COVID-19 Crisis: In Nigeria, Deaths Hit 85, Positive Cases 2388. Expert Warns of Looming Mental Health Issues for Many Workers

FILE PHOTO: The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via REUTERS.

The raging COVID-19 in Nigeria has so far killed 85 citizens just as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirms 220 new cases late on Saturday.

With this development, the total number of infected persons in the country is 2,388.

According to NCDC, a total of 16,588 samples have so far been tested across Nigeria with the 220 new cases coming from 19 states with Lagos returning to the top chart with 62 cases.

Closely following is Abuja with 52 cases, Kaduna 31, Sokoto 13, Kebbi 10, Yobe nine and Borno six, Edo and Bauchi five each, Gombe, Enugu and Oyo four each, Zamfara three, Nasarawa, Osun, Ebonyi, Kwara, Kano and Plateau two new cases each.

While confirming 17 new deaths as at 11.55 pm on Saturday, NCDC says no new state reported a case in the last 24 hours, adding that of the 2,388 confirmed cases, 385 patients were treated and discharged.

NCDC also notes that the 85 deaths recorded cut across 34 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

The surging number of infections in Nigeria is however due to the increased capacity for testing across the country NCDC.

In the meantime, experts on the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Work in Progress are sharing insights about the world of work and the state of the global economy.

For Lode Godderis, of the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Belgium, organised labour all over the world need to be aware of the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 crisis on the health of all workers.

‘’We need to be aware of the long-term consequences on the health of all workers. One can expect a drop out of personnel, not only due to infections with COVID-19 but also due to stress, frustration and isolation’’, says Godderis on ILO’s Work in Progress.

While ILO aims to promote rights at work, encourage decent job opportunities for all, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues, Work in Progress is its blog.  

According to him, ‘’big health inequities due to pandemic and economic recession are to be expected. For white coat workers, it will be mainly the mental health toll as a result of the high workload during the crisis. 

‘’For white-collar workers, their mental health will instead suffer from the effects of isolation and quarantine. Finally, for blue-collar workers, job insecurity and loss of income could lead to mental health issues.

ILO is, however, a United Nations specialised agency founded in 1919 with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It is the only ‘tripartite’ organisation in the UN family that brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to jointly shape policies and programmes promoting Decent Work for all. 

While this unique arrangement gives ILO an edge in incorporating ‘real world’ knowledge about employment and work, the Work in Progress blog provides a forum for ILO experts to debate the latest issues on the world of work. Their views do not necessarily reflect the decisions of ILO. 

Continuing, Godderis says it is possible to turn the tide. ‘’If we reflect on previous pandemics followed by an economic recession it becomes clear that countries that invest in social protection, support programs and provide sufficient employment opportunities can mitigate the mental health crisis that follows a pandemic.

‘’The overworked white coat workers will need time to recover from this period at the same time that healthcare services will be pushing for a return to normal operational levels. 

‘’For people who worked remotely from home during the crisis, it will be important for them to mentally prepare to return to work. 

‘’This group of people might be wary about returning to work, fearing the increased risk of infection but also uncertain about the future of their job. The final group of workers concerns a large population of people that have already lost their job, are working reduced hours or are facing severe cuts in their wages.’’

Adding, he said, ‘’recessions typically exacerbate pre-existing health inequities and have a larger impact on the health of vulnerable disadvantaged groups, such as people with disabilities and diseases and the unemployed. 

‘’For these workers, we must take extra supportive measures to ensure these populations can resume their roles in society and avoid severe financial or mental health consequences.

‘’So far, pandemic planning has not sufficiently addressed these underlying inequalities and social determinants. However, if we can take advantage of the extraordinary wave of solidarity that we are experiencing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of the economic recession might have an unexpected positive impact on our health. This cannot happen without appropriate measures to avoid health inequities.

‘’Governments should develop plans to reduce the gaps in disease burdens both nationally as well as internationally. Efforts should be mainly focussed on the lower social class workers, where measures can yield larger reductions in diseases. International collaboration is also necessary to support low- and lower-middle-income countries in which a large proportion of the citizens are poor.

‘’The presence or absence of supportive policies that target social inequities will dictate the course to financial and mental health security following the COVID-19 crisis. 

‘’This means that despite a recession, the creation or maintenance of safe jobs will ultimately minimise the impact on the health of the workers post-corona.’’

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