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NIGERIA CORONAVIRUS: As Lockdown Ends Tomorrow, Doctors Seek Extension

Ahead of the approaching review of the lockdown imposed on the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), the Nigerian Medical Association has advised the centralized to again extend the lockdown, which ends on Monday (tomorrow).

This, the association said, would help to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus disease.

It added that with the “exponential” rise within the number of cases recorded across the country daily, people shouldn’t see the lockdown as a punishment but a necessary measure to contain the spread of the deadly virus. It, however, stressed the necessity for fair distribution of the palliatives to cushion the hardship the restriction had caused Nigerians.

But the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture; the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association; and therefore the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Muda Yusuf, opposed the possible extension of the full lockdown, saying the govt should consider the partial opening of the economy.

The President had on March 29 imposed a 14-day lockdown on the FCT and therefore the two states to contain the spread of the virus. At the top of the 14 days, which terminated on April 13, the President extended the lockdown, saying the pandemic had become a matter of life and death which it absolutely was now not a joke.

However, barely every day to the top of the extension, stakeholders have disagreed on whether the President should extend the lockdown or ease it. The Secretary to the govt of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, had maintained that only the President could choose whether there would be an extension of the lockdown or it might be lifted.

As of April 13 when the President extended the lockdown, the quantity of cases was 343 in 19 states and therefore the FCT. the quantity of deaths was 10 while 91 persons had been discharged. But, there have been 87 new cases on Saturday, pushing the quantity of cases to 1,182 in 28 states and therefore the FCT. the quantity of deaths rose to 35 while 222 persons had been discharged.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, said on Sunday that the state had yet to succeed in its COVID-19 peak despite recording the best case thus far. He had also warned on March 27 that the state might see up to 39,000 cases but that if everyone practised good social distancing, the figure would be limited to 13,000.

During the week, the Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chike Ihekweazu, had also hinted that the virus would eventually spread to all or any the 36 states. “There is not any reason why it won’t (extend to each state in Nigeria), it’s a respiratory virus,” he added.

The DG also said on Tuesday that the President would make tougher decisions within the coming week on measures to contain the spread of the virus. He, however, advised Nigerians to be prepared for the tougher directives. “Next week, Mr President will make some very difficult decisions for the country in terms of the lockdown in three states but also across the country in several ways,” he added.

Already, there’s increasing tension and impatience among people within the affected states and therefore the FCT over the chance that the lockdown may be extended.

A cross-section of Nigerians, who spoke to clout, lamented that they were needing to return to figure, adding that staying reception for a month had become traumatising.

But the NMA, citing the speed at which the virus was spreading as a significant consideration, said the consequence of lifting the lockdown might be calamitous.

In an interview with one in all our correspondents on Thursday, NMA National President, Dr Francis Faduyile, said, “If we are saying we wish to contain the spread and that we are having exponential increase, is that after we should open up and resume work? It’s obvious that it’s not the time to open up.

“We are just going to the height and therefore the spread continues to be ascending the slope. you’ll be able to only ease the lockdown after you are seeing a lesser number of latest cases. Would you furthermore may say Kano State should open up and resume normal activities when the cases are just being detected?

“Things that are unfolding show that we want to enforce even more. However, if we wish to enforce the lockdown, then we should always do things that may make life easier for people. that’s to turn the govt to try and do the needful within the fair distribution of the palliatives so people can occupy home.

“It is for the advantage of the those that the lockdown rules should be respected. it’s not a punishment. The consequence of not extending it’s that people who may harbour the virus are mixing freely in society and would be transmitting the virus to people who don’t seem to be yet infected. That won’t be good.”

Faduyile lamented that compliance with the lockdown had not been satisfactory.

The World Health Organisation had on Tuesday warned countries to not lift the lockdown, saying, “No country is safe from potentially overwhelming outbreaks as long because the coronavirus is circulating.”

Meanwhile, people who oppose the extension argued that in spite of the rising cases, government couldn’t still put the economy on a lockdown.

The Director-General, NECA, Mr Timothy Olawale, said there was a desire for the govt to relax the lockdown which if necessary, businesses might be encouraged to try and do a roaster for his or her employees so there wouldn’t be over a particular number of employees at work on any given time.

He also said the govt should take cognisance of the increasing rate, poverty and certain uprising or revolt by those in an exceedingly precarious situation, while noting that without specific palliatives, the lockdown could cripple businesses and make recovery harder.

He said, “Government should relax the lockdown while fitting place stringent national policy as drained Ghana, Germany and a few other countries. I suggest a relaxed lockdown between 8 am and 4 pm and a curfew between 5 pm and seven am.

“For anyone that may venture out, mask should be made compulsory. Non-use of the mask should be criminalised. Inter-state travels should remain banned for now while all businesses will be mandated to confirm stringent protocols like social distancing, provision of wash hand area then on within their premises.

