COVID-19: FG may restore lockdown if infections rise

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Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, says the country’s leadership may be forced to reimpose lockdown restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

President Muhammadu Buhari had put Lagos, Ogun, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja on lockdown since March 30, 2020 to contain the spread of COVID-19 which has infected over 3.5 million people across the world. With the lockdown lifted on Monday, May 4, many people, especially in Lagos and Abuja, have been seen violating safety measures advised by the government.

Social media has been flooded with images and videos of people in packed buses, rowdy crowds queuing at bus stops, and packed queues at different bank branches.

While speaking during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Monday, Ihekweazu acknowledged that initial reports across the country ‘are not too pleasing’.

The NCDC DG appealed to individuals and corporate organisations to take responsibility so that the exposure and transmission of the virus can be properly managed.

He said the PTF will hope that Nigerians will learn how to normalise going about daily lives while also adhering to the preventive measures advised by the government.

Ihekweazu warned that an explosion in infection figures will mean that the lockdown may be reintroduced to control the spread of the coronvairus disease.

He said, “We knew today would be a problem because for the first time people were let out of their homes. “But now that we’re out, the challenge for us as a society is how do we now organise ourselves to mitigate these risks, and limit transmission from each other.

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“Yes, we might have a few extra infections today and tomorrow, but 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 than to ask all of us to go back into our homes.”

Ihekweazu stressed that the price to pay for reopening of the country is to organise responsibly so that it can be done safely. “Altogether, we can learn to live with it for the next few weeks and months until we’re able to come out of the period,” he said.

The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, noted during the briefing that Buhari’s decision to ease the restriction was to ensure that people didn’t completely lose their livelihoods while the nation continues to battle the spread of the disease.

“It’s a delicate balance that you have to make. We have reached a certain level in healthcare where you begin to balance the pros and cons. “A prolonged lockdown has effects, and you begin to see that the consequences of that lockdown becomes as grievous as the consequences of the disease itself.

“It’s a very difficult decision, but the president has taken a very wise position taking that thin line between two sides,” he said. Nigeria has recorded 2,558 coronavirus cases in 34 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), as of May 3.

No fewer than 400 people have recovered and been discharged after medical treatment, but 87 people have died.