COVID-19 MANAGEMENT: LATE STEPS AND MISSTEPS

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John Danfulani writes that government should compel adherence to laws designed to stop community transmission of Covid-19

Dregs of information from Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Presidential Task Force(PTF), and other Covid-19 watchdogs piqued that the terminator disease is in most of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory(FCT). The high frequency of its spread and lethal casualties has become an unprecedented calamity.

A critical perusal of variables responsible for Covid-19’s speedy surge are internal and external-thus multifarious or multifaceted in outlook. However, two factors are outstanding: first, unprofessional management and coordination by the federal government committees and agencies; and second, denial syndrome by influential community and religious leaders in some parts of country.

Most, if not all reasons for Covid-19’s spike are attributable to FGN’s tactical and strategic blunders when a few cases were discovered. They wobbled effort by reacting sluggishly or refusing to act, completely. Example of those procrastinations were lateness in closing our borders and invoking and deploying of the Quarantine Act. Late closure of our entry points made asymptomatic and a few symptomatic persons running from the epicenter of Covid-19 (Europe) slipped-in and disappeared to various states and the FCT.

Next to FGN’s inactions and sluggish actions were tactless and thoughtless composition of the PTF on Covid-19, and palliatives distribution team(s) under the ministry of disaster management. Characters in these and other teams are some perfect examples of square pegs in round holes. A run through the list gives no room for second guessing that they will not deliver. It’s commonsensical that people can’t give what they don’t have.

The right people to be in PTF are: scientists; public health experts; representatives of all medical associations, some key agencies of federal ministry of health, governors forum, NCDC, NOA, and CMDs of tertiary health institutions, WHO representative can be an observer/adviser. A representative of the ministry of external affairs should also be in the loop. An internationally known public health expert like Prof. Emeritus Umaru Shehu or any of such professionals should head the team.

The PTF should have power and authority to: a) give daily briefings to Nigerians; b) when/where/how to lockdown should be dictated by them; and c) when/where/how to relax lockdowns should be recommended by them. Again, they should have unimpeded power to embark on international procurement of essentials like PPE, ventilators, sanitizers, gloves, etc. Crucial: they should have a 24/7 access to the president along with the minister of health and NCDC boss.

Covid-19 crippled economies of developed and less developed countries. Countries recessions automatically pushed citizens to economic depression. To cushion the unexpected and sudden consequences of covid-19 on Nigerians, the FGN embarked on palliative schemes. Like the PTF, the composition of the team was very lame. The composition should have been made of; NLC, JNI, CAN, political parties, traditional ruler (who are the gatekeepers of communities) from each geo-political zones, and a few NGOs that already have mapped out areas and have been involved in community development at the grassroots.

There is much to believe that a committee with members cutting across various facets of life will be able to identify the class in need of palliatives. And most importantly, avenues to route the palliatives to the targeted layer of our societies. Lack of this broadbase representation is responsible for allegations of unholy and sharp practices by the agencies and the mother ministry responsible for sharing of the palliatives. For example, while the lockdown was on, the committee claimed to share palliatives to over 2m people in FCT within 24hrs. Still, we saw photos and read horrific stories of how expired by extension poisonous rice were sent to states. Some stories associated with distribution are appalling, scandalous and highly ungodly.

Wrong steps have been taken by the FG, the negative consequences are telling. To freeze the rampage of Covid-19, FG should immediately reverse most of its decision in tandem with recommendations advanced hereinbefore. Adopting a headlong attitude will make Belinda Gates prediction of corpses littering the streets come to nought.

SGF Boss Mustapha, Alh Lai Mohammed and their team must accept this incontrovertible reality that we are fighting a war with an invincible foe. The enemy can’t be defeated with propaganda, politics of confusion/deceit and throwing of unprofessional claims in the public domain.

On his part, Mr. President should hike his visibility. His fortnightly recorded broadcasts are far below expectations. The whole world is in a war with a deadly enemy, his actions and utterances must reflect that reality. He should take a cue from his colleagues like Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa who are symbolically appearing in military uniforms.

One fact is known: our C-in-C is fragile due to age and failing health. Sequel to that, he should delegate such and similar tasks to his much younger and mentally strong vice president that the cabal rendered redundant. Now is good time to end his ghosting from the public radar.

Nigerians should adhere to covid-19 safety guidelines published by NCDC, WHO, public health experts, their doctors, scientists and other pandemic watchdogs. Hanging to some cultural mores and religious beliefs will boomerang. There must be a complete change and upgrade of attitude to flow with the exigencies of the moment. Lest they forget, cultural mores and religions will cease if every soul on earth – in this case Nigeria is terminated by Covid-19 or any other pandemic for that matter. Only the living worship and practice traditional rites.

Lastly, governments at all strata should compel adherence to laws designed to stop community transmission. And descend mightily on so-called community or religious leaders violating guidelines in the name of worship or whatsoever. Safety of lives is a traditional schedule that has been part of all social contracts from time immemorial. In moments like this, government must be seeing passionately and religiously discharging this task irrespective of whose ox is gored.
Dr. Danfulani wrote from Kaduna