A professor of Virology and former Vice-Chancellor of Redeemer's University, Oyewale Tomori, in a chat with SaharaReporters said the surge in COVID-19 cases is a clear evidence of active community transmission and spread of the disease. He also said it showed that the lockdown had failed to achieve its aim
What is your reaction to government’s response to the spread of Coronavirus?
The initial preparation for the arrival of COVID-19 in Nigeria was fine until we got our first case on February 27, 2020. On that day, we should have sealed and closed our borders to all travellers from COVID-19 affected countries.
But no, we waited until March 23, almost a month later and by which time we had had at least 40 cases. Since then, even with a COVID-19 Presidential Task Force, we have not seen a national cohesion on COVID-19 control. It is as if the devil of concurrency on health issues is throwing spanners from the 36 states into the national COVID-19 control wheel in Nigeria.
There were initial disarray and lack of collaboration among the states and federal government. Each state was trying to outshine the other as different decrees and promulgation were issued with little regard to the efforts and activities of the federal government.
In recent days, it would appear that our governments have realised that the fight against COVID-19 is a national war which we must prosecute in unity as we combine our efforts against the relentless enemy.
Do you think the lockdown has been effective in curbing the spread of the virus?
No way. It has not been effective. At the beginning of the first lockdown, on March 30, 2020, we had 131 cases; two weeks later, at the end of the lockdown, the number of cases went up to 343, a two-and-a-half-fold increase.
The ineffectiveness of the partial lockdown is further brought to play with Nigeria reporting a total of 638 cases during the last 10 days of the second lockdown, that is, an average of more than 60 cases per day. This surge in several cases is evidence of active community transmission and spread of the disease. It is a failure of the lockdown.
The problem may not be with the lockdown itself, but more with the disregard of the guidelines and non-compliance with the rules by many people (wash your hands with soap and water, use sanitizer to disinfect the hand, maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet).
We certainly did not fully anticipate the complications for the lockdown and the serious effect on the majority of Nigerian who are daily workers and who must work daily to get money for their subsistence. The disease has brought our everyday life to a standstill as we watch our economy slide into recession and acquire more debt to shore up the shortfall from the price of oil, the mainstay of our economy.
What do you think government should do moving forward?
As we ask what more the government should do, we should also ask what we as a people must do. First, we must have unity over this COVID-19 issue. We cannot afford the past discordance between the states and federal government. We must act with one voice.
We have seen that cases are occurring in the states that are not under lockdown. If we continue with the haphazard way of controlling COVID-19 with each state deciding what action it would take, sometimes, at variance with what the federal government is doing, then we are in for a terrible and very long time under COVID-19 curfew. It does not make sense to lock up one state, while the next or contiguous state is left wide open. We must seriously and truly obey and comply with the guidelines and rules of personal hygiene and social separation.
It is a matter of a short time when cases will be reported in large numbers from many states, in free-flow mode.
The other issue concerns us the people and citizens of Nigeria. First thing, we must realize that COVID-19 is after us, to make sick, and to kill, COVID-19 cannot kill the government. Getting COVID-19 and dying from it is a decision for the individual. So, let us behave to be safe. Let us religiously comply with the guidelines and rules of the game of preventing COVID-19 disease.