Pondering Over The Pandemic Nigerians Are Pandering With

It would be recalled that ahead of the recently concluded elections in Edo and Ondo governorship elections, that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced some COVID-19 safety measures, insisting that any voter who does not wear facemask would not be allowed to vote.

The announcement was made on the heels of the Federal Government’s approval of N8.9 billion for COVID-19 hazard allowance to all medical health workers with a promise to give priority to the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for hospitals and isolation centres.

INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu who made the declaration at the time while speaking at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) briefing said the Commission would deploy 3000 infrared thermometers supplied by the Taskforce to Edo in addition to the ones it supplied to all collation centres in State.

Yakubu stated that the INEC had developed and published a policy on code of conduct for election and electoral activities in general anchored on the guidelines by the PTF, adding that the Commission has also developed 10 point policy for voters which has been shared widely.

“The Commission identified 8 protective measures ranging from the mandatory use of facemask, hand sanitizers, use of methylated spirit and cotton wool to clean the card readers as well as the rules of physical distancing, the use of infrared thermometers and procedure for handling voters and officials showing COVID-19 symptoms.

However, despite the COVID-19 safety measures announced by the INEC chairman, voters in the elections held in both States in September and October, respectively, were observed not to have being subjected to the preventive procedures the leadership of the electoral body somewhat boasted of, despite the fact that the elections recorded considerable turnout of voters.

As can be inferred from the foregoing, it is very obvious that amid coronavirus threat that politicians and their supporters have for the umpteenth time; right from the long period of electioneering in both States to the polls defied health experts’ warnings. This is even as public health analysts say social distancing is best way to curb the spread of the virus as the deadly pandemic is expected to worsen.

Besides the political rallies that have been witnessed in the recent past in defiance of COVID-19 safety measures, thousands of demonstrators or protesters have also taken to the streets across the country to protest against one issue or the other.

At the moment, #EndSARS protesters are defying social distancing rules to answer calls to protest against police brutality. Demonstrators have been in the last few days across the country shouting "EndSARS Now, EndSARS Now" in defiance of COVID-19 safety measures.

One may not be completely wrong to guesstimate that not few readers of this piece would be emotionally disposed to object to the foregoing view, but we should not forget to ponder over the reality of the fact that number of Samples of COVID-19 tested in Nigeria so far is 572,705 while number of confirmed cases is 60, 982. Active Cases were put at 7,672, discharged cases 52,194 and recorded number of death is 1,116.

At this juncture, the question those that may be opposed to the views that are been expressed in this context should be pondering over is: “Is the economy resilient enough to face another wave of COVID-19?” Pondering over the question is expedient as it is the economy; which is presently not in robust state that would bear the brunt. Also to be pondered over is that the exact magnitude of the effect from the first wave is still open for speculation. In this context, it is expedient they ponder on the Impact of a second wave of COVID-19 on the people.

It is exigent to warn at this juncture that if Nigerians become carefree towards COVID-19 safety measure that the possibility of a second wave of the pandemic, as some countries are already experiencing, cannot be ruled out.

A second wave of the pandemic means that the people may have to comply with newer and stricter set of government’s instructions that would compel older people to cut back on both social and economic activities as well as youngsters would in the same vein be required to make significant changes in their daily activities to the detriment of their education which has been on a standstill since the last few months.

Also to be pondered over is the impact on the already parlous economy as the people will have to significantly shift their daily behaviours which will impact on businesses, and which no doubt will lead to acute effect on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME). There is also the need to ponder over the stark reality that has being proven to have no cure or vaccine, and in order to curb the spread, safety measures that defy human instincts have to be strictly adhered to.

Of much to ponder over is the disclosure made by the Lagos State government on Friday, October 16, 2020 that 181 students and staff of a private boarding school in the Lekki area of Lagos state have tested positive for COVID-19.

Prof. Akin Abayomi, the State Commissioner for Health, who broke the news said the affected students and the staff of the school tested positive to COVID19 during surveillance and case investigation in the school.

The commissioner explained that a 14-year-old SS1 female student fell ill on the 3rd of October and was sent home after receiving first aid at the school. He added that the student subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday 6th of October in one of the accredited private labs in Lagos, and that consequently led to the surveillance and case investigation to be carried out in the school.

Against the foregoing backdrop, it is pragmatic to ponder over the professional advice which the Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Iheweazu, offered to Nigerians sometime in August 2020. He said Nigerians can avoid the second wave of COVID-19 infection if all citizens collectively work towards containing the spread of the viral pandemic.

While speaking then in a live TV interview, he said the second wave of COVID-19 infection is not inevitable, and added that averting it depends a lot on what is done by all Nigerians, and noted that the country can reduce the rate of infection. He said, “If we really focus on this thing for the next few months’ until there is a vaccine.

He added, “We are still very much in the middle of the first wave and that we will have a second wave is not inevitable. It depends a lot on what we do collectively as a country and that’s really is the most important point.

“If we really focus on this thing for the next few months, we will reduce the rate of infection sufficiently for us to hold on a bit until we get to a vaccine.”

“It is what happens when you don’t have the tools and when you don’t have a vaccine. What we need to do is really is to use all the tools, all the resources we have at the moment to do the very best that we can do while working on the development side and new therapeutic, new vaccines, new diagnostic that will get us out of it altogether.

“We don’t have any choice at the moment than to use the tools that we have and unfortunately, some of them are very blunt like masks and mass gatherings but it’s all we have right now while we keep pushing to get a new tool,” Ihekweazu said.

To my view, all the foregoing are what we should at all times ponder over whenever we are engaged in activities that portray us to be pandering to COVID-19.

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Articles by Isaac Asabor