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Nigeria’s second wave was not inevitable, but government faltered

Nigeria’s second wave was not inevitable, but government faltered

Nigeria is seeing record numbers of people testing positive for coronavirus, with about 10,000 positive tests reported in the last seven days. One in every six persons (16 percent) tested for COVID-19 in Nigeria in the past two weeks tested positive for the virus, indicating how far the virus has spread.

As expected, the spike in infections is also leading to fatalities. In the past 23 days, there have been 146 fatalities as a result of COVID-19 complications in Nigeria. These are alarming findings.

In short term, Nigeria has been subsumed by the second wave of coronavirus infections and deaths.

Nigeria’s current reality was not inevitable. Scientists warned that, without taking urgent action shortly after Nigeria relaxed most of its restrictions to mitigate the risks, this is what would happen. But the Nigerian government did not heed their warnings or perhaps downplayed it.

In fact, Nigeria is facing the second wave without the same sense of caution among a coronavirus-weary public, or a clear government strategy to contain the virus and deal with rapidly filling intensive care units. For instance, the number of confirmed cases in Lagos State, the epicenter of the virus in Nigeria, was 2172 with six fatalities. Those rose sharply in the following month with 7420 cases confirmed in December. 22 fatalities were recorded.

Although university lecturers are pushing against the resumption of academic activities, some state governments have said primary and secondary schools will open soon.

While some schools have resumed today, some are booked to resume on January 18, markets are still widely opened with blatant disobedience to safety protocols, buses are still jam-packed, most religious centres are holding meetings with no or little compliance to the virus protocols.

A drive from the Five Star end of the bye-pass that connects Apapa-Oshodi Expressway to Ladipo Autoparts Market shows a blatant disregard for the use of face masks and social distancing.

“Oga, na people like you and politicians know say coronavirus dey,” a trader told a Guardian reporter in Nigerian Pidgin. “Corona no dey Ladipo. I never hear say e catch or kill someone for this market.”

At the Balogun market on Lagos Island, the situation was no different. The streets were packed with people buying textile materials, already made or second-hand clothes, footwear, household items, and other whatnots. Big shops bustled with people going and coming.

Porters waited closely for potential customers and hawkers made quick sales on their feet. Again, the use of a face mask and social distancing was almost dead.

“The last time I came to Island to buy something with my son, people were looking at us because we had face masks on,” said Adeola Kolawole. “I won’t come here without a face mask.”

Another lockdown?
Such a lackadaisical attitude is also replicated in every part of the country. Social distancing and the use of nose mask have proved to be a challenging task in Nigeria.

This is the reality in Lagos State, the epicentre of the virus. The state account for 36,101 out of 100, 087 of Nigeria’s confirmed cases of the virus, NCDC said. The official record shows 256 have died of the virus in the state.

Critics said that the number of deaths is grossly underreported.

But if Nigerians are acting unbothered, the government should be more bothered.

Nigeria announced its first lockdown in Lagos, Abuja, and Ogun state with just 97 confirmed infections and one death from COVID-19. Before the “cessation of all movements” order by Nigerian President Muhaamdu Buhari, several other state governments, including Lagos, had already closed schools, shut non-food shops, and restricted gatherings to limit movement.

But with an average of 1,000 positive cases daily, none of these measures have been put in place – posing a bigger challenge than the first wave on Nigeria’s poorly funded health service.

The Nigerian government has only threatened to lock down the country only if the country sees more infections and deaths.

“If these numbers continue to go up, and we start having significant deaths, we will have no option,” the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, Sani Aliyu, said on Thursday.

Another lockdown is a disaster?
The coronavirus pandemic is a devastating blow for the world economy, and Nigeria is not an exemption. Nigeria’s economy contracted by 6.1% year on year in the second quarter of 2020, reports from Nigeria’s statistics bureau showed. The dip follows thirteen quarters of positive but low growth rates. The -6.1% decline is also Nigeria’s steepest in the last 10 years. By November 2020, the Nigerian government announced that the country has slipped into a recession, the second since 2015, after its gross domestic product contracted for the second consecutive quarter.

Even though Nigeria’s economy risks slipping into recession even without the pandemic, the recession was quickened by the pandemic.

The economic devastation caused by lockdown restrictions is grieving, but worse when a pandemic is not well managed as economics and health don’t operate in isolation. Dead people are not economically productive, and thousands of unwell people in isolation consume resources without being able to participate in economic activities and a substantial spike in the number of coronavirus cases also puts people with other health issues at increased risk of harm.

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