COVID-19: For some Nigerians, life would never be same again

Trained fumigators during the inauguration of the fumigation of Langtang North Council of Plateau State

• Hard Times Loom With Crippling Socio-Economic Activities
• Nigeria Already Experiencing Community Transmission Of Coronavirus, Says Ehanire
• FG Urges Law Enforcement Agencies To Be Cautious In Enforcing Rules
• ‘Routine Healthcare Service Must Continue In All Hospitals’
• Business As Usual In Oyo, As Govt Works Out Palliatives
• Bauchi Relaxes Lockdown Over Lack Of Palliative Measures

No doubt, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought about some changes in the socio-economic activities of Nigerians that would make lives never remain the same again in the country.

While many people who work in the formal sector of the economy stayed at home, those in the informal sector carry on, sometimes continuing their jobs, albeit, on a lower scale. 

However, operators in the informal sector, most of who survive on a day-to-day basis, complain of low patronage and sales turnover or idleness. With the restriction of movement and lockdown in some parts of the country, life and socio-economic activities may have changed forever for many Nigerians.

Food sellers, motorcyclists and commercial drivers, who spoke to The Guardian, lamented the state of the economy, even as the curbs begin to take toll on their revenue and living.

A commercial motorcyclist said: “Everywhere is dull. Those who are working with the government will not know the impact, but those of us who ride bikes and drive commercial vehicles are really feeling it. Even though Oyo State government said there is no lockdown, we are already experiencing a lockdown.”

From newspaper vendors to journalists and private school teachers, many lamented how difficult life has become for them this period. And, following reports of alleged harassment of some people on essential duties by security agents across the country, the federal government has charged law enforcement agencies to deploy tact and caution in the course of enforcing the rules, even in the face of provocation.

It also urged Nigerians to be law-abiding, exercise patience and self-restraint in their activities and actions.

Meanwhile, in recognition of the danger to which frontline health workers are exposed to, government is working with other stakeholders to structure medical and life insurance cover for their protection.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, who made the appeal at a press conference by the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19, yesterday in Abuja, reminded law enforcement agencies that the message from President Muhammadu Buhari was that no Nigerian should on account of these rules suffer any harm or pains during this period or at any time in our national life. 

He implored Nigerian traders and businessmen and women to resist the urge to hike prices of goods and commodities during this period, but allow their compassionate nature to prevail, adding: “This is the best time to be considerate and to show empathy for our fellow Nigerians.

“I am pleased to inform Nigerians that we made progress in the mobilisation of resources to reinforce our preparedness and other implementation arrangements.”  

Mustapha observed that Coronavirus remains a potential danger to all of humanity and threatens the country’s economy and national security, adding that it behooves on all Nigerians to play their part in the national response very seriously.

The SGF assured health workers of government’s commitment and urged them to put in their utmost best as they battle to save lives from the disease, assuring that the federal government has ramped up its synergy with state governments through video-conferencing communication and the platform of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and that by these measures, a lot of gaps are being closed for uniformity of purpose.  

He urged Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to deploy their resources, especially community-based manpower, to shore up the arrangements by the sub-national entities.

On his part, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said Nigeria is already experiencing sustained community transmission of the disease in the sense that 30 per cent of the cases have incomplete epidemiological information, while 51 per cent are imported cases and 19 per cent are contacts of known cases.

As the country races to curtail the spread, the Federal Ministry of Health is working with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) to explore potentials for local production of medical consumables, such as facemasks, gloves, sanitisers and even equipment like ventilators in view of looming global shortages of medical supplies for response, due to high demand by all countries.

In the meantime, an 18-man team of Chinese medical experts, including doctors, nurses and public health advisers, is due in Nigeria to assist the country in the flight against the disease.

Also, clinical trials and other processes are ongoing to validate therapeutics for COVID-19 treatment. Speaking during the press conference, Ehanire disclosed that government was using the small window of opportunity remaining to intensify investigations to identify cases and their sources, saying:

“This is one of the purposes for which the lockdown of two states and the FCT was proclaimed by the President. “These areas, especially Lagos as primary epicentre, but also other parts of the federation, need to speed up their activities to detect and isolate COVID-19 patients. During and following the lockdown, we expect to see an increase in cases as a measure of improvement in case finding.

“If social distancing and other measures are adhered to, the incidence of positive cases can be controlled.”

The minister revealed that the country has tested nearly 3,000 samples so far and is working hard to scale up capacity in a targeted approach, noting that a Coronavirus Treatment Centre Accreditation Committee was inaugurated and has begun developing an accreditation checklist, as well as a protocol for management of isolation centres.

Ehanire said he had been notified of gifts of medical supplies from China, courtesy of the group of Chinese companies working in Nigeria, noting that a special cargo aircraft would leave Nigeria in a few days to collect the items, which include commodities, PPE and ventilators.

