The appeal of e-commerce in the era of relaxed COVID-19 lockdown

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Emmanuel Nwachukwu

It has been over a week since the president settled the debate in his nationwide broadcast on 27 April 2020 where he announced the government’s decision to allow a phased easing of the lockdown order from the 4th of May, 2020. In his speech, he informed Nigerians that the government’s decision was in tandem with its approach which is to develop implementable policies that will ensure the economy continues to function while still maintaining the country’s aggressive response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the President, it is based on this approach and in line with the recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the various Federal Government committees that have reviewed socio-economic matters and the Nigeria Governors Forum that the president approved a phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures in FCT, Lagos and Ogun States effective from Monday, 4 May, 2020.

The President, however, implored all Nigerians to continue to adhere strictly to the advisories, which include regular hand washing, social physical distancing, wearing of face masks/coverings in public, avoidance of non-essential movement and travels and avoidance of large gatherings, as published by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Going by the President’s speech and the realities of our lives today, the phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures in where the lockdown existed, was a delicate balance struck between the exigencies of keeping the economy running and curtailing the community spread of the disease. The point that the President made and the reality of our ever increasing number of infected persons and mortality is that the pandemic is very much here with us and we need to tread carefully so as not to contract or further spread the disease.

In order to avoid the Ghana experience, where the community spread of the disease grew exponentially after the lockdown was relaxed, or the experience of China, who is now experiencing another wave of infections after it thought it had won the disease, corporate bodies are encouraged to get as much of their staff as possible to be working from home and limit the number of staff that come to the office daily; and individuals, on their own, should limit their contact with others as much as possible and avoid unnecessary outing. People should not see the relaxed restrictions as Uhuru, but instead, they should always seek those alternative means of achieving their aims that reduce their contact with other people.

While it might be understandable for those individuals who must work in the company of other people to risk the disease as they earn their daily pay, people have no reason to further risk the disease in many other endeavours. For example, in shopping for their daily needs, people need not go to the crowded markets or supermarkets, where the risk of contracting or spreading the virus is much, more so now that the government has laid down specific days and times to open markets. With this stipulation, people will have to deal with the influx of people in the markets during their open days. This is where e-commerce comes in handy.

Shoppers could do their purchases – from food/groceries, medications, water and other essential needs to even personal electronics and gadgets – pay and have them delivered to their doorsteps even without physically going to the stores. Even online food vendors like Easycook and Soupamarket and vendors on Jumia food are handling orders and can deliver their services to their customers’ doorsteps.

These online stores are even going a step further by ensuring that these deliveries are done in absolute compliance with the social distance requirements, as prescribed by the federal government and the National Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC). Jumia Nigeria, in its bid to further curtail the transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic, now does contactless deliveries to its customers. In contactless deliveries, the delivery men drop customers’ orders at their doorsteps, move three metres back and call the customers to come and pick up their orders.

The advantages of switching over to the online shopping platforms, and the folly of physical shopping, are that online shopping is more convenient, cheaper and the products more readily available at all points in time than in physical shops. Above all, with Jumia’s contactless delivery, online shopping has become more COVID-19 compliant than traditional shopping.

As the community spread of the corona virus disease is still on the increase in Nigeria and recording more and more fatalities, people should not hide under the guise of the relaxed restrictions to go back to their pre-COVID-19 days but should still adhere to all the safety protocols, especially that of social distancing, as prescribed by the NCDC. In Nigeria, we are lucky that Jumia and other e-commerce platforms have risen to the occasion by providing efficient and compliant services to Nigerians at this critical point of our existence. People should, therefore, avail themselves of this opportunity to avoid Ghana’s or China’s unfortunate experiences.

Emmanuel, a Public Relation strategist writes from Lagos.

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