When the four-week lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19 was on, Nigerians groaned and demanded it be lifted. Even with one-week extension, it will be finally over tomorrow. Samuel Ajayi writes that the implication of this is that citizens now have to take personal responsibility in arresting the community spread of the dreaded virus
When President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the nation on Monday, April 13, and announced a two-week extension to the lockdown in Lagos and Ogun States as well as Abuja to further stem the spread of the dreaded Covid-19, many Nigerians groaned.
To them, they could not wait for the initial two weeks to be over so they could get their lives back and begin to earn a living. In fact, from the ever-creative Nigerians, there were memes and short videos to show how disappointed they were at the extension.
However, experts were of the opinion that it was the best decision to have been made by the authorities. Dr. Jay Osi-Samuels, Director of Laboratory Services of AIDS Prevention Initiative for Nigeria (APIN), and also the Contact Person for APIN for the fight against COVID-19 told THISDAY that from the medical expert point of view, it was the best thing to do.
He stated that the nation, as at then, had not done enough tests to suggest that the lockdown could be lifted even if partially.
“As a medical person, I would say we need to extend the lockdown so that the Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control can carry out as many tests as possible. We have to know that we still have a long way to go compared to other countries that have been carrying out tests and the cases keep increasing,” Samuels told THISDAY.
He added that the human being in him would have suggested that the lockdown be lifted going by the discomfort that people had been facing since it was imposed. He explained, however, that the medical person in him would not suggest it. This was before the second lockdown.
Apparently bowing to pressure and coupled with the fact that the nation has no resources to give palliatives to as many people as required and provide for their basic needs under the lockdown, the President only added one week to the initial four weeks in the two states of Ogun and Lagos and the FCT had spent under lockdown.
What this means is that there would be partial lifting of the lockdown from tomorrow May 4, 2020. Even with the lockdown, there are still stringent conditions still in place, both from the federal government as well as the state governments.
During his presidential broadcast on Monday, April 27, the President ruled out the resumption of religious gatherings as well as social ones. In other words, there would not be more than 20 people allowed per gathering.
The President also announced that there would be a nationwide curfew from 8pm in the evening to 6am in the morning except those on essential services like medical personnel. There is also a ban on inter-state traveling until further notice while Kano State, which has recorded almost 800 strange deaths in the last two weeks, had a two-week total lockdown imposed on it by the President.
The Lagos State government also ruled that commercial buses must not carry more than 60% of their full capacity, while tricycles, popularly known as keke, would not be allowed to carry more than two passengers.
There is a complete ban on commercial motorcycles for at least a week to observe the trend of new Covid-19 cases. The state government also announced that schools could not resume for now and warned private school operators not to toy with the idea of re-opening their schools for normal classes.
In Kaduna State, Governor Nasir El-Rufai announced a one-month total lockdown while in Ekiti State, Governor Kayode Fayemi, said no vehicle would be allowed into the state for at least two weeks.
Even with all these, businesses would reopen in Lagos by Monday and in most parts of the country. While the measures put in place by both the federal and state governments, ordinarily, should stem the spread of the virus, the problem is the implementation and enforcement of these measures.
Prominent among these measures are the one that affect transportation. This is because even when there was total lockdown, many of these commercial motorbikes and tricycles were operating, especially, in densely populated areas of the state.
They usually operated in the evening from 5:30pm till very late in the night. This was due to the fact that as a result of fatigue, law enforcement agents would have relaxed their patrols to catch the much-needed rest before they resume again in the night. And this is the reason, according to medical experts, that the nation is recording community transmission of the virus.
A source told THISDAY on Friday that three health professionals in a government hospital in one of the densely populated local government areas of Lagos State tested positive to the virus.
They were suspected to have caught the virus from a woman, who came to the hospital and no one knew she already had the virus. As expected, all those who came in contact with the woman were tested. While a majority did not test positive, three of those who tested positive were the doctors but surprisingly, did not come in contact with the woman in question.
“What this meant,” a medical source told THISDAY, “was that they could have gotten the virus from outside before coming to the hospital, and where else? Some of these personnel operate private hospitals and it was possible they picked their virus in their hospitals.
“What this means is the prevalence of community spreading of the virus and what this imposes on us, especially with the partial lifting of the lockdown, is that everyone is now responsible for his or her own safety and staying away from the virus.”
This is exactly the issue. Lifting of lockdown does not mean that all the safety precautions stipulated by health authorities have also been relaxed. These include social distancing (which still remains the most potent measure against contracting the virus), hand washing, wearing of face and nose masks (which has now been made compulsory in Lagos State), sanitising one’s hand and above all, staying at home, where there is no reason to go out.
The implication of this is that, it has now become a personal responsibility of all to stay at home if there is no reason to go out, lockdown or no lockdown.
As Dr. Samuels told THISDAY, “until vaccine is found and administered, governments across the world cannot continue to keep people at home. There is a social and economic pay. Covid-19 is with us for now. Therefore, the responsibility has shifted to the people themselves to keep and stay safe and behave responsibly.”
With lockdown officially over tomorrow, everyone has become his own health police. It goes beyond government now and hinges more on the side of personal responsibility.