AS COVID-19 cases rise daily in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, approved a phased and gradual remodification of lockdown measures in Lagos and Ogun States and the Federal Capital Territory .
He also announced aggressive reinforcement of testing and contact- tracing measures while allowing the restoration of some economic activities in some salient sectors.
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State, same Monday, directed the reopening of 63 markets in the state from Monday, May 4.
THE governor, who made the announcement after a closed door meeting with market leaders in the state made it clear that business in the markets would be conducted only after traders have participated in vital safety measure trainings organised by the state.
HE MAINTAINED that every market must have a COVID-19 team with the responsibility of enforcing preventive measures and guidelines set by government such as the compulsory wearing of face masks, provision of running water, hand sanitisers and social distancing.
It was added that markets that are not ready with their COVID-19 team will not be allowed to re-open.
RECALL that Governor Obiano had in a statewide broadcast over the weekend, relaxed some of the stay-at-home measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus which includes reopening of all food markets, restaurants and bars as well as reopening of churches and movement within the state, among others.
BOTH the federal government and Anambra State Government’s directives emphasised closure of inter-state borders and compulsory wearing of face masks.
DESPITE the diverse views of Nigerians condemning or applauding the actions of both federal and state governments as regards relaxing the lockdown, the truth is that by Monday, May 4, many businesses, markets and churches nationwide will bounce back to full services though with conditions of wearing face masks, regular washing and sanitising of hands and maintaining social distance.
NATIONAL Light believes that relaxation of the lockdown, particularly in Anambra State is apt due to the fact that the state having discharged her sole index case (who now tests negative while all his contacts equally tested negative to the virus) can be said to have been served a clean slate to work hard and ensure that the coronavirus does not come up again in its domain but without stifling its main stay, commerce.
WHILE commending the state government for the relaxation of the lockdown and special attention given to the index case which manifested in his quick recovery and the prevention of further spread of the disease within the state,
we call on the populace to make good use of the new development with great discretion and caution because Anambra will only reap the benefits of the very smart policy direction if the people give strict adherence to the routine safety measures as directed by the governor.
THIS is because if the relaxation is not carefully done, it would defeat the preventive approach already taken which arguably stalled the spread of the virus.
TO THAT effect, governments should work towards ensuring that Nigeria Centre for Disease Control(NCDC) establish more testing facilities and test a good number of the population to ascertain the actual COVID-19 situation in Anambra.
HAVING been acknowledged by experts that where there is pandemic, there is the possibility of a community-transmission which usually happens where there is a lot of people living and working together as is the case in most communities in Nigeria too, governments should therefore go further and ensure the full enforcement of the various directives it has given to prevent the spread of the virus.
THIS could be done by rapid community tests and devising follow-up mechanisms such as regular monitoring of the enforcement of the directives.
As has been noticed in the current lockdown, some of the law enforcement agents, market and religious leaders concerned with ensuring compliance sabotage government’s efforts by being more concerned with enriching themselves and exposing the people to danger.
States may have to consider employing people for the sole purpose of monitoring the populace’s compliance. Members of various organisations like civil society organizations (CSOs), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ)and others should be drafted into various committees set up to ensure effective mobilisation and sensitisation of the masses and general compliance.
THIS will help to strengthen discipline and enhance strict compliance in markets, churches, public gatherings and the borders.
SINCE the virus is likely to be found in sectors where dairy products are sold, there must be special efforts to ensure good sanitation in markets.
FOR churches, religious leaders should understand that the relaxation of the lockdown does not mean they should lump people together without obeying safety directives. Some churches should consider worshiping in open grounds if need be.
REGARDING the continued border closure, National Light suggests that apart from involving certain organisations and CSOs in the task of manning the borders together with the law enforcement agencies, local governments and towns in the various borders should be made part of the team.
WE BELIEVE the opportunity of the relaxation is for people to maintain best COVID-19 practices while living their normal lives and not an opportunity for people to roam freely without caution and beckon on mass suicide.