The fear of Ebola – Nigerians flee strip clubs and swimming pools

by Simon Ateba

The fear of contracting the Ebola virus has spread in Nigeria, including in strip bars and swimming pools in the country’s most populous city, Lagos, patrons and club workers said on Friday.

‎On the Allen-Opebi axis in the Ikeja area of Lagos, where there are about seven public strip clubs, patrons and workers said most of them are now empty, and the few clients who still dare to come avoid lap dances from pole dancers.

‎“Since the Ebola outbreak, we just realised that people no longer show up, even on Fridays,” said a security guard at Club Unique, located on Ogundana street off Allen Avenue. “And those who dare to come prefer to watch the strippers from a distance. They do not want to touch them, they want them to entertain them from afar.”

The few people who still go out now give each other a healthy distance.
The few people who still go out now give each other a healthy distance.

He said those who stopped patronising them include Nigerians as well as foreigners.

The same fear of contracting the deadly Ebola virus is present in other strip clubs in the area, including Ocean Blue, Didoz, Villa and even elsewhere, including in the Cave on Joel Ogunnaike in GRA, also in Ikeja.

‎“People have all left. No one wants to die ” a patron said.

‎The same fear has extended to swimming pools at hotels in Lagos. The famous pools at Sheraton Hotel, Airport Hotel and Eko Hotel were all empty this week when our correspondent visited.

‎Ebola can be transmitted through body fluids of infected sick people. Also affected are masseurs as people no longer want to be touched even with hand sanitizers.

‎In fast food restaurants in Lagos staff wear hand gloves to work. Many of them are now empty as residents avoid all forms of body contacts, including in crowded commuter buses. Even with gloves, Nigerians seem to have switched off and prefer to stay home as much and as necessary as possible. The crowd at Ikeja City Mall and the Palms in Lekki, two of the biggest malls in Lagos, has considerably decreased. The KFC restaurant at the Palms was empty on Thursday for hours, and a woman scolded her child for touching seats with her hands.

Another six months of panic

‎The panic may last for at least six months, as the world struggles to bring the pandemic under control, the head of Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Friday, saying the outbreak in West Africa felt like “wartime, is moving, advancing.”

Joanne Liu, international president of MSF (Doctors Without Borders), speaking after a 10-day trip to West Africa, said more experts were needed on the ground, Reuters reported.

‎“We need people with a hands-on operational mindset,” to combat the outbreak, Liu told a news briefing in Geneva.

Joanne Liu, MSF boss
Joanne Liu, MSF boss

Liu said she had conveyed those messages to the WHO and “that I think the wake-up call was too late in calling it a public health emergency of international concern.”

“I think we have a common understanding on it now,” Liu said. “Now we have to find out how that is translated into concrete action in the field … a statement will save lives only if followed up on the ground.”

On Thursday, the WHO said staff in West Africa had seen evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the scale of the Ebola outbreak and said it would coordinate “a massive scaling up of the international response”.

The death toll from the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola stood on Wednesday at 1,069 from 1,975 confirmed, probable and suspected cases. The majority were in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, while four people have died in Nigeria.

“If we don’t stabilise Liberia, we will never stabilise the region. Over the next six months we should get the upper hand on the epidemic, this is my gut feeling,” Liu said.‎

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A version of this piece first appeared on Simon’s blog.

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