The Federal Government, last week, introduced new measures to check the third wave of COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The new measures included a nationwide 12am to 4 am curfew, restriction of gathering at worship centres as well as the banning of night clubs, gyms and others. Worship centres and weddings can now accommodate only 50 per cent attendance, while maintaining physical distancing and other non-pharmaceutical measures.
Earlier on, the government had also restricted flights from Brazil, India and Turkey with a high number of COVID-19 cases and fatality rate and with prevalence of lethal variants of the disease. In addition, it has approved the commencement of administration of the second dose of the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine. We believe that these measures were ostensibly introduced to check the spread of the devastating strains of COVID-19 into the country.
In recent weeks, India, South Africa, Turkey and Brazil have witnessed the spread of virulent strains of COVID-19 disease. Reports have it that the B.1.351 variant of the disease, which was first found in South Africa, had spread to 23 African countries, including Kenya, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Malawi, Mauritius, Togo, Botswana, Comoros, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe Angola, Ghana and others. Consequently, the British government has reportedly included Nigeria among the 183 countries in its danger list on COVID-19. Henceforth, travellers from the listed countries must be quarantined for at least five days before they integrate with the people.
It has also been reported that the Indian strain of the disease, which is very lethal, has been found in Nigeria. It was detected by the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, Redeemers University, Ede, Osun State. There is need for further examination of the new COVID-19 variants to enable the government take adequate precautions to prevent their spread.
We commend the government for introducing new restrictions to curb further spread of COVID-19 disease in the country. The Indian experience, which has led to thousands of deaths within days, is not something that Nigeria can pass through without recording many fatalities considering the poor state of our healthcare facilities. Now that the lethal variant of the disease from India is now in Nigeria, we must step up measures, especially the non-pharmaceutical ones to stem further spread of the pandemic. The new lethal strain of the disease from India, Turkey, Brazil and South Africa has further confirmed that COVID-19 is real and killing people across the world. The time of skepticism about the disease is over.
We urge Nigerians to do away with all conspiracy theories about the disease as well as discountenance several myths erected around the disease to deceive people. We also call on Nigerians to support the government’s new measures by observing them and avoiding mass gatherings. Let there be more sensitisation programmes about the disease and preventive measures in all the 36 states and 774 local governments in the country.
The messages, which can be disseminated through several media channels, will be in English, Pidgin and major Nigerian languages. The town criers can also be engaged to further spread the message about the disease as well as the preventive measures. We say this because in some states, many people are behaving as if the disease is no longer in existence. In these states, all the COVID-19 safety protocols are observed in the breach even at mass gatherings, such as weddings, funerals, political rallies, sporting events and markets.
Unfortunately, many Nigerians have relaxed their guards against the pandemic, which ought not to be the case. They must not go with the mindset that the disease is not for Africans or that Nigeria’s hot weather can prevent it. Beyond the new measures, there is need for more testing and more vaccinations. At present, Nigeria is not testing enough and our vaccination rate is one of the lowest in the world compared to our population.
Since the new variant of the disease is deadly, lowering our guards at this point will be dangerous. Government should intensify efforts to bring in more COVID-19 vaccines to enable more Nigerians to be vaccinated against the disease. Besides, government must prioritise and revamp the wobbling health sector with more funds and needed medical equipment.