“Without government giving specific palliatives like part payment of salaries and tax waivers to businesses, the lockdown will further cripple businesses and make recovery harder.”

While calling for more tests to be dispensed, he said information dissemination should be doubled so it could reach people in local areas.

The Director-General, NACCIMA, Ambassador Ayo Olukanni, also commended the federal and state governments for the strategies deployed thus far to contain the virus. He, however, noted that the lockdown was now not sustainable.

He said, “While we understand the explanations for the lockdown which has been on for pretty much a month; it’s become necessary to review the lockdown order and replace it with a more strategic approach for various reasons. The continued lockdown is taking a significant toll on businesses across the country and therefore the ripple effects on security are getting alarming; especially as miscreants seize the chance to rob citizens and forced the lock business premises.

“Consideration should tend to gradual opening of some businesses and other commercial operations. Steps should therefore be taken to permit some categories of workers to resume work and business operations while keeping to safety protocols, like wearing of face masks, social distancing and ban on large gatherings.

“Certainly a lockdown order ad-infinitum isn’t sustainable and lots of of our members are of the view that this could be reviewed to ease the lockdown, after all without prejudice to safety, which is that the duty of all.”

While calling for increased testing to spot the carriers of the virus, Olukanni commended the organisations that have provided palliatives for the underprivileged, noting that members of the association had been playing their roles within the fight against the deadly virus. He said they’d still ensure uninterrupted supply of essential products and services at this difficult period

The Director-General of LCCI, Yusuf, who spoke in his personal capacity, said although the lockdown was laudable to contain the spread of the virus, the sustainability had become a matter of concern.

He, therefore, advised that the govt should consider the choice of a partial lockdown.

Already, there had been rising insecurity, especially stickup, in some parts of Lagos and Ogun states, forcing the people to call out for help, while a number of them resort to keeping vigilance on the streets to chase away the thieves.

Yusuf said, “Lagos, as an example, is extremely cosmopolitan, very mobile with a high velocity of business transactions. About 50 per cent of the Lagos economy is formed from the informal sector. one in all the most features of the arena is that the operators live by the day. Keeping such a commercially active population indoors for a month may be a great challenge.

“Neither the Lagos regime nor the centralized has the capacity to manage the social consequences of a protracted lockdown – hunger, restiveness and insecurity.

“This is why an extended period of lockdown might not be sustainable. The context of an issue should define the prescription. An extension of the lockdown beyond the four weeks isn’t advisable.

“The option of partial lockdown should be considered. this could be preceded by a strong COVID-19 risk assessment. this could guide the targeting of the lockdown. Different economic activities present different vulnerabilities. all told cases, the observance of the COVID-19 protocols should continue under a regime of a partial lockdown.”

On their part, the Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria said if the govt felt constrained to increase the lockdown on account of the rising cases, it should come up with better palliatives that may get to the target market.

It said government should make sure that the youth, elderly people and people who trusted daily income but couldn’t move to work now should be targeted as being drained other countries.

The National President of the association, Dr Femi Egbesola, said, “In the priority scale, health comes before wealth and at any point in time, it’s better to prioritise health. If the lockdown is what’s good for us now as a nation, whether or not we’ve sacrifices to form, it’s better we cooperate. It’s only people who are alive which will do business, so our subsistence is that the topmost priority.

“But if there’s how they will relax the lockdown or do partial lockdown and that we would still be safe, supported the recommendation of the doctors, i believe that may be better than total lockdown.

“There are some countries that have partial lockdown in situ but the populace move with face masks, hand gloves and other protective wear. If there’s how which will be done, it’s okay because we’ll not say we wish to be alive so still suffer and start to die physically or emotionally from the results of staying reception.

“If the doctors advise that the lockdown should continue, there’s an urgent need for the govt to appear at having more palliatives to succeed in the target market.”

Independent of the lockdown imposed on the FCT and Lagos and Ogun states, many governors had also imposed lockdown on their states, while some imposed curfew.

Already, the Nigeria Labour Congress had called on the centralized to not extend the lockdown, warning that doing so might cause social unrest within the affected states and therefore the FCT.

While faulting the approach employed within the distribution of the palliatives to this point, the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said the “economy might relapse into prolonged coma if this lockdown within the nation’s nerve centres goes beyond this extension.”

On account of the rising cases across the states, governors of the 36 states of the federation on Wednesday unanimously agreed to impose a 14-day inter-state lockdown, saying the increase within the number of cases had become a matter of concern.

The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, said in a very communiqué issued after the forum’s teleconference meeting, “Governors unanimously agreed to the implementation of an inter-state lockdown within the country over the following period to mitigate the spread from state to state.”

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