Are Lagos Residents coping well with the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Senior Lecturer, Urban and Regional Planning and Member of Sustainable Cities and African Urbanization Dynamics Research Cluster, University of Lagos
Nigeria first confirmed case of the coronavirus pandemic disease 2019 was announced on 27 February 2020, when an Italian citizen in Lagos tested positive. . To control the spread of COVID-19, the Federal Government announced the lockdown of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Lagos and Ogun State on March 31, 2020 for fourteen days in the first instance. This has been extended due to the increase in cases. As at April 15, 2020, there were 373 confirmed cases in Lagos.
The lockdown included a restriction on movement within the state, and the shut down of all commercial and social activities except for essential services, food and medicine retailers. The restrictions have resulted in citizens having a lot of time on their hands and limited means of moving around. They have thus adopted various coping strategies. In this context, coping Strategy means the various ways that the citizens adopt to manage thoughts, feelings, restrictions and actions encountered during the period of the lockdown of the Federal Government of Nigeria to contain the spread of COVID-19 Pandemic disease. In this article, I will highlight three: social ties, self-help networks, and leisure physical activity
Social Ties and Information sharing:
The COVID19 lockdown hinders people from coming together physically, but has increased family bonding time – a luxury in the fast-paced Lagos life. Emeka said ‘I have time for gisting and playing with my children like a child and having a good laugh with them…bonding with my family.
Social ties are also being built online, with the social media networks enjoying higher patronage and continuous discussion on various topics. Lagos residents frequently use Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter to engage people from all over the world on topics of mutual interest. An unintended consequence of this is the spread of misinformation and fake news. For example, the dangerous claims of various drugs – including chloroquine – curing COVID19 was shared especially on social media. The National Centre for Disease Control leverages these platforms to debunk unfounded claims, and share authentic news and features on coronavirus protection and mitigation measures.
In the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic, residents of Lagos have adopted self-help strategies in addressing major needs. Some groups have resorted to shared purchase of food items, such as cows which would otherwise have been unaffordable. This has also been applied by residents of some streets in Bariga who pooled resources together to distribute food items to their vulnerable neigbours.
Even though these neighbourhood based self-help networks have been applied for community development in the past, they can serve as an effective tool for local management of the coronavirus. They can also be scaled up for other community interventions for addressing environmental management challenges in the future.
Leisure Physical Activity Strategy
Another coping measure for many residents is participation in leisure physical activities. Though street football defies the social distancing recommendation for covid19 mitigation, many youth are seen engaging in this, especially in the mornings. Some other activities that are being practiced in line with the social distancing rule are walking and aerobics. According to Kunle: ‘Since the lockdown started, I walk for about 90-100 minutes every morning with my friends. We practice physical distancing when walking. Yesterday, we ran into a group of people engaged in aerobics so we joined. I was impressed when the Instructor walked towards us and insisted on ‘huge’ space amongst us in observation of the precautionary measure of social distancing. Most families hit the ‘road’ by 6.30/7.00 am every morning. I have set the goal of achieving 10,000 steps before I return home to sit down to work and 15,000-17,000 steps before I sleep.’
Physical activities have been shown to be an effective coping strategy against stress. The changes in life as we know it has resulted in residents exploring affordable and safe ways to keep alert and engage in some activity to ward off boredom.
COVID19 has highlighted the importance of human networks in cities, especially in times of uncertainty. All the emerging coping strategies used by Lagos residents to minimize the impact of the lockdown during COVID-19 Pandemic are based on seeking or strengthening human connection – whether physically as in the case of food distribution and exercise, or socially as in the case of social media engagement. Hence, understanding these coping strategies and the networks that are being formed and/or leveraged will be a good starting point to develop and implement community based interventions to improve urban livability and disaster preparedness.
Aljazeera News (April 13,2020) :Nigeria-Extends-Coronavirus-Lockdown-Key-Cities- https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/nigeria-extends-coronavirus-lockdown-key-cities-weeks-200413185335045.html
APA Dictionary of Physicology, (2007) Gary R. VandenBos, ed., Washington: American Psychological Association, 1st ed.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development University of Lagos, Nigeria.