For millions across the world, declaring 2020 an Annus Horribilis, a Latin phrase meaning, “horrible year,” would be a gross understatement.
When in 1992, Queen Elizabeth II declared that year her most horrible year (annus horribilis), following the collapse of the marriages of three of her children, especially that of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and the mysterious inferno that severely destroyed part of her Winsor Castle home, little did anyone realise that all these would pale into insignificance when placed side by side with the dreadful and more horrible experience across the globe in the outgoing year 2020.
Time Magazine, in its December edition, described 2020 as the “worst year ever.” The international magazine, on its cover page, crossed out “2020” for its image this year. Time’s film critic, Stephanie Zacharek, created this eerie feeling when she described the latest edition of the magazine’s annual roundup as “the story of a year you’ll never want to revisit.”
It started like a fitful breeze but soon became a Tsunami sweeping across the entire world, ferociously. Just like a bolt from the blues, the novel coronavirus epidemic first broke out in Wuhan, China in December 2019, and within a twinkle of an eye, it spread in the whole of the Asian country and in no time, leapt on the rest of the world, forcibly, and began to ravage populations.
As the drama about COVID-19 unfolded, a bolt of shock suddenly struck as the virus began to spark fear among the rest of the world. Though unfamiliar, the virus seemed to be making its way fast into the other parts of the globe. And in March, all hell broke loose when quarantined people began to die in their scores in isolation centres across the world.
And in a jiffy, global financial markets began to shudder and sputter before they eventually crashed, signalling the beginning of a global economic hardship many countries are still grappling with.
As countries shut down worldwide, life grounded to a halt overnight with hitherto bubbling communities suddenly becoming ghost towns.
The World Health Organisation, on March 11, declared Coronavirus a pandemic and since then the virus occupied the front burner regarding local and global issues.
The global outbreak of the novel COVID-19 pandemic not only caught the entire world napping but also by surprise. The dreadful and deadly disease, in its rage, claimed thousands of lives across the world, within a short period, as it proved not to be a respecter of position or riches. As it claimed the lives of the peasants in the scorched and violent wastelands of Africa and the rest of the under-developed world, so it was (and is still) snuffing life out of the rich and the middle class in the urbane and developed world. Its waves have continued to sweep across the nooks and crannies of the entire world.
The dreadful pandemic punctuated a year that began with a lot of promises, and since then life no longer remains the same again for the entire human race. Suddenly, now when an individual sneezes, the entire human race scampers to safety! Hitherto unimaginable and imaginary concrete walls of separation were erected between parents and children, husband and wife as well as siblings. Even age-long friendly gestures such as handshakes and hugs were soon consigned to the archives of history as humanity was forced to innovate new means of exchanging friendly greetings.
The initial disabling fear created by the novel pandemic soon gave way to another innovative way of tackling its ravaging spread – the lockdown.
And the deadly pandemic practically brought the entire world to its knees!
But the lockdown didn’t go without exhibiting some drawbacks such the anger and hunger that accompanied it. In Nigeria, especially in Lagos and some other southern states, the notorious ‘One Million boys’ invaded the streets, attacking and robbing hapless residents in neighbourhoods at night. Crime wave rose, even while people were locked up in their individual homes and the streets were deserted.
Soon, like in every other parts of the world, the economy nosedived as people could no longer go about their daily businesses to make ends meet. In Nigeria, the country’s already parlous economy simply slipped into its worst recession in almost 40 years and is now struggling and groping to find its way out of the very dark doldrums the COVID-19 pandemic has further pushed it.
The hurt from the restrictions imposed by the virus became most painful in April as people locked down in communities across the world ‘rebelled’ and protested for a return to normalcy.
But that normalcy was not to be as the wearing of facemasks has become a permanent feature of the dress code, and social distancing now the norm.
However, as the pandemic ravaged the world and began to claim human lives in thousands, Nigeria was not spared this harrowing experience. Just as it lost countless number of ‘unknown souls’ to the pandemic, several other prominent citizens succumbed to the pangs of the disease and eventually bit the dust.
The cold hands of COVID-19 soon grabbed and snuffed life out of the likes of the Ogun Peoples Democratic Party billionaire financier and former Senator, Prince Buruji Kashamu; President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Malam Abba Kyari; former Oyo State governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi; Lagos East Senator Bayo Oshinowo; Lagos Assembly member, Tunde Braimoh; Ondo State Commissioner for Health, Dr Wahab Adegbenro; former Managing Director of PPMC, Suleiman Achimugu and lately billionaire businessman and former presidential aspirant, Chief Harry Akande.
