COVID-19: It’s Been Hard Observing Lockdown, Nigerians Say

Increasing defiance and economic hardship have remained the prominent issues during the second week of the 14-day lockdown ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun State.

As of the morning of April 1, Nigeria had 140 active confirmed cases, two deaths, and nine people recovered. Nigeria recorded its first case of coronavirus on February 25.

To combat the virus, a lockdown was instituted to slow down spread and trace over 6, 000 potential contacts with confirmed cases.

The choice of 14 days was significant because the virus takes at most 14 days before symptoms begin to manifest in an infected person.

In the first week Nigerians in the cities seemed to adhere strictly to the lockdown order with only pockets of disregard by people in poorer neighbourhoods who needed to work daily for survival.

Once the order took effect on Tuesday, major roads in Abuja and Lagos were empty and security personnel ensured compliance.

Similar situations prevailed in other cities across the country as state governors took a cue from the president to impose different levels of restriction on movement in their areas of control.

The police, the army and other law enforcement agencies were deployed to enforce compliance to the order.

But the scenario in the surrounding communities of the cities was different, HumAngle earlier reported.

However, in the second week starting from Monday, April 6, more Nigerians, especially in the urban areas, became weary and breached the lockdown rule.

Traffic jams resurfaced in Abuja and Lagos with religious groups breaking rules to hold meetings despite government directives.

Over 40 people were apprehended and made to pay fines in Lagos where fitness enthusiasts stormed the streets of Gbagada and Ikorodu in large numbers.

Strain of lockdown on finances, mental health

Some people attributed their disobedience of the lockdown order to dwindling finances and food for their families.

Pius Orum, an Abuja-based engineer, said “I felt incapable of provision and had to hit the road. I needed to pick up a few things from a friend across town.”

Oluchi Nwafor, a content creator, said, “So far, I have spent over N50,000 on food and fuel in about six days. How much is my salary?”

For some others, the lockdown was unusual and was taking a toll on their mental health.

Some Lagos residents said that the first week felt like a giant ‘mid-term break’ that did not need to extend to the next week.

Although some citizens appreciated the reason for the lockdown, they said the increasing bad news on the disease and the restrictions caused them mental stress.

During a tweet chat with HumAngle, Jennifer Ozi, a nurse and mental health expert, observed that the pandemic would hit hard because humans are naturally social creatures.

She said that “if not managed properly, self-isolation for a long period can lead to feelings of helplessness, uncertainty about the future, or even eventually trigger Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

To cope, more Nigerians increased interaction on social media and others found solace in the performances and conversations from celebrities.

Strain on other health issues

In the second week of a lockdown, some Nigerians have been doing their best to manage their health and emotional stress.

Beatrice Ozor Chinenye, an 18-year-old living with her family in Enugu, spoke about feeling unsure of her health and safety during the lockdown.

“If you are sick now I guess they won’t attend to you because of the crisis. Pregnant women are even scared of going to the hospital.

“They believe they can get COVID-19. This woman on my street would normally go to the hospital if she is in labour, but yesterday she went to a woman (local midwife) for that,” she said.

The young woman said she was afraid of falling ill because travelling for a medical emergency could be risky.

Chinenye expressed fear of venturing far from home due to recent reports of police beating travellers during the lockdown. “Everyone should stay indoors,” she advised.

On Twitter, Nigerians are counting the days for the lockdown to be over because of the toll staying indoors is taking on them.

On April 1, user @OmoKikan listed her dwindling food rations. “Milk has finished. Indomie, one carton remain half. Cornflakes don finish. Spaghetti one carton remain just three. Bread don finish. Milo still plenty. I never touch garri at all. Hunger de warm up.”

On its part, the government has ensured it provided palliative measures to curb the emotional and financial strain on Nigerians.

On April 4, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State Governor, announced a new medical palliative to offer free health services to those in need. The palliative is in response to COVID-19 effect on livelihoods.

“The Lagos State Government will for the duration of the lockdown, in the first instance throughout the month of April, take full responsibility for the medical bills of all patients who fall under the following categories and present themselves at all our secondary health facilities,” the governor said. The beneficiaries include pregnant women.

What the Federal Government has done so far

One of Nigeria’s earliest reactions once it confirmed the first case of coronavirus infection was to set in motion the National Emergency Operation Centre led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

A similar multi-sectoral approach had been used for the country’s polio programme.

On Monday, March 9, President Muhammadu Buhari further set up a 12-member Presidential Task Force chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, to coordinate the fight against COVID-19.

Since it is clear that the pandemic will require enormous expenditure previously not planned for, the government provided an initial intervention fund of N15 billion to boost the national COVID-19 response with the hope of adding more.

The government also set up a N500 billion coronavirus fund to strengthen the healthcare system, and is asking the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and African Development Bank (AfDB) for loans totalling 6.9 billion Dollars (2.5 trillion Naira) to pursue the same goals.

As part of its COVID-19 Response Strategy, aside from daily updates provided through its website and social media platforms, NCDC recently started sending text messages to Nigerians through “in-kind support” received from three telecommunications companies: Airtel, MTN, and Global Communications (Glo).

To sensitise the people, the Centre has at various times updated its public health advisory and released guidelines on self isolation, mass gathering, among others.

It has also improved on its daily testing capacity from testing only 178 people as of March 24 to over 5,000.

The NCDC latest situation report states that it has expanded its testing centres to nine laboratories situated in all six geopolitical zones and deployed 21 Rapid Response Teams to help with response in states with confirmed cases.

Another 14 days…

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, announced a 14-day extension to a lockdown in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun states to combat COVID-19.

There are currently 323 confirmed cases of the virus in Nigeria, with 71 percent of them registered in Lagos and the capital territory of Abuja. Ten people have died so far.

“It is a matter of life and death. The repercussions of any premature end to the lockdown action are unimaginable,” Buhari said in his speech.

(Additional reporting by Itoro Udofia and Kunle Adebajo)

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Anita Eboigbe

Anita Eboigbe is a journalist and data analyst with nearly a decade of media and communications experience in Nigeria. She has expertise in human interest reporting, data reporting, interactive content development and media business management. Anita has written for several national and international publications with a focus on communication for development. She holds an honours degree in Mass Communication and several certifications in data analysis and data journalism.

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