Photograph — PREMIUM TIMES

In an address to the public, on Monday, 27 April 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari, announced the “phased and gradual” easing of lockdown measures in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun State from May 4, 2020. The borders for were placed under locks since the 30th of March in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. But, cases have since skyrocketed with over 2oo cases being recorded per day as of April 30.

According to President Buhari, “No country can afford the full impact of a sustained lockdown while awaiting the development of vaccines.” Also, considering millions of  Nigerians live on daily wages, the lockdown had come at a “very heavy economic cost,” stripping many of their livelihoods. Buhari also added that authorities would enforce dusk to dawn curfew, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., plus the compulsory wearing of face mask.

Days later, the Governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu addressed residents, stating new measures it would implement ahead of May 4th to consolidate the COVID-19 response of the federal government. He said the state would also  introduce strict measures for movement and the re-opening of businesses within its borders.

According to the governor, the new measures are expected to help the state safeguard the gains which it had made in the past four weeks in the fight against the deadly virus. Some of the new measures to be implemented in Lagos from 4th of May include the dusks to dawn curfew of the federal government, compulsory wearing of face mask, work resumption level 13 and above civil servants, new changes in the framework for public transport services where buses are to carry only 60 per cent of its capacity among others.

Nevertheless, Sanwo-Olu clarified that the lockdown ease was not a directive for the full reopening of the economy. But how ready is Lagos or the entire country for the ease of this lockdown?

Given the weak state of the country’s health sector and the high charges from private hospitals, many Nigerians resort to self-medication rather than visit the government hospitals which lack essential medical aid. But since the outbreak of the disease in West African countries, several wealthy individuals and organisations have donated funds to the government to help combat the virus. Tech startups like Blood Bank and 54gene have partnered with the country’s disease control unit to scaleup COVID-19  testings, while higher institutions of learning and tech-inventors are coming up with locally made “samples” of ventilators to join in the fight. Yet, the country has not been able to test one-third of its population.

Nigeria has a population of over 200 million people, and Lagos (the epicenter for coronavirus) houses over 20 million residents. It was recently reported that some private hospitals have been secretly attending to wealthy coronavirus patients in the state. Prominent on the list is First Cardiology Hospital where the Late. Abba Kyari, president’s Buhari’s former Chief of staff, was attended to (instead of the Lagos Isolation Centre) before his death. Thus increasing the risk of people contracting coronavirus in the hospitals.

As of Thursday, April 30, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed 204 new Covid-19 cases in the country to bring the total number of confirmed cases to 1,932. This is the highest number of cases the country recorded, per day, since the virus outbreak. As of 11 pm of May 1st, Lagos had recorded a total number of 1006 confirmed cases with Kano and Abuja trailing behind respectively.

Trends like these have triggered concerns from the World Health Organisation (WHO) over the community spread of the virus in large numbers across West African countries. This concern is due to the haphazard posture sub-Saharan African governments are taking with the pandemic.

With over 23,800 confirmed cases and over 900 deaths in the region, most countries have only issued targeted lockdowns in major cities and not nationwide like South Africa. However, some are beginning to ease the lockdowns due to its impact on economic activities.

The Regional Head of the WHO, Matshidiso Moeti, has advised leaders in the region to consider data before making such a decision. According to Moeti, “when a government decides not to lock down a city, they need to be aware that there would be consequences in terms of the spread of the virus.”

As cases in Nigeria bounce to over 200 per day, what would be the fate of the country as it begins to relax its lockdown measures? 

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