Nigerians pay tribute to health workers amid COVID-19 outbreak


by Olatunji Saliu

“We will never forget your toil and the risk you are bearing during these very unusual times in our history” were the exact words of the governor of Nigeria’s southwestern state of Lagos Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Friday to local health workers on the frontline of the battle against the raging COVID-19.

The glowing tributes were paid to the “heroes of the season” for their unrelenting efforts toward defeating mankind’s common enemy, according to Sanwo-Olu, as the International Workers’ Day marked annually on May 1 across the globe.

One expects a certain degree of danger in jobs like a police officer, soldier or firefighter, but nurses and doctors are not typically called upon to risk for their lives on a daily basis. The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has changed all that.

“To our courageous doctors, nurses, and paramedics, I render the heartfelt gratitude of the government and good people of Lagos State,” the Nigerian governor said.

Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, has remained the epicenter of the pandemic in the most populous African nation. As of Friday, the metropolitan city had recorded 1,006 infections since recording the country’s index case on Feb. 27.

Nigerian authorities confirmed 238 new cases of the COVID-19 late Friday, bringing the total number to 2,170, including 68 deaths and 351 recoveries.

The health workers have been in the center of the storm, working amid limited resources, battling to save as many lives as possible, and putting their own lives on the line, as they wade through the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

Many Nigerians have been pouring encomiums on heroic professionals in the health sector, as the outbreak continues to take a deep emotional toll on health workers who have not been able to go home to their families in weeks out of fear they might bring the disease home with them.

Former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar, whose son Mohammed has just recovered from the COVID-19 infection, said the Labor Day was more appropriate to express utmost gratitude to health workers who had been leading the battle to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

“We cannot stand such workers enough. I stand in solidarity with the Nigerian health workers in particular who have been making great sacrifices to keep our frontiers firm,” said Abubakar, also the presidential candidate of Nigeria’s main opposition People’s Democratic Party in last year’s general elections.

For Dayo Williams, a Nigerian journalist, the health workers deserve greater commendations for “risking their lives, putting in the best of their energies and strengths to save humanity from the apocalyptic destruction COVID-19 has in store for mankind.”

With estimates of the number of healthcare workers infected by the coronavirus continuing to climb across the world, the total number of health workers infected with the COVID-19 in Nigeria reached 113 this week.

Health minister Osagie Ehanire said on Thursday that about 6 percent of the COVID-19 cases in the country were healthcare professionals, with some of them working in private hospitals.

The caregivers are the cornerstone of any healthcare system and if they come down sick with the coronavirus themselves, who will be left to take care of all the other patients? Ehanire said the Nigerian government is working on local production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to support frontline workers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These health workers are doing a great service for humanity. I thank you all,” said Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in his own tribute on May 1.

“Also, personal protective equipment for their safety is guaranteed,” Buhari added. Enditem

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