COVID-19 Explosion Imminent As Nigerians Struggle With Social Distancing

The main purpose of the lockdown and social distancing is to flatten the coronavirus spread curve. Since the virus is spread through physical contact, limiting the same will reduce its chance of spreading.

This is clear and the reason government locked down Lagos and Abuja for 14 days starting from March 31. The order was issued by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 29 but it has since been flouted by the people..

Photos on social media from the two cities show that some Nigerians have failed to grasp the importance of the restrictions in these times.

In Lagos, a group of fitness enthusiasts in Gbagada turned a road into a makeshift gym where hundreds of people in close proximity worked out together.

This was on Monday and by Tuesday, the gym had moved to Ikorodu. The same week, actress Funke Akindele and her husband were found guilty of violating social distancing laws and will do community service and pay a fine.

Still, these are specks of reported disregard of the lockdown among several other instances that have not gained public attention.

In states where the lockdown was not instituted, social distancing rules are not observed either.

Ogbedu Okon, a school administrator in Abuja, agreed and told HumAngle, “Nigerians are not taking it serious. I see people lead workout sessions in my estate.

“They are so close to each other and are not staying six feet away from each other.”

Okon wakes up at 5:30a.m. for a job in her estate before she has to work remotely.

“I’ve been keeping up with the updates from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC),” she added.

Although the movement restrictions are a challenge, she says, “I think social distancing is good. I know it will help stop the spread of COVID-19.”

But for Uche Ogonna, a designer who lives in Cross River, “the virus won’t get us here. No cases have been reported yet. Honestly, I think the government is making a big deal because everyone else is.

“But everyone is ok here. Still going to markets and taking cabs. Of course you do the right things to keep safe, but no one can travel in or out of here. I think we’re fine.”

Countries across the world have adopted social distancing as a strategy to contain the coronavirus spread.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that people maintain at least one metre apart from each other.

“When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus.

“If you are too close, you can breath in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease,” WHO said.

Dr. Uzezi Emuophedaro, a health worker at one of Nigeria’s biggest hospitals, speaks of how COVID-19 can be contained if everyone follows the health direction from professionals.

“People need to see this as the actual pandemic that it is and take all the outlined precautions. A lot of people are still moving around and visiting neighbors and friends like it is a public holiday.

“If we can all adhere strictly to the rules of this lockdown, then we have a fighting chance to beat this virus,” Emuophedaro said.

Other countries have been slow to adopt social distancing measures. Italy discovered its first official case in February and decreed a lockdown on March 10 when the death toll jumped from 366 to 463.

Currently, the country has the highest death toll of nearly 15,889 people. However, its fatalities have decreased since it began to apply WHO’s recommendations to social distance along with adopting other public hygiene precautions.

In the U.S., before the explosion of the virus, pictures circulated of President Donald Trump shaking hands with government officials while the Centre for Disease Control and the WHO recommended people to social distance.

The Harvard Business Review published an article stating what countries like the U.S could learn from Italy.

“The systematic inability to listen to experts highlights the trouble that leaders–and people in general–have figuring out how to act in dire, highly complex situations where there’s no easy solution,” the journal stated.

HumAngle recently conducted a small test survey on 30 participants on COVID-19 and social distancing. 93 per cent believes the virus is real, while 86 per cent believes the disease is infectious.

Sixty-seven per cent believes social distancing is feasible in Nigeria and 53 per cent believes it is not possible to maintain the appropriate physical distance in public spaces.

However, some experts say that the lockdown model might not be the best local solution for controlling the pandemic. They attribute this to the need of some Nigerians to move around and fend for themselves daily.

Dr. Charles Omole, a security expert, proposed a curfew. He explained that a local solution to the problem would deliver more positive results.

He said on Twitter, “so in Nigeria, the government needs to examine these success stories and become creative in fashioning a distinctively local solution.

“If the spread goes nationwide, a national lockdown will be impossible to police and will be catastrophic for millions of very poor fellow citizens.

“The FG should declare a Nationwide Curfew from 8p.m. to 5a.m. This will allow resources to be focused on daytime monitoring and tracing activities,” he said.

Omole said that this would prevent a total lockdown thus allowing the economy to breath a little in the meantime.

He added that for the restrictions to work, offices should function on reduced opening hours to allow staff get back home in good time.

This will also allow those who rely on daily income to make some money thus reducing mass hunger.

With partial closure as suggested, the government spending on palliatives will be less than in total lockdown. The savings can be used for more effective tracing, supply of face masks, and provisioning of isolation centres, he said.

HumAngle gathered that apart from sheer disobedience, economic constraints are major reasons why Nigerians violate lockdown or social distancing rules.

A Lagos writer, Olutimehin Adegbeye, outlines what militates social distancing thus: “In my city, grimy currency notes go from hand to hand throughout the course of everyday life. People sweat on one another in transit.

“Communal toilets, kitchens and bathrooms are typical in low-income neighbourhoods, and can be shared by as many as 40 people in one building.

“In the poorest neighbourhoods, sanitation is non-existent because neither piped water nor sewage management systems are available,” Adegbeye said.

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