|Dr. Olufemi Onasanya|
The global SARS-Cov 2 pandemic has brought countries to a standstill, it has resulted in the largest lockdowns worldwide at the same time in history.
In Nigeria, the country has been on lockdown for about 5 weeks and in some states more than that, with some states like Kaduna, Bayelsa, Adamawa extending theirs till the end of May 2020.
On 13th of April 2020, in his address to the nation, President Muhammed Buhari announced that the pandemic is a matter of life and death, and announced a 14 days extension to the lockdown in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun state……. the epicenters of the infection. As at that time, Nigeria had recorded 323 cases with 10 deaths.
Nigeria, with more than 200 million people, is Africa’s most populous nation, with majority living from hand-to-mouth and having daily earnings.
Public Health experts have raised alarms over the impact of a major coronavirus outbreak, warning that the country’s unprepared and underfunded healthcare system could quickly become overwhelmed.
The extension of the lockdown is expected to add to the hardship of millions of Nigerians living hand-to-mouth, often on less than one dollar a day, of which the president claimed he was aware but sacrifices must be made to stop the spread of the virus.
Lockdown is not a technical term used by public health officials, it can refer to anything from mandatory geographic quarantines to non-mandatory recommendations to stay at home and closures of certain types of businesses or bans on events and gatherings.
The main aim of the lockdown is to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and limit community transmission and also provide opportunities for the appropriate agencies of government to do contact tracing of people who were already exposed or have been in contact with anyone with the virus.
On Monday April 27th 2020, the president came on air again to announced a further extension of one week to the lockdown but with a phase out lifting of restrictions after the expiration of the one week. This is coming at a time that the nation has recorded more than a thousand cases and about 40 deaths, all within a space of two weeks.
True, the debate on lifting restriction is one between balancing the economy to maintain livelihood and limiting the spread of infection.
In a country where majority live from hand to mouth and on daily earning, extending the lockdown would have been something difficult to achieve especially when the promised palliatives to cushion the effect are not forthcoming. However, drastic measure is needed to help keep the viral infection rate as low as possible and save lives.
Many have expressed their opinions in support of phasing out the lockdown, with the aim of totally lifting it, while others still believe the best option we have is to maintain the lockdown, provide palliative for the vulnerable to stay at home, ensure the military and police maintain order, until we have flatten the curve.
Germany is an example of countries that lifted the restrictions and lockdown, couple of hours after that the cases recorded skyrocketed and they were forced to go back into Lockdown. Ghana announced an end to the lockdown in the country, the next 24 hours, they recorded the highest number of cases they have seen in a day.
We locked down to save lives. We locked down to prevent the virus from running through our populace, because that would mean an untold loss of life, and now people are complaining that … the virus is not running through our populace, this is simply because we have limited resources and not doing enough testing.There are thousands out there with the virus in their blood stream, but because they are not showing symptoms, we assume they are okay, but they are highly infectious. Nothing has changed! It’s still deadly!
The goal of the current lockdown is to flatten the curve both to prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed AND to bring the number of infections down to a level where we can control infections through a process referred to as test, trace, isolate.
The goal is not just to protect our healthcare system but ALSO to bring the infection rate down so that we can have a shot at that rate low for the next year or more, until we have a vaccine.
There are some who argue that the virus is less deadly than thought, perhaps no more deadly than the flu. If that were the case, it might make sense to let the virus go. But that also flies in the face of the evidence. I get that people want to believe this isn’t that deadly so that we can go back to normal, but you can’t gaslight a virus. Our options haven’t changed — lock down until case counts are down and then find a new normal with long term social distancing, or let millions die.
In conclusion, letting goal of the lockdown, hopefully, won’t be a mistake that will lead to the deaths of many.
We can only help each other by following and ensuring laydown protocols to prevent the spread of this virus, since the lockdown has officially been lifted. But in the true sense of the word, it is not the right time to do that.