NIGERIA’S federal government is recruiting a coronavirus police force made up of 80,000 volunteers nationwide charged with the responsibility of ensuring that members of the public prevent the spread by observing social distancing and wearing facemasks.
Spared the worst excesses of the pandemic, Nigeria has suffered 8,915 coronavirus cases, of which there have been 259 fatalities. However, the economic impact of the government lockdown has been devastating and as a result, the government is gradually easing the restrictions but this poses the risk of a fresh outbreak.
Over the last two weeks, Nigerian has lifted some restrictions but the public has ignored the guidelines that come with them such as wearing facemasks and observing two metre distances when in public. To sensitise the public, the presidential taskforce on Covis-19 intends to recruit the 80,000 volunteers to ensure that health guidelines are obeyed.
Dr Sani Aliyu, the national coordinator of the presidential task force, said that another 880 people are being trained on sample collection, packaging and transportation. To combat the pandemic further, the government is also considering repurposing hotels and schools to serve as quarantine and isolation centres for Covid-19 patients.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, the presidential task force will submit its next report to President Muhammadu Buhari, explaining that this would inform his decision on the next phase of measures to be taken with regards to the gradual reopening of the economy. Dr Aliyu said the 800,000 community engagement partners would be drawn from all the 774 local government areas of the federation to begin operations once the easing steps up.
He added that the task force would engage several partners for the campaign using existing community structures to disseminate messages to the grassroots. Partners involved in the campaign include the National Orientation Agency, the Nigeria Red Cross, Unicef, National Youth Service Corp members, the National Council of Women Societies, Jamaatul Nasri Islam and the Yar’Adua Foundation.
Dr Aliyu said: “The volunteers are all Nigerians who live in the communities and have been trained to engage and educate community members in their local languages and dialects. Our overall goal is to ensure that everyone has the information they need to protect themselves.
“These volunteers will be risking their lives for the greater good of Nigerians by providing the basic information we need so that we can change our behaviour and stop the spread of Covid-19.”