Losing guard against the scourge of COVID-19 has begun to manifest in terms of increasing spread of the virus at the community level. Records from recent tests now show clearly an increase beyond the level of confirmed cases recorded since measures to flatten the curve of the virus began to prove evidence in the positive light with decline in the number of positive cases from September. The flattening records had informed the gradual ease of the lockdown with the opening of sectors for the commencement of business activities.
The widespread relaxation as it pertains to guidelines among the populace, particularly from the end of September to the present, has every tendency to increase the number of cases. In Lagos, which is the centre of the epidemic in Nigeria, the records from daily test now begin to show that an average of 10 out of every 100 test are confirmed positive to the virus; a development that now pictures a second wave of the virus. This is a sharp increase compared to records of 5 per 100 cases recorded in September. At the national level, the number of cases now confirmed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has equally increased drastically.
This period of festivity is now a source of fear which is believed to have the potency to heighten the spread of the virus. Concerned by the possibilities of risk that the State is feared to be cut-in if the current tide is not checked against, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is the Incident Commander for the management of COVID-19 virus in the State, had raised a red flag on Friday on the need for the residents of the State to put up their guard once again to avoid an uncontrollable wave that may necessitate the unwanted nightmare of another lockdown.
The unfortunate new records of sharp increase in positive test cases, have therefore pitched the State Government to the wall of coming up with new directive as protocols to guide loosened conducts in the State. The new directives include that: “All public servants from GL 14 and below, except emergency workers and first responders, are to work from home as from Monday, December 21st for the next 14 days – in the first instance; All schools must shut down with immediate effect, and until further notice; Concerts, carnivals and street parties are banned in Lagos State until further notice; Night Clubs have not been allowed to open yet. All Night Clubs in Lagos must immediately shut down, until further notice; The midnight to 4am curfew imposed by the Federal Government remains in place; The protocol of ‘No Mask No Entry’ must be enforced by all public places: Offices, Businesses, Markets, Shops, and so on; All Places of Worship (Churches, Mosques, etc.) must ensure that no gathering exceeds two hours, and also that no gathering exceeds 50% of the maximum capacity of the Venue; All Event Planners must obtain prior clearance from the Lagos State Safety Commission (www.lasgsafetyreg.com) for all events, and ensure that any planned gatherings do not exceed 300 people; Where the capacity of a Venue exceeds 300 and permission has been granted, the occupancy shall not be more than 50% of such a venue; Ample ventilation must also be maintained at all times in all Venues, and Deep cleaning of the premises must be carried out BEFORE and AFTER every event; A minimum of 2 meters’ distance should be maintained between seated or standing guests; All guests and service providers at events MUST wear nose masks/coverings before entry; Hand sanitizers or hand washing units are to be positioned at the entry point and various spots within the hall. Provision must be made for all guests and service providers to wash their hands before entering the venue or use hand sanitizers, as well as undergo a temperature check, which is mandatory; Guests and service providers with high temperature (above 37.5) are to be politely turned back and referred to paramedics or the emergency response team that must be present; Health, Safety and Environment Officers must be present at all public gatherings (Religious or Social) and must be trained in basic first aid procedures; All Events’ Staff must also be educated on recognising COVID-19 symptom; The Safety Commission has been directed to visit Event Centres and gauge compliance with the established guidelines, to stop the virus from spreading. If there is evidence of lack of compliance at any Event Centre, it will be shut down immediately.; Security agents have been mandated to ensure full enforcement, without exception. No one will be deemed to be above the law; Any and all breaches of these regulations and public health protocols will lead to immediate closure as well as attract heavy fines, and any other sanctions and penalties deemed fit, in line with the Lagos State Infectious Diseases Control Regulation 2020; Event Centre Owners/Planners/Vendors will be responsible for any breach of protocols by their Staff.”
Governor Sanwo-Olu who is currently in isolation having tested positive to the virus, had noted thus in his concerns: “I have just risen from a virtual Executive Council meeting on issues around the resurgence of COVID-19 and how we should tackle this serious matter. The Lagos State Government has sadly noticed that there is an unfortunate public perception that we have seen the end of the COVID-19 pandemic; that the worst is over. This is absolutely wrong and dangerous. We are getting credible reports that the entertainment industry is planning large gatherings, concerts, street parties and carnivals, in the spirit of the Yuletide. Night Clubs have also re-opened in reckless disregard of the existing guidelines, and Events Centers are operating with huge gatherings without any regard for public health and safety guidelines. This same disregard for Coronavirus guidelines is also being observed with Places of Worship across the State, in both their regular gatherings and the special gatherings organized to commemorate this Season.
“Dear Lagosians, this overwhelming non-compliance with guidelines meant to keep us all safe is very disheartening, especially when we consider that the message at the heart of Christmas is one of sacrifice and sacrificial conduct; embodied by the Holy Bible in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
“Christmas is a commemoration of this supreme act of sacrifice by God. The least we can do in this Season is to emulate that spirit of sacrifice, by abiding with difficult but necessary protective guidelines, for the greater good of all of us. This is certainly not the time to lower our guard against the Coronavirus; it is instead time to step up our battle against this stubborn virus that has gripped the world for several months now. As you are all aware, Lagos State is recording an increase in COVID-19 cases in all local governments. This is not peculiar to Lagos alone; the entire country is also seeing an uptick in the numbers of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus disease. Of every 100 tests that we now perform, an average of 10 turn out to be positive. This is an increase from the 5 per hundred recorded in September, but lower than our peak in August which was between 20 and 30 per hundred. This suggests the existence of active community transmission, and represents the very likely possibility of the emergence of a second wave in Lagos State.
