NIGERIA Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) director-general Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu has warned that the federal government may have to extend the lockdown introduced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic because of a lack of public compliance with guidelines.
On Monday, the government partially lifted the lockdowns in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja as well as Ogun and Lagos states subject to certain conditions. These conditions included the wearing of facemasks in public, the prohibition of inter-state travel, a restriction on the number of people allowed to ride in public transport, the banning of gatherings of more than 20 people outside of a workplace and the observing of social distancing of at least two metres.
However, following the lifting of the restrictions, Nigerians have totally ignored the health guidelines as thousands of people thronged to banks in Lagos yesterday. This failure to respect the conditions attached to the lifting of the lockdown has led Dr Ihekweazu to warn that a fresh set of restrictions will need to be introduced to prevent the numbers of affected people from spiralling out of control.
Across the FCT and Lagos and Ogun states, although banks limited the number of people that entered their premises, customers ignored social distancing as they pushed through their gates. Pedestrians and motorists from Ogun State also crossed over to Lagos in violation of the ban on inter-state movements.
According to Dr Ihekweazu, he and his NCDC colleagues have reviewed compliance with the guidelines across the country and have concluded that the public response was not satisfactory. He warned that the president could restore the lockdown if the task force guidelines were not observed.
Dr Ihekweazu said: “Initial reports are not too pleasing across the country. Now that we have seen the sunlight again, the challenge for us as a society is, how do we organise ourselves to mitigate these risks and limit transmissions from each other?
“Although we might have a few extra infections today and tomorrow, what we don’t want is an explosion of new infections? If we do have that explosion, there will be almost no choice left for the leadership of the country but to ask all of us to go back to our homes.”
He, however, lamented the fact that many banks limited the number of their branches that they opened and this could be a spike in infections due to the way people mingled. According to Dr Ihekweazu, organisations must support the implementation of the preventive measures, help manage the risk and focus on a risk-based approach.
Dr Ihekweazu added: “When we say take responsibility this time, yes, we are addressing individuals but we really need to address corporate Nigeria. There is benefit of the doubt but when you limit the number of branches opened, everyone goes to the one branch that is opened and that becomes counter-productive.
“Today, we might forgive a little bit because it was the first day. We will have infections because of what happened today, no doubt about that. We can produce all the guidelines in the world, we can preach and do press conferences but how can we learn from the mistakes of today, tomorrow and the day after, so that, by Friday, hopefully, we have normalised some of these things?”