As at the last count, the deadly pandemic has claimed 1200 lives in Nigeria while 67,110 citizens have recovered out of the 76,207 cases of infection recorded in the country.
But the rest of the world has not been as lucky as Nigeria as the disease has continued to ravage populations globally. The pandemic has so far claimed 1,669,665 lives worldwide while 52,904381 people have recovered out of the 75,343,404 persons infected.
But some other prominent Nigerians survived the sting of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among these lucky ones who contracted the deadly virus but recovered are Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu; Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed; his Deputy, Baba Tela; Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi; Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai; Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu; Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde and Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama.
Others include former Benue State National Assembly member, Rebecca Apedzan; Benue State Governor’s Chief of Staff, Terwase Orbunde; Head of Service of Benue State, Veronica Onyeke; Secretary to the Benue State Government, Anthony Ijoho; Delta State Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu and Secretary to the Delta State Government, Chiedu Ebie;
former Commissioner of Works and Infrastructural Development in Kano State, Muazu Magaji (sacked for celebrating the death of Abba Kyari); Secretary to the State Government, Osun State, Wole Oyebamiji; and Yobe State House of Assembly lawmaker, Lawan Nguru.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his Plateau State counterpart, Simon Lalong, also recently tested positive for the infection and recently came out of isolation after undergoing treatment.
Similarly, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal recently went into isolation after coming in contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19.
Tambuwal, who disclosed this via his Twitter handle, said he had already taken a COVID-19 test.
The deadly disease has also not spared global leaders. US President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, Presidents Jair Bolsonaro, Juan Orlando Hernandez, Jeanine Anez, Alejandro Giammattei, Monaco’s Prince Albert II, Prince Charles of England, Prime Ministers Nikol Pashinyan and Mikhail Mishustin (Russia) all tested positive for the virus, were hospitalised and survived. The latest victim of the pandemic is French President Emmanuel Macron.
With the second wave of the deadly pandemic setting in barely one year after its first outbreak in Wuhan, China, the entire world is getting into another hysteria about COVID-19.
In Nigeria, the National Economic Council chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has cried out over the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country in recent times as shown in the daily figures being released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
NEC said the development was putting more intense pressure on the nation’s already fragile health system and threatening the economy that is currently in recession.
Members of the council, have therefore, resolved to put in more efforts in their various states and the Federal Capital Territory to enforce non-pharmaceutical interventions aimed at curtailing further spread of the virus.
Recently, scientists at the Redeemer’s University, Nigeria, claimed they have found the United Kingdom’s ‘lineage B.1.1.7,’ a more dangerous mutant variant of the COVID-19 global pandemic, in Nigeria.
They reported that the ‘lineage B.1.1.7’ mutant variant of the coronavirus had been existing in Osun State since August 3, 2020, when they obtained the first sample.
They also reported the collection of another sample from the state in October, and it also showed the presence of this new variant.
The ‘lineage B.1.1.7’ variant of COVID-19 has recently become a source of concern in the United Kingdom, leading to another round of lockdown.
Consequently, as at the last two weeks, no fewer than 40 countries had suspended travel from Britain in a bid to contain a fast-spreading new strain of the coronavirus.
Among them are four African countries – Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Mauritius, with Nigeria also considering suspending travel from the UK.
But the World Health Organisation has assured that the new coronavirus variant discovered in the United Kingdom with a higher transmission rate is not yet out of control and can be contained using existing measures.
Yet, no fewer than 11 National Youth Service Corps members tested positive for COVID 19 at the NYSC Orientation Camp in Sibre, near Jalingo in Taraba State, two weeks ago.
Penultimate Monday, following the surge in COVID-19 infections, Federal Government issued fresh measures aimed at checking the further spread of the pandemic across the country.
Part of the measures is the restriction of guests at weddings, conferences, and sporting activities among others to 50.
The government also ordered the closure of all bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.
Like other world leaders, President Muhammadu Buhari is worried and considering urgent measures to be taken to stop the spread of coronavirus and fatalities in Nigeria. Already, he has extended the mandate of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 till March 2021.
Certainly, with the surge in the rate of infections as the second wave set in in countries across the world, the reprieve got in the past few months in many countries, especially in Africa, have now become short-lived. The deadly virus is back, ala second wave, roaring like a wounded lion across the globe. Countries may very soon be back to witnessing a fresh round of calamity and incessant deaths.
The spectre of the uncertainty about the pandemic continues to hang on the entire world like the sword of Damocles, especially with the onset of its second wave this December. The ominous signs are very clear that the threat of the deadly virus is still far from being over. But one sure thing: the pandemic, which has become the most significant of the defining events of 2020, has changed the entire world permanently!