The story drifted in gradually at the beginning. We were told that it was some kind of disease in China that came from eating raw meat, particularly wild animals. This was welcome news to us because every strange disease before this seemed to originate in Africa and China is very far away. Then we heard that it had spread to Europe and is very contagious and can be carried from one country to another!
As the facts slowly emerged, it was quickly followed by false information and conspiracy theories and these were drowning the facts. Then, the news spread that it is a cold climate disease and weakened by heat and so by implication will not infect blacks and Africans. The index case, an Italian who survived it, did in some way give credence to that assumption. He got it because he had been in Europe and survived it because he was in Nigeria, a hot country. When Nigerians caught it, it began with politicians and wealthy people, so it became the big man’s disease and that belief has largely remained among the locals.
I must confess that I felt quite removed from it at first and did not see why the office should close down before the government announced the Lagos lockdown. We all thought it will soon be over and everything will return to normal. The first one or two weeks were acceptable, but a sense of fear and dread had unconsciously taken hold and seemed to grow with the number of infections and deaths announced and the stigma attached to disease served to increase the dread.
At the start of the rainy season, in April, I usually develop some symptom of cold; like blocked nose, sore throat and cough. When I woke up one night with a blocked nose and then a sore throat in the morning, I panicked because I felt sure I had caught it. I did not quite understand what was meant by difficulty in breathing so I took conscious breaths to check if I had any difficulty or pain. I began taking all the local remedies touted on the social media. I chewed fresh ginger, garlic, dried pepper fruit seed, drank endless hot water and had hot pepper soup. I increased my exercise and sat in the sun for about 20 minutes, took vitamin C tablet and ate fresh fruits. I don’t know if anything was wrong with me but I did feel better.
I remember how I felt the first time that I ventured out during the days of strict lockdown to get the things I needed. The sun appeared unusually bright but it was kind of eerie with hardly any traffic about. Most people were trekking. It suddenly dawned on me that the air felt different because it smelt cleaner. At most street corners, youths who did not look like street kids were begging. They usually rely on daily earnings to survive. I must admit that I found the sight of them daunting. Going out that first time did help, because I realized that staying in for so long had contributed to my fear.
It was about some days later that our organization directed staff to ‘work from home’. This conveniently coincided with our digital transformation strategy whereby staff were mandated to acquire digital knowledge in order to fit in with the organization’s new direction. I must confess that I was barely computer literate, and had just started learning the basics when we went into lockdown. So, when the first Zoom meeting was called, I had neither heard of Zoom, nor knew how to go about joining Zoom meetings. This was about two weeks into lockdown, luckily, I knew someone who trusted that I did not have the virus and who I also trusted not to have it so I went to her for some lessons. Thus, began my struggle to acquire the computer skills I needed to enable me work from home, mostly through frustrating distant training and a few in - person meetings.
I now work from home, though at a comparatively slow pace but with growing ease and speed. I have enough work to keep so occupied that it feels almost like normal. With more information, we now know that you are safe as long as you stay home and when you need to go out, you put on your face mask and observe social distancing. I must say that I have come to terms with the new reality, keeping busy and working comfortably from home. COVID-19 accelerated my computer education, and I believe that its influence on digitization will remain unmatched.