“This second wave calls for a full re-awakening of caution and precaution. The complacency that crept in over the last few months as a result of our early interventions when cases started to decline from our peak in August, must now give way to an abundance of vigilance. We are ramping up testing, we have now recently surpassed the 3,000 tests per day mark, and we will keep raising this number. So far, we have performed 197,000 tests in Lagos State of which 26,000 have been diagnosed positive for COVID-19. Sadly, we have lost 226 persons (May their souls rest in peace). It is important to note that Lagos already tests far more than any other State, accounting for 25 percent of the total numbers tested nationwide. It should be reiterated that Testing in the designated public facilities remains free; the Lagos State Government does not charge for Covid-19 Tests in its Testing Centers. The only test centers where there is a charge are the private ones, and these are for intending travelers and also those who seek to know their status for some reason or the other. All persons who are showing symptoms and fit the case definition for the Coronavirus disease will continue to be tested free of charge in the government testing facilities. Collection of samples for testing remains freely available in our sample collection centers spread across all the Local Government Areas in the State.
“The majority of patients are electing to isolate at home, but our public isolation centers – of which the IDH in Yaba is the flagship – continue to remain open to patients. We are working hard to ensure that all the supplies and consumables required are constantly made available, and we encourage all persons who have tested positive and are showing symptoms to seek care in our Isolation Centers. Do not seek treatment for the disease in private hospitals that have not been accredited for such treatment. Let me also sound a note of warning to all private testing facilities that are complicit in the allegations of colluding with individuals to issue fake Covid-19 Test Results. We have zero tolerance for this kind of criminal conduct, and will not hesitate to prosecute anybody found culpable, in addition to shutting down the offending laboratories.
“Dear Lagosians, you will all agree with me that we cannot afford another lockdown of the economy. Amidst an economic recession we must find a way to delicately balance the imperatives of life and livelihood. With this in mind, the only solution available to us is to take responsibility for all our actions, and to understand that we must stay safe not only for ourselves but for the sake of the entire society. The data we have – we strive to ensure that our decisions are as data-driven as possible – does not warrant the introduction of a drastic lockdown; we can achieve a lot simply by modifying our behavior in other ways: reducing the size of gatherings, complying with containment protocols, and applying common sense. The Lagos State Government is now sounding a clear note of caution to all residents on the importance of maintaining the guidelines that we have put in place to protect us from the ravages of COVID-19. We cannot afford a reversal of the gains we have made against this pandemic. We will continue to closely watch the profile of the unfolding situation, while also awaiting updates and pronouncements from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. We will also keep working with the Presidential Task Force to ensure that the gains of the recent past are not frittered away on the altar of festivities and sheer carelessness. The lives of ALL Lagosians, including our elders and other vulnerable citizens, matter. May I remind you of the importance of maintaining the principles of non-pharmaceutical interventions and measures that are well documented strategies for interrupting the spread of the disease in our society.
“Let us take responsibility for the welfare and safety of all while we enjoy the festive season with friends and families. It is important that as a community we strictly abide by the above regulations in the context of a global pandemic, without prejudicing our efforts to keep the economy running and maintain our means of livelihood to a sufficient extent. Let us use this festive season to spend quality time in small but controlled gatherings with family and friends in the spirit of the season. This virus does not discriminate. We must TAKE RESPONSIBILITY, and not treat this pandemic with levity. Let me repeat, as I close, that we will not hesitate to bring the full weight of the law to bear on any person or organization caught breaching our public health regulations and protocols with regards to the Coronavirus disease.”
The significance of subscribing to the protocols to guard against the spread of the virus is very paramount among the populace across Nigeria. The current state of the Country’s economic and socio-political status is at the most unattractive condition, clearly showing the height of undesirability to any possibility of another lockdown. It is therefore important that Nigerians take caution in their dealings to observe the COVID-19 safety protools which includes Social distancing — a minimum of 2 meters apart; Wearing of face masks at all times in public places; Maintenance of personal and respiratory hygiene – regular handwashing/sanitizing; Coughing or sneezing into a tissue and properly disposing; Presentation for testing in any instance of experiencing any of the COVID-19 symptoms; and Isolation either at home or in any Government Centres if diagnosed positive for COVID-19.
It is important to state emphatically that another wave of COVID-19 pandemic is neither desirable for the Government nor the populace. It is therefore in the interest of all, that all citizens begin to take the responsibility of self-caution to guard against an uncontrollable spread that may restrain the Government to coming up with new lockdown directives. The populace should therefore jettison the loosened disposition demonstrated towards the COVID-19 safety protocols, which is borne out of the orientation that the virus is a scam that does not exist. This orientation holds the risk to heighten a spread of the virus to a new wave of uncontrollable level, which is capable of forcing undesirable order from the government, borne out of the priority-need to suspend other social and economic activities to preserve life. Nigerians should therefore not be loosened to this end.