COVID-19: Myths and Misconceptions Among Rural Dwellers

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The outbreak of the coronavirus came with its myths and misconceptions, amid spirited efforts by the World Health Organisation, governments and health workers to find a cure to the plague that came with a novelty toga. While scientists were trying to decipher the true nature of the virus, many people in different parts of the world kept theorising on the possible cure for the infection.

Rural dwellers in Nigeria were not left out of the theorising frenzy. They came up with different laughable suggestions on how to tame the virus. Some of them bandied the theory that the virus died whenever it came in contact with alcohol and thus went on a drinking spree – finding an easy excuse to further indulge their appetite for strong drink.

Unfortunately, these people’s ignorance filtered into some urban areas, such that some so-called educated people began to experiment with alcohol in a desperate bid to fortify themselves against the dreaded virus. A careful study however revealed that the association of alcohol with curative power came as a misconception of the fact that the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers was recommended as a safety and preventive measure against the spread of the virus.

This writer remembers vividly numerous encounters with villagers in Delta and Edo states who argued ferociously that drinking the local gin known as ogogoro or Sapele water had curative effects on the virus. Their arguments led many astray to the extent that some began to propagate an invincibility status against the virus. They based their arguments on the fact that rural dwellers were the least affected by the virus.

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Plausible explanations

While this latter argument might have held some water, scientists have however given reasons as to why rural dwellers were not and are still not being heavily infected with the virus. One of the reasons is the low population density in rural areas which makes it a bit difficult for person-to-person transmission of the virus, compared to what obtains in urban areas like Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.

Moreover, these urban areas with their airports are major gateways to and fro international destinations and as such are more prone to the infection, due to the influx of foreign nationals, especially prior to the international travel restrictions imposed by different countries. The rural areas which have neither airports nor seaports are therefore not likely to experience the level of infection recorded in the urban areas. The low infection index has absolutely nothing to do with drinking alcohol.

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Also, while it is safe to say that rural communities have recorded low infections, it would be totally wrong to say that rural dwellers are immune to the virus – especially as there have been reported cases, though few, of persons who brought the virus from urban areas and infected others in the rural areas. In a nutshell, we can say that the rural communities have not recorded community transmissions and this is largely due to the low population densities in these areas.

Additionally, while it is true that there has been a steady reduction in the number of infected persons all over the world, with the exception of countries like India, it would be suicidal for rural dwellers to continue to believe that they are immune to the virus, going by their attitudes to the safety guidelines stipulated by the WHO and the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19. Their low compliance with guidelines, such as the use of face masks, use of hand sanitizers and social distancing can spell doom, if they continue with it.

Precautionary measures

Coronavirus is no respecter of demographics. It takes the infection of one person to ravage any ignorant and careless community. As scientists have warned, there is the possibility of even more waves of the virus in the nearest future. For this reason, those rural dwellers who think that the virus has gone must be orientated to change their mindset. With the way most Nigerians travel to their villages during festive seasons, caution must be exercised because some of them may actually be carrying the virus down to these rural communities where communal life is at its peak. It is only in these villages that you can find members of an extended family eating together from one plate or drinking from the same bowl. You can imagine what would happen if one of them is infected with the virus.

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Nothing should be taken for granted with regard to the handling of issues concerning the coronavirus among rural dwellers. All the myths, misconceptions and the toga of invincibility should be disabused as no one is above infection. The same enlightenment campaigns that flood urban airwaves should be replicated even more in the rural areas where ignorance and illiteracy are in higher supply.

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