Relax The Lockdown And Learn To Live With Covid-19

By Prof Mohammed Othman

Today, the world is facing a severe and acute public health emergency
due to the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic. Seven
months ago, this scenario was not foreseen and the world was certainly
not prepared for it.
While the pandemic is ravaging and claiming thousands of lives on
daily basis, the responses of the countries in mitigating or
suppressing the virus transmission differ. A study conducted by
Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team shows that “in the absence of
interventions, COVID-19 would result in 7.0 billion infections and 40
million deaths globally this year (2020)”.

This assertion implies that without mitigation strategy to suppress
transmission of COVID-19, about 90 per cent of the world population
will be infected and may result to 0.5 per cent fatality in 2020.
Lockdown is part of the strategy to curtail the infection and
community transmission. It prevents the virus infectious trajectory
acquiring exponential growth.

The trajectory has to be flattened. However, the lockdown is not
without cost to both individuals and the nation especially in a
developing country like Nigeria.
This is a country where millions of citizens live by daily income;
they have to move out on daily basis to earn a living. How expensive
is the lockdown? How long should we continue with the lockdown?

The question on how expensive the lockdown is, is better imagined when
one considers the closure of schools, hospitality industry, grounding
of airlines, commercial transportation, markets many other important
businesses in the country. The effect of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the
economy in Nigeria is alarming.The result of the study conducted by
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) during the first
one and half months of the lockdown in Nigeria is very disturbing.

The lockdown declined the GDP by 38 per cent, increased National
poverty Rate by 15 per cent and brought in additional 30 million
people below the poverty line (IFPRI, May 2020). The last two months
experience of partial lockdown is worrisome. Should people continue to
observe the lockdown while being impoverished and threatened by hunger
or risk of going out to be infected by COVID-19? Perhaps, this is a
Devil’s alternative.

Relaxing the lockdown is highly risky and continuing with lockdown
would have devastating effect on the economy. So, we must find a way
of relaxing the lockdown while learning to live with (COVID-19). It is
not like the virus is going very soon as the search for the vaccines
is predicted to reach 2021 or thereabout.
People would learn to live with the virus instead of unending lockdown
as a preventive measure having produced no vaccines or cure for the
virus.

A Special Envoy to World Health Organization (WHO) and
Director-General on COVID-19, Dr David Nabarro, expressed similar
opinion. He was quoted, “This virus is going to be with us for the
foreseeable future and nobody wants to go having lockdown as we have
at the moment, we have all got to learn to live with this virus, to do
our business with this virus in our presence, to have social relations
with this virus in our presence and not to be continuously having to
be in lockdown because of the widespread infections that can occur”
(https://carlumegboro.com/).

Can the economy and the social well being in Nigeria withstand
complete lockdown up to 2021? Some countries have already relaxed
their lockdown after making their virus infectious trajectories
flattened and started descending. Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and
Austria are among the European countries ending the lockdown. However,
it was not a complete return to normality in these countries, people
were made to mandatory wear masks outdoors, and observe social
distancing in addition to other measures.

In Nigeria, we should begin to think of relaxing the lockdown while
adopting a high level strategy to curtail the virus. We need full and
willing participation of people, a high level of organization within
communities, public health services as well as COVID-Ready hospitals
and other health care units to freely relax the lockdown. Thus, the
strategy to adopt may include but not limited to the followings:

Mount a massive campaign and sensitization of general public on the
COVID-19, infection process, symptoms and the consequences of
infections. This should be done in local languages for clarity. As at
now, many Nigerians do not believe there are COVID-19 cases in
Nigeria, some are even alleging that state governments are using
(COVID-19) issue to make money either for their states or personal
gains.

NCDC should improve in communicating to Nigerians on their daily
issuance numbers of confirmed cases, discharges and deaths. Can’t they
add pictorial evidences of Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients and
hospitals where such patients are being treated? (NCDC) communication
strategy is rather poor and needs serious enhancement to assure
Nigerians that Covid-19 pandemic is a matter of life and death
concerning every one of us

Massive increase of nation capacity to trace, track and test all
suspected COVID-19 cases nationwide, once a confirmed (COVID-19)
positive case is found, all contacts in the last few days should be
traced and tested for further action. At the time of writing this
piece (30/5/2020), only 60,825 samples were tested for a population of
over 200 million people

Number of isolation centers must be multiplied to at least one per
senatorial district, if not each LGA, provision of Personal Protection
Equipment (PPE) to fully kit health personnel and necessary drugs must
be readily available at all isolation centers in adequate quantities.
Compulsory wearing of mask outdoors and making each household to have
provision for hands washing facilities and hand sanitizers at the
entry of houses, schools, markets, shops, restaurants.

Each public place should have temperature gun for use to prevent
people with high body temperature from entry. Social and physical
distances of individuals must be imposed while suspending events that
assemble people such as marriages, naming ceremonies, etc.
Alternatively, few people can be allowed to conduct such gatherings
while observing all necessary rules of preventing community
transmission of the virus.

Lastly, we should leverage on the use of ICT tool to track down
suspected COVID-19 cases. Governments of Norway, South Korea and
Singapore are already using voluntary virus-tracking App that alerts
users if they have been in contact with someone suspected of carrying
the virus, as well to infection hotspots. This App will certainly be a
handy and very useful tool to Nigerian people as a guide to identify
and avoid suspected virus carrier or infection hotspots. Nigeria
cannot afford to continue with lengthy or seemingly, an endless
lockdown at the expense of national productivity and impoverishment of
people.

As rightly observed by an ace columnist, Hassan Gimba in his Column,
“The Arbiter”, published by Blueprint, a national Newspaper, a week
ago, “our lockdown is a joke as people go about their businesses in
many areas as if nothing is at stake.… the police cannot map out a
comprehensive strategy of enforcing the lockdown. Even if they can,
they lack the manpower to do so. And as is happening, in some
instances, they compromised or use excessive force such that, at a
time, those killed by security agents surpassed those killed by the
dreaded disease. In many areas in towns purportedly under lockdown, it
is business as usual, perhaps knowing you are on your own because
“palliatives” are just for publicity; therefore, governments’ hope of
flattening the curve may not be achieved. Now, when you put this side
by side with the stoppage of production, then we may inadvertently
find ourselves in serious trouble.”

In conclusion, as I am advocating the relaxation of the lockdown, it
is important to make people learn how to live with the virus until the
pandemic is over. Equally important, Nigerian authority should pay
special attention to few prominent Nigerians who claim to have found
curative treatment or vaccines to (COVID-19). We should not underrate
or lockdown on the ingenuity and innovative capacity of our fellow
citizens.

Many renowned professors such as Prof Haruna Kaita of Ahmadu Bello
University and Professor Maduike Ezebe of the Michael Okpara
University of Agriculture, Umudike among others have claimed to have
discovered treatments for Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients. They should
be fully supported to transform their claims to reality. Who knows,
Nigeria may emerge as a solution provider to the world of COVID-19
Pandemic.

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