Lagos, FCT, Ondo move to stem new COVID-19 wave

Amidst the fear of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country due to rising numbers of infected persons, some state governments have spoken of their determination to stem new infections.

The states include Lagos, Ondo and the Federal Capital Territory.

OSBC had reported that there were fears that Nigeria could soon be hit with a second wave of COVID-19 following rising daily cases and the abandonment of safety protocols by states across the country.

For instance, Nigeria recorded 937 cases last week as against 923 the previous week.

Between Monday, November 2 and Friday, November 6, there was a steady increase in the number of confirmed cases, with 72 recorded on Monday; 137 on Tuesday; 155 on Wednesday; with the figure rising to 180 and 223 on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

The figure, however, dropped to 59 on Saturday, but this was because there were fewer tests conducted on Saturday.

The fear of the second wave of the virus is also reinforced by many state governments that have abandoned the enforcement of safety rules.

The Federal Capital Territory Administration, on Monday, lamented the failure of Abuja residents to wear face masks, noting that the majority of the populace was not complying with COVID-19 regulations.

The FCTA said it was waiting for an advisory from the FCT COVID-19 Response Team to decide on the action to be taken in the event of a second wave of the disease.

The Chairman of the COVID-19 Enforcement Team, Ikharo Attah, confirmed that residents had not been very cooperative, noting that his committee had been engaging in moral suasion and advocacy to ensure compliance with the regulations prescribed by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

According to him, while banks and some government offices are still complying with the use of face masks, worship centres, including churches and mosques, have not been cooperative.

He noted, “We have followed the guidelines despite challenges of unbelief from several quarters. We have been able to do everything to ensure compliance. All the banks and government offices are trying, but not all the people still wear face masks and use hand sanitizer.

“When it comes to private places like churches and mosques, what the minister has said is that they should own the process. We met with the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Council of Ulamas, and we told them to own the process and safeguard their members. In the advent of a second wave of COVID-19 – we pray it doesn’t come – people should own the process.”

Attah also noted that traders and commercial motorists were no longer taking safety regulations seriously, adding that the situation in the satellite settlements was also worrisome.

“In markets, people are no longer wearing face masks. I went to a market in a neighbouring state and they were laughing at me, because I was wearing a face mask,” he stated.

When asked if his committee would change tactics and impose sanctions on offenders, Attah said, “Unless the second wave comes; for now, we will be talking to them.

“If the second wave comes and we see it looming very closely, based on medical report from the health secretariat or the COVID-19 response team, then we will have no option but to take tougher measures to save the populace; but for now, advocacy remains our watchword.”

The Chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers, Jabi Park Unit, Mr Taiwo Oshobu, admitted that commuters and drivers were no longer wearing face masks or practising social distancing.

“We observe that people are no longer wearing face masks or observing the regulations. To God be the glory, we don’t have COVID-19 (outbreak) in our park,” he stated.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, on Monday, said the state would not impose fines on those disobeying COVID-19 guidelines.

In an interview with one of our correspondents on Monday, Omotoso said nothing could be achieved without advocacy and persuasion.

He stated, “Although the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, has said we are beginning to record more cases, but our stand has always been advocacy and persuasion. There is hardly much you can do about enforcement than to step up our advocacy.

“We will continue to enlighten citizens and motorists on the need to always obey the COVID-19 guidelines.”

The Ondo State Government said it had never relented in its efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 despite the fact that the state recently recorded new cases.

The state Inter-ministerial Committee on COVID-19, on Monday, stated that the disease and Lassa fever were still very much around and efforts were being made to ensure that the state was free of the virus.

The Chairman of the committee and Vice-Chancellor, University of Medical Sciences, Prof. Adesegun Fatusi, said the state government, through the committee, had stepped up measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, but noted that the government had been cautious, particularly in the area of enforcement.

The don also declared that the committee was not relenting in its duty of ensuring that residents comply with the COVID-19 directives of the state government.

He said, “We are not relenting; we have been going to the remote areas for sensitisation, particularly those in the local governments that are far away from us, where we can’t have quick information about the effect of the disease.

“On the enforcement, we will have to involve the state governor on this; you know we just finished with the #EndSARS issue and we don’t want anything that will lead to another round of crisis; so, we want to be culturally and environmentally sensitive on that matter.

“We are still working very seriously on this matter. We are currently doing community engagement in conjunction with UNICEF on curbing the spread of the coronavirus and Lassa fever. You know the schools just resumed; we have been monitoring the schools to ensure compliance. We will also engage the media to boost our sensitisation programmes.”

The state Epidemiologist, Dr Stephen Fagbemi, decried the non-compliance of the residents with the COVID-19 guidelines, noting that it would be difficult to make enforcement at the moment.

He said, “It is very unfortunate that our people are no more taking COVID-19 seriously and it is difficult to make enforcement now, because the #EndSARS protests just ended and the government will not want to go violent on the citizens.”

An economist and Senior Lecturer, Lagos Business School, Dr Bongo Adi, said a fresh lockdown would deepen the impending economic recession in the country.

“I don’t think that we can deal with another lockdown. The economic performance is horrible,” he said in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, noting that the economy contracted by 6.1 per cent in the second quarter of the year.

He said the recent COVID-19 lockdown and the #EndSARS protest disruptions had already taken a toll on key economic indicators, especially the inflation rate.

“I don’t think another lockdown is the way to go. The lockdown we had in the past didn’t really work. I don’t think it played a significant role in containing the pandemic,” Adi added.

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