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COVID-19 resurgence: Responsibility can make the difference

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Going by various news in Nigeria and around the world, no one should be in any doubt that this country, like other countries, is fully into the second wave of Coronavirus pandemic.

More people, including the Lagos State Governor, Babajude Sanwo-Olu and several chieftains of the Nigerian Army are being infected; the rate of infection is much higher than at any time in the past 10 months, and more people are dying from the scourge. With all these happening at a time of end-of-year festivities, it is indeed trying times for Nigerians.

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The positive news is that Coronavirus is contracted from someone who already is infected, and the risk of contracting it, therefore, can be minimised if one keeps away from potential carriers and observe all protocols to keep safe. The rules have been highly publicised since February this year when Nigeria recorded the first case, and they are being re-enacted by the authorities in even higher intensity in the past days following confirmation that the country has entered the second wave of the pandemic. What everybody needs to do is to carefully follow the rules and respect all COVID-19 protocols.

Despite the fact that the states are not testing enough, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has revealed that there is an unprecedented spike in new COVID-19 cases across the country; and the government has consequently announced that the country has entered the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, also announced new guidelines as part of measures to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. The PTF has directed, across the country, the immediate closure of bars, nightclubs, pubs and event centres, and recreational venues and restaurants except those providing services to hotel residents or providing takeaway services. The number of guests at weddings, conferences, among others has also been limited to 50 persons. The PTF issued the advisories to sub-national entities for implementation over the next five weeks because these activities are considered super spreader events.

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In addition, government issued a stay-at-home order for all government staff on Grade Level 12 and below for the next five weeks; while schools, presently on Christmas holidays, will remain shut till January 18, 2021.

Flattening the Coronavirus curve requires that the states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) assume full responsibility of this stage of the response by deploying legal structures and resources, including enforcement, to manage the pandemic within their jurisdictions. Instructively, even before the PTF announcement, Lagos and Kaduna state already introduced new rounds of restrictions to check the spread of the virus.

It is worrisome that the second wave of COVID-19 is featuring reports of emergence of new strains of the virus, now said to be mutating. The new variant was detected in the United Kingdom in September and dubbed “lineage B.1.1.7. Nigerian authorities and Nigerians should remain red alert during this festive season and celebrate responsibly, to ensure that collective effort at minimising the effects and curtailing the transmission yield positive results. The states should up the ante in testing; and the federal and state governments should continue to invest robustly in healthcare facilities, while health workers should adhere to universal precautions while delivering services.

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While noting that countries have begun to issue travel bans in varying degrees, which may also be an option for Nigeria in reducing vulnerability from COVID-19, the Federal Government should give priority to Port Health Services and ensure that all arriving international passengers are tested for the virus. In view of the hardship experienced by the public during the first wave, it will be inadvisable to impose another total lockdown on the populace; but that should not stop the government from strategising on how to strike a balance between managing the economy and imposing a second lockdown.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and PTF should be more aggressive in their civic education and media sensitisation campaigns on public health advisory to encourage personal hygiene, including wearing of face masks; hand washing regularly with soap and running water; practising physical distancing; avoiding crowded places; and staying away from offices, markets, places of worship and social gathering, particulary, if sick.

Individually, Nigerians must come to terms with the fact that these are unusual times, and until an acceptable vaccine is available, they need to be on guard in order to de-escalate the spike and flatten the curve. Everyone has a civic duty not to dump, but adhere to the COVID-19 prevention protocol. A moment of foolishness may prove to just be too costly!

Citizens should remain individually and collectively responsible in the fight against COVID-19. They should activate sense of self-preservation by reducing chances of infection and preventing death by Coronavirus. This year’s yuletide and New Year celebration is only one out of the many people can live through. Nigerians can conquer COVID-19 as they did with Ebola, and stand tall as a nation!

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