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Omicron: Economists urge FG to avoid another lockdown

10 December 2021   |   1:02 pm
Economic experts on Friday in Lagos advised the Federal Government to avoid another round of lockdown of the economy due to the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.

(FILES) A file photo taken on December 7, 2020 shows police standing guard as travellers arrive for hotel quarantine in Melbourne. – Health officials in Australia said on November 28, 2021 they had detected the Covid Omicron strain for the first time after testing two passengers in hotel quarantine from southern Africa who flew into Sydney. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)

Economic experts on Friday in Lagos advised the Federal Government to avoid another round of lockdown of the economy due to the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.

The experts told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that protecting lives was very important but the protection of livelihood was also key and should be factored in, in government’s response to Omicron incidence.

NAN reports that additional three more cases of COVID-19 pandemic that included the B.1.1.529 SARS-CoV-2 lineage, and the Omicron variant, have been confirmed in Nigeria, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

This has brought the total number of confirmed cases of the variant detected in Nigeria to six.

NAN also reports that Nigeria experienced lockdown of its economic activities in 2020 following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Akpan Ekpo, a Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom, urged the government not to consider any form of lockdown now so as not to stop economic activities.

“Government must avoid a lockdown of the economy now so as not to constrain economic activities.

“It will be important to closely monitor our borders, roads and air.

“It seems the virus has come to stay, hence, our scientists should be funded to develop vaccines; reliance on developed countries is not sustainable,” he said.

He advised the government to insist on vaccination for all but must ensure that the vaccines are available.

Also, Uche Uwaleke, a Professor of Finance and Capital Market at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, urged the government not to apply the lockdown strategy again in tackling the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.

“In order to minimise the negative impact of Omicron COVID-19 variant on economic growth, the lockdown strategy, movement restrictions and school closures should no longer be used.

“This time around, I think the country is better prepared to handle the omicron challenge. The government should enforce more strictly the COVID-19 protocols especially the wearing of face masks by the public.

“Vaccination, especially in densely populated areas of the country, should also be scaled up,” he said.

Also, Prof. Ndubuisi Nwokoma, the Director, Centre for Economic Policy Analysis and Research (CEPAR), said that lockdown might not be the way to go now.

“Lockdown, as it happened during the first wave of COVID-19, may not be the way to go now.

“It had a lot of devastating effects on people’s livelihood particularly for the poor and vulnerable as well as the operators in the informal sector and in the SMEs.

“Focus must be on the strict enforcement of the COVID-19 protocols and the restriction of unnecessary travels. With this, locking down the economy may not be necessary.

“By these, life and livelihood can both be preserved,” Nwokoma said.

NAN reports that some countries had imposed travel bans on some African countries including Nigeria amid fears of the new COVID-19 variant.

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had said that there was no evidence so far concerning the transmissibility or severity of the new omicron strain.

Its regional office for Africa urged countries to follow science and health regulations rather than imposing travel bans on African nations.