COVID-19: Laxity Across Nigerian Cities

Many nations of the world are still fighting to curb the spread of the coronavirus infection. Europe is presently experiencing a second wave with partial lockdown presently in place in some countries due to the sudden rise in the number of infected persons. With the breakthrough of the COVID-19 vaccine, the United States as well as other nations in Europe have already begun acquiring the vaccine. In spite of the fact that Africa stands little or no chance in the acquisition of the vaccine, Nigeria has let down her guards with the resumption of daily activities after a few months of lockdown.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the COVID-19 pandemic, the total number of coronavirus cases in the country has risen to 69,645. The country on Monday, December 7 recorded 390 new coronavirus infections. The country witnessed an upsurge on Wednesday with 70,669 cases and 474 news cases. The virus was reported to have spread across 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

 The commencement of the COVID-19 lockdown measures on April 13, 2020, witnessed strict measures by the government. The guidelines given were observed religiously with the deployment of government operatives to ensure maximum adherence. This helped in the containment of the virus. But with the lowering of the stringent rules which has led to the resumption of daily activities in the country; the re-opening of schools, churches, and workplaces, there has been very minimal compliance to the guidelines. This has contributed to the increase in the nation’s coronavirus cases. The wearing of face masks, restriction in the number of public gatherings, the washing of hands, and maintaining social distancing are hardly observed across the country.

 The National Association of Seadogs (NAS) has strongly advised that it is important to nullify every insinuation that the coronavirus does not exist in the country. The group noted that the notions that afford non-compliance to the basic prevention rules could lead to grave danger for the country. The group also condemned the Federal and State Government’s laxity in the nation’s health sector.

Lagos records some of the highest COVID-19 daily cases in the country, yet all COVID-19 protocols in the state are hardly enforced. Segun Sobanjo, a Lagos resident, posited that Lagos residents are living in a suicidal denial of the virus. In his words, ‘the streets and market places have become rowdy without any sense of social distancing or fear of fluid transmission’.

Sobanjo also said that the buses are filled without the agreed spaces that the commercial bus drivers once adhered to. He also noted that only big corporates, banks, megachurches, and some schools are adhering to globally recognized COVID-19 protocols.

It can be recalled that after months of lockdown, the Federal Government and States reopened worship centres in June. Service commenced with strict hand-washing and social distance between worshippers. Government guidelines were appropriated in full measure. However, those protocols have since been ‘abolished’. A Nigerian Pastor disclosed that it is difficult to alter some elements of the regular service to comply with social distancing. ‘When the talking drum came on the loudspeaker [during the service] and the keyboardist and other instrumentalists started a dance tune, I knew my people couldn’t maintain social distance for long. Everyone wanted to dance,’ said Pastor Adeniyi Adeoba, who leads a church in Ibadan, Oyo State.

‘During the thanksgiving and child dedication sessions, when everyone comes to the altar to pray for the babies that were delivered during the lockdown, how do you maintain social distancing, and how do you conduct anointing services while maintaining social distancing even though the Bible clearly mentioned laying on of hands?’ he added.

When the government began to consider the gradual ease of lockdown by reopening markets, Pastor David Oyedepo, General Overseer of the Winners Chapel, and other ministers of God called on the Federal Government to reopen churches. They claimed that the Church was more organised and had the capacity to enforce compliance of the COVID19 rules. One can therefore express deep disappointment over Pastor Adeniyi Adeoba’s mockery of the COVID-19 rules.

Although the numbers of corona-virus cases in Nigeria have been quite low, compared to other countries, this could also be attributed to low level of testing in the country. On April 26, Nigeria had conducted less than 12,000 tests with a population of 200 million people. Botswana which has about 1 percent population when compared to Nigeria had conducted about 11,495 tests as of May 12. South Africa, a quarter of Nigeria’s population, had conducted about 47,000 tests as of April 2nd.

‘Sometimes it is a sense of rivalry or personal pride that led some governors to downplay the caseload of COVID-19 in their state’, said Oyewale Tomori, a Nigerian virology expert and World Health Organization adviser. ‘But without more unity and cohesion, the whole country will suffer’, he added.

Government personalities and political actors have also been found wanting. Party campaign rallies in Ondo (by the All Progressive Congress and the People’s Democratic Party), and the recent cross-carpeting celebration by Governor Godwin Umahi in Ebonyi State indicates government’s failure to practice and enforce its own rules.

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Although there are ongoing developments in Nigeria’s National COVID-19 strategy, there is a need for the government to re-enforce those national guidelines to contain any possible spike from the virus. Social distancing and hygiene measures must be put in place while carrying out daily activities in all states of the federation.

Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director-General of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) disclosed that the major challenge is to convince people to seriously adhere to strict measures. ‘The steady growth in the number of confirmed cases in Nigeria is an indication of citizens’ low-risk perception of the virus,’ he stated.

The continuous spread of the virus requires that we should all enforce safety measures, especially with the coming yuletide season. As the pandemic continues to spread, the best way to remain safe is not to take chances. Negligence can heighten the spread. The country must observe the necessary measures to remain safe and economically buoyant so as to witness a significant growth of all spheres of human endeavour.

Peace Omenka

Photo Credit: CNN

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