The first case of COVID-19 in Nigeria was confirmed on 27 February 2020, when an Italian citizen working in Nigeria returned to Lagos from Italy. Since then, Nigeria has experienced a steep increase in the number of confirmed cases, with Lagos being the epicentre of the pandemic.
The Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), made an effort to escalate health, economic, social and security measures to curb the spread of the virus in the country. The healthcare system in Nigeria is weak with barely enough doctors to attend to patients. One major challenge health workers have faced since the outbreak of the pandemic is the inadequate supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as face masks, boots and gloves.
Following the confirmation of the first few cases of COVID-19 in the country, the Federal Government of Nigeria initiated a 14-day lockdown in three major cities – Lagos, Abuja and Ogun on 30 March 2020. At the end of this period, the lockdown was extended to other cities for around three months. While the lockdown announcement was implemented for the safety of citizens, the impact on businesses was much greater than many anticipated. The combination of dwindling oil prices and a major shutdown to a large swathe of businesses has greatly impacted the health of Nigeria’s economy.
SMEs makeup 48% of the national GDP and 84% of employment in Nigeria. The lockdown, which forced the majority of businesses to close, has resulted in staff layoffs and a reduction in consumers’ purchasing power. In a bid to cushion the impact of the lockdown on citizens, Nigeria’s Government rolled out measures to support vulnerable populations, including the distribution of food and money, however many contend that these measures did not go far enough.
As of 25 August 2020, Nigeria has recorded 1,004 deaths and a total of 52,548 cases. The severity of COVID-19 as seen in many European countries, South America and in the United States has not yet been experienced in Nigeria. However, the daily reports from the NCDC doesn’t give an indication that COVID-19 is slowing down in Nigeria and with low testing capacity, there is a possibility that there are more cases than being reported.