The minister commended all frontline health workers for doing a great job in case identification and management, stating: “As we prepare to contain COVID-19 outbreak, we must not lose sight of other health challenges in the country. Routine healthcare service must continue in all hospitals. Only a wing of tertiary centres need to be put to use for infected patients control

“It is important that we do not drop, but continue to provide routine health services, including maternal and child health and immunisation. I shall communicate this to all Commissioners for Health in the states.

“I shall also instruct all federal health institutions to this effect and for them to work with state officials. Those who have to deal with Coronavirus patients are to use a wing of their hospitals. For this purpose, they have each been supplied with Starter Packs of PPE and consumables,” he added.

Ehanire noted that these efforts would only be effective if Nigerians cooperate fully with the federal government, stressing that the lockdown might be difficult and inconvenient, but it is necessary for the good of us all.

IN RIVERS State, with the closure of all the boundaries and markets, hard times loom for many residents. The uncertainty of when the partial lockdown would end has left many families, particularly those whose breadwinners are in the informal sector, more disillusioned than ever.

Barely 24 hours to closure of the markets, traders in Port Harcourt and adjourning suburbs hiked the prices of food items by over 200 per cent, and prices are still climbing.

A resident of Diobu in capital city, Chika Ibe, told The Guardian that some households were barely managing to feed their children with sparse meals of rice and beans, explaining that compassionate people have been offering assistance to their neighbours in dire need.

But he stressed that as people’s food stocks are begin to run out, the desire to help might begin to diminish. A civil servant, who identified himself as simply Opusunju, said though he had received his salary on Monday, food vendors in his neighbourhood who are hoarding food would soon make life unbearable for people if the government does not lift the ban on the closure of markets, as a lot of the foodstuffs consumed in the state are brought from outside the state and once the state runs out of food, hard times would set in.  

Compliance with closure of markets, nightclubs, cinemas and places of religious worship had been initially flouted, but with the imposition of 24-hour curfew on a section of Port Harcourt and Obio-Akpor Councils by Governor Nyesom Wike and arrest of over 200 people, who were arraigned in court on Thursday, residents of the affected areas have began to comply with the directives.

A drive from Choba in Obio/Akpor Council through Ikwere road to Port Harcourt town-ship showed a total lockdown on all markets and shops, with people roaming the streets searching for where to buy foodstuffs.

A nursing mother, Mrs. Edit Wobo, lamented that she had nothing to eat because her husband feeds them from a daily paid job and appealed to government to send palliative measures and possibly relax the restrictions on food sellers to help tackle the challenge.

As the lockdown continues and its end uncertain, many residents are gearing up for a rather desperate situation in the days and possibly weeks ahead.
In Oyo State, as the government imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew (7pm to 6am) and banned the gathering of over 10 persons, many people face hard times.
 
There has been strict compliance with the curfew, but the issue of social distancing is far from being complied with. Across various markets, such as Bodija, Oje and others, sellers and buyers were seen clustering, not minding the prevalence of the pandemic, with drivers seen carrying two passengers in the front seat made for one commuter. Some motorcyclists still saw the pandemic as a ruse; hence they still continued with the culture of carrying two passengers.

The state government said it was working out measures and palliatives to cushion the effects of the pandemic and have received some donations and food items, promising to ensure that they get to the intended beneficiaries.

IN Bauchi State, the government has relaxed the lockdown in the state due to the lack of palliatives to cushion its hardship on the citizens, most of who heavily depend on daily income.

Deputy Governor, Baba Tela, while addressing journalists inside Government House, yesterday, said: “Normally, palliative measures should follow shutdown, but since nothing of such has been introduced to cushion the effects of the lockdown, we must address the situation in a manner that will not create harm or social dislocation.”

He added that the state was placing emphasis on locking its borders to curb infiltration of unsuspecting carriers of the virus after consultation with clergymen, security forces and healthcare professionals.

KWARA State is experiencing its 8th day of lockdown by the state government. As at press time, there had not been any confirmed case of the disease, but food vendors, banks, hospitals, pharmacies, private car owners with two other passengers, commercial bike operators and persons on strictly “essential services” were allowed to operate.

On Thursday, April 2, the state taskforce embarked on the fumigation of major markets in Ilorin metropolis to further combat traces of the virus in the state between 7:00pm and 11:00pm.

Expectedly, the measure has deprived over 80 per cent of residents access to their means of livelihood, but the government has inaugurated a palliative measure committee headed by the Emir of Shonga, Dr. Haliru Yahaya, to ensure food supplies to the vulnerable ones.

Despite these measures and many enlightenment campaigns, some residents still routinely move around to transact their daily businesses, but in strict compliance with social distancing, with vehicular and human movements higher at dusk.

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