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COVID-19: Tribute to our frontline workers

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In the face of inadequacies amid risks and recent detention by police authorities, our frontline workers have shown uncommon commitment to the discharge of their duties to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in our country.

Indeed, the zest the essential workers have displayed for saving lives and educating people remains unparalleled. This heroism of Nigeria’s altruistic frontline workers who are sometimes owed salaries and left to work in an unconducive environment is unequalled in our national history. This national service deserves to be recorded this way.

Specifically, on our medics, several reports have revealed that many of them who are public health practitioners, do not have even face masks, thermometers, gloves, protective suits and vehicles that they need to confront the COVID-19. Besides, most of the health workers are working long hours with limited supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and taking risks to treat COVID-19 patients. This has put many frontline workers in the harm’s way and in the process, some of them have fallen leaving their relatives in agony. This situation suggests that our medics are endangered because they do not have sufficient PPE.  

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Furthermore, as the number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 increases daily, the government is gradually facing the reality of inadequate isolation centres, not discounting the deplorable health sector. Thus, this pandemic has brought to the fore the challenges in the Nigerian health sector some of which include the non-payment of salaries, allowances and under-employment, among others that have led to the exodus of medics to other countries, leaving Nigeria in huge health personnel deficit. 

Essentially, the current ugly existential reality of COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the tardiness of our country for emergency preparedness to contain disease outbreaks.

Notwithstanding, our medical scientists, for instance, have shown commitment and dedication and have been the staying power of our country in the fight against COVID-19. Though, they have been fighting without enough weapons and shields, they have remained on the winning side, upholding their sworn allegiance to the Hippocratic code, a professional ethical commitment to saving lives. They have been treating Nigerians across various socio-economic groups that COVID-19 has tied to ‘‘one faith’’ in terms of health care services. 

Thus, the health workers and non-health workers at the present have become the cynosure of all eyes. Even the ‘‘high and mighty’’ who hitherto had a knack for foreign medical treatment but have been equally yoked with the plebeians are all under the care of Nigerian medics.

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Also, journalists who have been ‘‘fighting a good fight’’ in the battle to save lives, deserve a special accolade for their professionalism. They have been sensitising and informing Nigerians on COVID-19. The media workers who also work round the clock have helped to reduce misinformation and fake news on the issue. Some of them attend daily briefings, others monitor the environment and bring issues to the plane of discussion and attention of duty bearers. Through their reportage, both State and Federal Governments have continued to fine-tune their strategies and interventions. 

Others on the roll call of gallantry at this time are the scientists in the laboratories, Coalition Against COVID (CACOVID), corporate institutions and individuals, who have contributed towards combating the pandemic. 

This is quite significant. We appreciate their efforts and sacrifices despite the pressure and unhealthy working conditions. It is a true mark of their love for humanity. This newspaper places on record this historic diligence, selflessness, courage, devotion and patriotism of our frontline workers. In the main, we appeal to our frontline workers not to have compassion fatigue in the marathon fight to combat COVID-19 pandemic. We urge them all to continue to train their minds to remain steadfast and finish creditably on the positive side of history. We appreciate their selfless sacrifices and pray to God to reward their labour of love.

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In the same vein, we salute ordinary Nigerians who are complying with public health advisories by regularly washing their hands, practising physical distancing, using face masks, staying at home when sick and avoiding unnecessary travels. We commend you for being socially responsible and reducing the community transmission of the disease. To the artists, sports enthusiasts and other notable personalities cheering and paying tributes to our frontline workers through various forms of arts and other coordinated messages, we thank you for your patriotism. Please, keep this ‘‘fire burning’’ because together we will defeat COVID-19. 

Meanwhile, the tale of those that have fallen too is a reminder to our duty bearers on the need to improve the working conditions of the frontline workers. Besides, those in authorities need to take seriously the health, safety and environment (HSE) as a preventive health strategy across various sectors. As such, government at all levels should refocus attention on the health sector and make the operating environment, welfare and safety of workers a priority.

Finally, what the police authorities did on Tuesday when they detained about 50 frontline workers including health and media workers in Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos for alleged violation of curfew order was clearly an unkind cut and gross abuse of power. The PTF should apologise to the victims of the police overzealousness that threatened to sabotage a national effort in a twinkling of an eye.

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