To tame COVID-19 and avoid another lockdown
The warning by the federal and some state governments, including Lagos State to impose another lockdown in order to keep down rising cases of COVID-19 is timely, going by the reality of the pandemic. Nigerians ought to be very alarmed, and to adopt the right attitude in support of government in appreciation of life and health. Although, Nigeria is still under-testing, available statistics show that the number of COVID-19 cases and the death rate in the country are spiking.
Obviously, health facilities across the country are being stretched, signposting that official measures being taken by governments across the country against the spread of Coronavirus pandemic may appear to be inadequate. But the greatest threat to curtailing the disease is by far the carefree and sometimes unbelieving attitude of Nigerians. Most Nigerians have shown little or no respect for basic rules such as wearing face mask, keeping social distancing and regular washing of hands. Yet, the hospitals are overwhelmed, not discounting the fact that test and treatment are expensive; leaving the risk of death on the prowl. Indeed, the curve is rising and the Federal Government has threatened a second lock down!
Notwithstanding, individuals across the social divides appear to be throwing caution to the wind as observance of safety protocols is low, which may account for the spike in the number of cases leading. This is worrisome because the highly infectious and virulent new variants/second wave of COVID-19 and increasing fatality should be a concern to all and sundry.
Since another lockdown appears not feasible, the government’s management of the situation with the off and on stay-at-home directive to Grade Level 12 and below to work from home is notable. Nigerians should not push the government to make good its threat of a second lockdown, because of the harsh economic realities this will entail. Also, the chances of getting palliatives during a lockdown are practically nil.
While COVID-19 has been in Nigeria for close to one year, the risk perception is still low among Nigerians; and those in charge of COVID-19 risk communication, should realise that the country has reached a tipping point, which requires a change of strategy. Thus, the need to change messaging to inculde evidence on the rate of infection and death. Messages should also highlight the benefits of not shutting down markets, schools, places of worrship and other public places; reducing loss of livelihoods; not infecting the elderly or high risk family members, particularly by those that are asymptomatic; and reduced access to medical services.
So, while the NCDC and Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 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 running water; practising physical distancing; avoiding crowded places; and staying away from offices, markets, places of worship and social gathering, particulary, if sick; it is important to recognise that it is the benefits that individuals will derive from changing from a ‘problem behaviour’ to an ‘ideal behaviour’of complying with the public health advisory that will lead to behavioural and social change.
Hence, the need to include and highlight the socio-economic impacts of risking another lockdown, which everyone witnessed during the lockdown in messaging. That is what individuals can relate with as there were not enough pallitaives, there was loss of livelihoods (markets were shut down and companies were downsizing and paying part salaries and some not paid salaries at all) during the first lockdown; and no one wants a repeat of that.
Apart from changing messaging, the vaccine is unavailable for Nigerians at present. As such, Nigerians should be on guard in order to de-escalate the spike and flatten the curve. They should realise it is their civic duty not to dump; rather keep to the COVID-19 prevention protocol as advised by NCDC and PTF on COVID-19 to reduce the community transmission, because the borderless and classless COVID-19 is an equal opportunity killer.
In addition to keeping to other public health advisories, individuals should mask up where necessary and maintain physical distancing rules at all times, because a moment of foolishness may prove to just be too costly!
So, risk of infection and death is much higher for the carefree ones, rather than the obedient and the extremely careful. All Nigerian citizens and residents should train their minds to remain individually and collectively responsible in the fight to combat COVID-19. Let everyone activate his/her collective sense of self-preservation, because COVID-19 is a lethal agent of equal opportunity.
Similarly, flattening the curve requires that the states and the FCT assume full ownership of this stage of the response by deploying legal structures and resources, including enforcement to manage the pandemic within their jurisdictions. Therefore, as part of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, government at all levels should inaugurate some ad hoc ‘COVID-19 police’ to monitor and enforce adherence to public health adversaries and sanction those who are incurably lawless, because they constitute great risk to public health.
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