Advertising As A Major Tool Applied By The Government In Tackling Coronavirus
Background to the Study
The novel Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), first identified in Wuhan China in December 2019, has rapidly spread to almost every region of the world. The disease is caused by a new and severe type of Coronavirus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARSCoV-2). The infection has no immediate treatment and vaccine, and it has according to World Health Organization (WHO, 2020) become a worldwide pandemic causing significant morbidity and mortality. There are 1,603,428 confirmed cases, 356,440 recoveries from the illness and 95,714 deaths worldwide as of April 9, 2020 (Worldometers, 2020). On February 27, 2020, an Italian citizen became the index case for COVID-19 in Nigeria and as at April 9, 2020, there were 288 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria with 51 discharges and 7 deaths (Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, 2020).
To prevent further spread of the virus, Nigerian government embarked on advertisement and enlightenment campaigns for good hygiene and social distancing. Temperature screening was conducted at airports and those returning from countries with numerous confirmed cases of COVID-19 were implored to self-isolate. The NCDC in association with State governments also began tracing and tracking of possible victims and their contacts. On March 18, 2020, the Lagos State government suspended all gatherings above fifty people for four weeks and ordered all lower and middle level public officers to stay-at-home (Ewodage, 2020). Similarly, the Federal government, on March 30, 2020 introduced various containment strategies such as closing of the national borders and airspace, schools, worship centers and other public places, canceling of mass gathering events and placing the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states on lock down for an initial period of fourteen days (Radio Nigeria, 2020). Covid-19 testing laboratories were set up in Lagos, Abuja and Irrua in Edo State while State governments opened isolation centres and imposed dawn to dust curfews in their territories
COVID-19, from the family of Coronavirus (others include SARS, H5N1, H1N1 and MERS), is a contagious respiratory illness transmitted through the eyes, nose, and mouth, via droplets from coughs and sneezes, close contact with infected person and contaminated surfaces. It has an incubation period of approximately one to fourteen days. The symptoms include cough, fever and shortness of breath, and it is diagnosed through a laboratory test. The contagion could lead to severe respiratory problems or death, particularly among the elderly and persons with underlying chronic illnesses. Some infected persons however, are carriers for the virus with no symptoms while others may experience only a mild illness and recover easily (Sauer, 2020). As there is currently no cure or vaccine for the COVID-19; medical treatments are limited to supportive measures aimed at relieving symptoms, use of research drugs and therapeutics.
Knowledge of infection pathways and relevant precautions to take is needed to control the pandemic. While the scientific community continues to research possible vaccines or drugs for the viral infection, it is expected that adequate knowledge will motivate individuals to make decisions which may prevent and curb the epidemics. Knowledge such as regular hand washing, using hand sanitizers, wearing face masks, respiratory etiquettes, social distancing and selfisolation when sick are vital to reducing widespread infection (Leppin & Aro, 2009). Studies (e.g. Brug, Aro, Oenema, de Zwart, Richardus & Bishop, 2004; Choi & Yang, 2010; Hussain, Hussain & Hussain 2012) revealed that individuals’ level of knowledge about an infectious disease can make them behave in ways that may prevent infection. Consequently, individuals may need to be informed about the potential risks of infections in order to adopt the right precautionary measures (Brug, Aro & Richardus, 2009)
At early stages of a pandemic, precautionary measures are needed to protect against possible danger and curtail the disease spread. In line with this therefore, the Nigerian government (just like other governments around the world) introduced various containment strategies which have interfered with individuals’ daily lives and have led to severe economic loss and social disruption. People were coerced to stay at home, businesses and offices were closed, exempting healthcare facilities/workers and ―essential‖ commercial establishments. For Nigerians making a living in the informal economy, their livelihood is now threatened by the lockdown since much of their activities and businesses involve face-to-face contact. In Nigeria there is no social safety net, no access to food stamps or unemployment benefits, most people earn their living on a daily basis. Regardless of this however, there has so far been a high degree of compliance with the government directives, Nigerians are engaging in vigilant hand washing, practicing social distancing and self-isolation, and avoiding going to work, school or crowded areas. Even most religious leaders agreed to stop large gatherings, forbid the shaking of hands and directed church members to pray at home and use hand sanitizers (Makinde, Nwogu, Ajaja & Alagbe, 2020; Olatunji, 2020).
On the other hand, some Nigerians due to superstitions and ignorance of the science behind the infection prefer only to pray (even violating the social distancing rule by attending churches or mosques during the lockdown) and use anointing oils, talisman, herbs or rituals (Abati, 2020) to prevent contracting and spreading the virus. Some also use social media platforms (e.g. Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) to spread fear, project fake news concerning the source of the virus, promote prejudice against China, incite panic buying, proffer fake cures and undermine medical advice, deliberately or ignorantly (Hassan, 2020). They opined that lockdown, self-isolation and social distancing are un-African solutions to the pandemic (Abati, 2020). Given the importance of knowledge of precautionary activities in curbing the spread of infectious diseases such as the novel COVID-19, it is important to research on people’s health knowledge at this period of the pandemic. Richards (2017) reported that knowledge among ordinary people about how to eliminate risks of contracting Ebola virus led to a rapid drop in mid-2015 in the number of cases of infection. Therefore, in this study, we hope to ascertain the level of the knowledge of COVID-19 among a sample of Nigerians as well as their perceptions of the pandemic.
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