COVID-19: More Concerns Over Easing Of Lock-downs In Nigeria, Africa
The on-going easing of lock-down, imposed to curb spread of coronavirus, has generated concerns across society.
This trepidation is for good reasons.
Infection rates are still escalating in Nigeria and some countries.
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Sunday, said Nigeria had recorded 10,162 cases, with 307 new infections and 287 deaths.
Federal Government has commenced gradual lifting of the ban on social and commercial activities.
Sadly this has been greeted, with disparate reactions, due to the country’s weak health and social structures.
Dr. Arinze Ikeme of Ryzone Renal Corporation, North Carolina, United States (US) said slacking restrictions should be matched with social distancing and safety precautions.
Dr. Ikeme, a Consultant Nephrologist, noted that ‘the virus is real and there is a chance it will be here for a long time. Herd immunity is protective and will happen faster if we ease off on the lockdown. Hopefully a cure and vaccination may be on the way too. The economic impact of the lock down will be far more devastating.’
Lagos-based medical practitioner, Chuka Ojukwu, frowned at the idea, saying ‘it is likely to escalate spread of the pandemic, called COVID-19.’
‘Despite its merits, this move will most likely worsen spread of the disease, due to community transmission.’
‘At this stage it is very difficult to tract and trace people, because of asymptomatic cases,’ Ojukwu added.
Rt. Hon. Dr. Esezobor Okonoboh said, ‘we should bear two more months of lockdown before relaxing the regulation. As a public health physician, some people are hosting the virus and going about, without symptoms, thereby spreading the virus.’
According to Dr. Okonoboh, the virus could be moved to areas that were relatively free.
‘The viral loads of those who were already infected could increase and this could be fatal for the vulnerables,’ he explained noting that ‘contact tracing would become more cumbersome due to high mobility of people.’
‘I can appreciate the hardship on people and pressure on governments. Health considerations should take precedence over economic considerations,’ the Benin-based physician added.
Some parents are also concerned about the negative consequences of re-opening academic institutions, given widespread non-compliance with sanitary recommendations, across the nation.
Lagos resident, Mr. Ifeanyi Okeke, said ‘the authorities should review the decision, to avoid aggravating the situation. Safety of life must be given priority in this issue.’
Okeke, an accountant, called on parents to reject any policy that will jeopardise the lives of their children and wards.’
‘With Nigeria’s poor health system and shortage of medical personnel, this move portends danger, because the country has a high population and poverty index,’ he warned.
READ ALSO: Perspectives On Africa’s Future Amidst COVID-19
Similarly, World Health Organisation (WHO), weekend, called for caution and increased adherence to its guidelines.
The call, was made in a statement, issued by the agency’s Africa regional Communications Manager, Sakuya Oka.
The statement quoted Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa as saying ‘We must all remain vigilant. As more countries begin to ease confinement measures, health authorities need to ensure continuity of essential health care services.’
‘Three months after the first case of COVID-19 was detected in sub-Saharan Africa, the region has made progress in tackling the virus. Many countries implemented lockdowns and key public health measures early and these appear to have helped slow down the spread of the disease. However, there are concerns that if these measures are relaxed too quickly, COVID-19 cases could start increasing rapidly,’ he stressed.
The foremost global health agency said its ‘preliminary analysis found that the doubling time, which is the number of days for case numbers to double in a given country, increased during the lockdown period in most of the countries of the region.’
These actions, according to him, came at great social and economic costs, particularly for the most vulnerable and there is an understandable push to lift the measures as rapidly as they were implemented.’
However, the organization urged governments to follow a step-by-step approach.
Nigeria is gradually opening up businesses, as part of efforts to revive the economy.
Meanwhile, Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has announced plans to resume airport operations. ‘We are going to start Lagos-Abuja initial flight,’ he added.
Dr. Moeti said ‘Burkina Faso started implementing a partial lockdown of 17 days after the notification of its first confirmed case and recorded an increase in number of cases during the lockdown period by 253 percent. It was implemented for 38 days and resulted in a significant reduction of daily new cases.’
Similarly, South Africa, which following a robust testing programme reported a particularly high number of COVID-19 cases has seen its doubling time remain stable at around two weeks, since the confinement measures have started to be relaxed.
The agency called for caution and vigilance saying ‘it is vital that effective testing and surveillance systems are in place to detect any spike in cases.’
‘Ending a lockdown is not an event, but a process, and it’s important to have a clear view of local conditions so informed decisions can be made about how to relax them,’ Dr. Moeti added.
According to him the organization has issued interim guidance to member states, encouraging a gradual adjustment of public health and social policies, while constantly assessing risks.
He continued: ‘Beginning with the re-opening of international airports, with a mandatory 14-day quarantine of all travelers, the guidelines progress through a series of steps for countries to take to regain some normalcy. As countries open up, good hand hygiene, coughing and sneezing etiquette, physical distancing and the use of masks will remain part of the new normal. The steps will need to be constantly adapted according to the trends in the data and maintained until the pandemic is contained or there is a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 which is accessible to everyone.’
‘Health authorities also need to ensure continuity of essential health care services, while resuming the full gamut of routine health services.’
‘This challenge will be compounded by ongoing global supply bottlenecks, shortages, and the necessity of repurposing staff for the COVID-19 response,’ Dr. Moeti.
‘Now more than ever is a time for international solidarity. There is a critical shortage of COVID-19 tests, personal protective equipment and other medical supplies in Africa. We hope that as restrictions on movement are lifted, these goods will start flowing to the places and people that need them most.’
‘Over the past three months, WHO has supported the delivery of nearly two million pieces of personal protective equipment for health workers, including surgical masks, as well as more than 100 000 screening kits.’
.Ojukwu, a Hubert H. Humphrey alumnus, journalist and public policy analyst wrote this treatise, as part of a series on Africa’s standing on SDGs.
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