Harzards Behind the Masks

By Becky Uba-Umenyili

Trails of COVID-19 have continued to litter the sands of time on humans as well as societal progress since its outbreak with different sectors of the economy being adversely affected, thereby engendering potential hazards behind the scene.

Following the lockdown order, many people in various walks of life devised various strategies to maintain required preventive and safety measures as well as sustain basic livelihood following lack of income occasioned by the downturn in global economy.

In view of this, one then wonders what fate holds for certain aspects of man’s needs vis a vis demand and supply of commodities/services as well as maintenance of infrastructure and repair of domestic items and facilities in use at homes.

As the lockdown kept people under ‘house arrest’, people helplessly resorted to staying at home. Needless to mention that most of the so-called homes in our country especially in Lagos, house more than required capacity of the building due to influx in population. Some of these buildings are old and inadequate to house large-numbered family; no thanks to the fact that most of them are poorly constructed with substandard materials by unskilled craftsmen in the building industry, a factor which causes the collapse of buildings as observed in Lagos in recent time. Some of these buildings have managed to last thus far by occasional patches to fortify weak ends; however, with the lockdown of certain businesses of non-essential value, what hope has the occupants of such structures in terms of safety?

Sequel to this, there is increase in the rate of the storage of fuel in homes for use on power generating sets. The reason for this is to prevent regular visits to the petrol stations by persons whose aim is to avoid public areas due to the spread of the virus. The hazards this presents to both the occupants of such homes and others living within the environs cannot be underestimated.

The health sector is another discipline that is more vulnerable to the dangers of this coronavirus era. The lockdown has spread its imprisoning tentacles to innocent children and babies who are supposed to be undergoing the routine vaccination and inoculation exercise against certain ailments like measles, cholera, polio, etc.

Reports from incidents in other parts of the world, Florida in US and Hong Kong precisely, reveals that domestic dogs and cats have also tested positive for the COVID-19. Since it is a known fact that those with critical health conditions are more susceptible to the coronavirus, one may as well express concern over the need to ensure that those who maintain pets at home observe routine checks and treatments for their pets; oversight of this may constitute dangers of the virus spreading from unsuspecting quarters.

Similarly, the alarm raised since the outbreak of the virus seem to have instigated the production of fake or sub-standard solutions as cleansers or sanitisers. No thanks to the avalanche of non-authenticated bio-medical products and pseudo traditional herbal concoctions and suggestions that have sprung up as possible curatives to the virus attack; a development which calls for the intervention of government commissions responsible for checking such areas, to go to work. Also, it creates the need for multi-national companies into relevant businesses to mass produce such substances, thereby selling them at affordable prices as against the few good ones produced by some up-start companies that are sold at high rate in order to cover cost of production or worse still, the numerous sub-standard products by private non-credited bodies which not only could pose health hazards upon usage, but most times are sold at the price of good ones, which is unfair to buyers and end users who risk their health in patronising them.

The educational sector seems to have a leverage in coping with this pandemic as most schools have devised respective virtual study systems that suits their learning skills to commence studies, using the e-learning techniques (online studies and media channel programmes) to reach out to their students.

The Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of Education, Mrs. Abosede Adelaja, disclosed that the state government has decided to maintain the radio broadcast in support to schools’ private efforts so as to ensure that kids stay at home to avoid possible contact with the virus.

However, despite all efforts made in the educational sector to maintain study schemes for kids and support in keeping children off the street, there still exists some hindrances and loopholes in this area: the media broadcast of studies for children (either through the radio or laptop with internet modem), have our epileptic power supply, which seem to have worsened since the lock-down saga to contest with as some mothers have complained of lack of needed facilities to hook up for suitable studies.

Consequently, the e-learning system leaves a lot of gap as some privileged students manage to grasp lectures from their schools while others who can’t afford all the e-learning apparatus are left in the desert of need.

Mr. Steve Oboh, the Director of Myeducomm, which provides e-learning resources for remote situations opined that children should be provided with equal opportunities with all necessary learning facilities ‘to prevent social stigma and discrimination’.

In view of this, what does the future portend for the under-privileged children? Any hope for a system that can be extended to all and sundry while the e-learning system can be reserved as a secondary option so as to accommodate imperative need of education for the underprivileged class?

Similarly, parents must supervise the usage of phones by children for any online service to avoid them being exposed to the many indecent things found online.

Also, a look at our living communities, especially in densely populated areas shows that closing schools do not strictly satisfy the essence of keeping children off the streets as most children are seen even playing balls and mingling together without observing the social distance rules.

So many people banked on their savings for daily sustenance since the shutdown order, now the purse of many have become lean and those with meagre savings have run out of fund and hunger for basic food and needs has sent people onto the streets to sell wares of various kinds as against the order for only dealers on foodstuff sell.

Worse still, those who have nothing to sell have resorted to street social clusters despite the scare of the spread of the virus, throwing the caution of social distancing to the wind – a clear indication of quicker spread in action.

A more aggravated group who hitherto thrived on daily menial jobs and/or touting, ganged up for a mob action and recently thronged streets to protest the stay at home order through their violent actions, using clubs and arms as well as causing damages to properties, looting and rape.

Noticeably, a similar felony is committed on-line where e-crime seem to have increased following the increase in number of on-line services since the shutdown order.

This raises a clarion call for government to set up a commission or a respective existing one to be more proactive in censoring all materials uploaded on-line such that while the lockdown is checking the spread of the coronavirus, the commission will be checking the other extreme – hazardous effects of the lockdown!

This was done in the late 70’s and 80’s of the twentieth century when the electronic media was privatised to avoid monopoly by NTA. It was further followed up by relevant laws to check abuse or excessiveness in dissemination of information to the general public. It will not be out of place therefore, if a similar thing is introduced for e-based affairs to prevent latent evils!

Recently, the Lagos state government stipulated certain preventive measures (in addition FG directives), that are considered apt for the Lagos metropolitan status. It is important that the enforcement of these rules should not be handled too stringently to avoid infringement of the human rights and abuse of the personal dignity of the populace.

To this end therefore, an enlightenment body should be attached to all security operatives to provide on the spot information to offenders, while law enforcement bodies should co-operate to ensure that the rules are duly observed.

In a chat with the Mr. Samuel Obayemi, the Zonal Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission in charge of Lagos and Ogun state, ‘all law enforcement bodies are co-operating to ensure the compliance of stipulated rules by both commuters and pedestrians and we call on all good spirited citizens to co-operate with all efforts marshalled out to fight the spread of the virus and ensure basic safety for all’.

A more faceless hazard that confront us is the massive loss of jobs and boom of unemployment following the shutdown of some companies that may not resume at full scale. So many establishments have trimmed down their staff strength and one wonders what these jobless persons would do to survive in a hard economy and the possible crime wave this may harbinger.

Meanwhile, on the larger scale, how would our nation thrive with so many industries, companies and other organisations shutting down due to inability to meet up with required standard and specifications for operations? How feasible is it for us to depend on foreign loans to survive? How would this affect the general welfare of everyone and our future in the global economy?

Of course, it is paramount (in order to forestall avoidable mistakes), for government to ensure that statistical projections are empirically documented now, for use in future to reconstruct and rehabilitate affected structure and persons in post-COVID-19 era.

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