my neighbours. Maybe a guy that I’ve met in the mosque a couple of times. So if anyone were to contract or die of coronavirus, you hardly get to know. The fatalities we know are the ones we read in the papers and hear on the radio or TV.

Source: The Nation

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