From Olanrewaju Lawal, Birnin Kebbi
In 2019, the outbreak of COVID-19 and its spread across the globe triggered off uncommon human fatalities, economic disruption and social disconnections.
Arising from the need to halt the spread came the use of face masks and hand –sanitizers as recommended by health authorities as well as restriction of movements where necessary and observance of social distance where contact is inevitable.
Until lately, this was the norm in Kebbi State, where residents adhered to the protocols. The result of this obedience was a considerable low level of infection in the state.
The Deputy Governor, Col. Samaila Yombe Dabai (rtd), disclosed that the state recorded only 16 mortality cases. Chief Medical Director, Sir Yahyah Memorial General Hospital, Birnin-Kebbi, Dr Haliru Bunza, noted:
“Cases detected in the past 14 days are all imported or are all linked to imported sporadic cases and there are no clear signal of further locally acquired transmission. This implies minimal risk of infection for the general population.”
Daily Sun investigations indicated a general, but erroneous belief that the COVID-19 pandemic is over and the world has returned to its past. This has led to a decline in the number of people using the facemasks or bother to wash their hands. Many communities sharing borders with neighbouring states and foreign countries like Benin and Chad republics were worse offenders. They do not enforce or use facemasks and hand sanitizers any more!
At Yauri, residents interacted freely with one another at public places. None wore a facemask and none was seen with or applied a hand sanitizer. At Amagoro, a village renowned for the sales of cows, rams and goats, traders and customers had abandoned use of facemasks. Transactions were held in the open space ignoring social distancing.
Baba Kaoje told Daily Sun: “We are villagers and we hardly interact with the big men of the city who are the carriers of COVID-19. So we are safe. It is not about religious or cultural belief. We are all villagers and hardly do we have contact with big men that come from the cities.
“They, the big men and the rich men, are the ones traveling by airplanes to foreign lands. They are the ones carrying the disease or spreading the disease. We believe that we can’t get the disease here.”
Moshur Yauri, a public worker, explained: “In the past, almost everybody wore facemasks. But now, only about 15 per cent wear their facemasks.”
Ibrhaim Zuru of Zuru town that shares boundary with Niger State said: “A year ago, the residents of this town were restricted from public places without a facemask. They could not enter commercial banks, hospitals and other public places of interest. But this is no longer the case. Restricted access to all these critical facilities without a facemask has been eased off.”
He said residents believed that the pandemic has disappeared. He said the town is highly vulnerable due to interstates movement: “Many of our people nowadays are not bothered anymore about wearing of facemasks, except when they are going to government offices and to banking halls.”
He appealed to government to straighten its public enlightenment and awareness campaigns even as he recommended that government could still enforce COVID-19 compliance through the use of soft sanctions that would force the people to obey.