The increasingly relaxed attitude of many Nigerians towards the stipulated precautionary measures against the raging coronavirus pandemic calls for serious concern from the government and other relevant stakeholders in the healthcare sector. While it is indeed gladdening that the figures released by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have, in recent times, shown a decline in the number of new cases of the virus, it is too early to throw caution to the winds in the assumption that the end has come for the pandemic in the country.
It is unfortunate and potentially calamitous that the safety guidelines of improved personal hygiene, hand washing, social and physical distancing and the likes, as recommended by the World Health Organisation, the NCDC and other leading health bodies and experts, are being rapidly jettisoned by Nigerians. People now go about their normal businesses with careless abandon, apparently unconcerned that the nation is in a season of socio-economic anomy when sacrifices are required on the part of all to prevail over the health emergency.
With over 53000 confirmed cases and more than 1000 deaths, the Nigerian Coronavirus situation requires more strategic efforts from stakeholders to ensure that the successes the nation has recently recorded in curbing the spread of the virus are sustained. And at a time when there are signs of a gradual ebbing in the rage of the monstrous microbe, what is expected is intensification of efforts by closing all loopholes that may pave way for a resurgence.
As evidence from many other countries has shown, reports of decline in the number of Cornavirus infections could become an albatross, rather than a blessing, if wrongly misinterpreted or handled. The NCDC itself has warned against complacency and disregard for safety measures at this precarious time, stressing that the recent positive reports do not translate to end of the pandemic.
Speaking recently with journalists, Director General of NCDC and a Consultant Epidemiologist, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said: “It is still too early to interpret a decline in new cases as flattening the curve. We are learning from countries in Europe and other parts of the world that a decline in new cases does not translate to being at the end of the pandemic. In most of these countries, they have begun to record an increase in cases again.”
Already, in the midst of the seeming respite that the decline in the number of confirmed cases of the virus has brought, new developments have emerged that should jolt us to the reality that the country is indeed not out of the woods yet. For instance, since the recent commencement of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), it has been reported that no fewer than 30 students have tested positive to the virus and are currently writing their examinations at different isolation centres across the country.
A further angle to this ugly development is that the proposed full reopening of schools, as already being envisaged in some quarters, may not be feasible, considering that it will be difficult to handle the spread of the virus among students, especially going by their population and behavioural tendencies. Their exuberance and propensity to violate rules may be major pitfalls of the concerted crusade against the global emergency.
We call on the Federal Ministry of Education, the Federal Ministry of Health, the NCDC and other relevant stakeholders to brainstorm and develop effective ways of ensuring that, should the schools be asked to resume fully, there would be adequate measures in place to forestall the spread of the coronavirus. Both government and private schools should be well informed and supervised on the agreed modalities to be put in place before schools can resume fully. Heavy punitive measures should also be prescribed for violators.
While we continue to hope for a total eradication of the dreaded virus, we urge the government, the various agencies saddled with the responsibility of curtailing the spread, the frontline health workers, and indeed, all Nigerians to continue to put in their best and not to rest on their oars until the battle is won. The populace, especially traders and commuters, must be made to continue to adhere to the safety guidelines as outlined by the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC.
In addition, transport unions such as the National Union of Road Transport Workers, (NURTW) and the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) should be further engaged and made to renew their collaboration with other stakeholders to strengthen the efforts being made to battle the pandemic in the country.
The Nigeria Police and all other security agencies saddled with the responsibility of ensuring adherence to the COVID-19 rules and regulations must see it as a call to national duty. Our frontline health workers who have been offering professional services to the nation should continue the great service they are rendering. It is the strategic amalgamation of their efforts and those of all other stakeholders that will lead to a total eradication of the coronavirus from our land. So help us God!