There are indications that President Muhammadu Buhari may again extend the lockdown in Abuja as well as Lagos and Ogun States as the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday warned countries to apply caution in lifting COVID-19 lockdowns.
Specifically, the global health body warned of a resurgence of infections if the current restriction measures put in place to flatten the curve on the pandemic were relaxed too soon.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on March 29 ordered a total lockdown in Lagos and Ogun States as well as the FCT in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.
Two weeks later, he extended the lockdown in the nation’s capital and the two Southwest states for another 14 days.
There had been agitations among Nigerians over what they described as untold hardship and impending hunger in the land as a result of the sit-at-home order, with most of the citizens calling on the Nigerian leader to lift the lockdown imposed to combat the global scourge.
But the expectation that the president may relax the restriction order was dashed yesterday when WHO’s Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Takeshi Kasai, warned nations of the world against lifting lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of Coronavirus.
At an online media briefing in Manila, Kasai noted that lockdown measures have proven effective in slowing and reducing transmission of the highly infectious disease while easing the burden on the overstretched health system.
“This is going to be a long battle. This is not the time to relax,” Kasai said in an online coronavirus media briefing.
Instead, he stressed the need to be ready for “a new way of living that strikes the right balance between the measures to keep the virus in check and enable vital parts of the economy and society to function.”
The WHO director urged the people in the region to protect themselves, their family and their community by physically distancing and frequently cleaning hands.
Others are covering coughs and sneeze as well as staying at home and away from others especially when sick.
He also urged the private sector to adopt new ways of working such as establishing staff to work from home where possible and other measures to reduce the risk of infections in the workplace.
“For the government this means preparing for the worst, having a system that works in every corner of the country to detect and care for people in case of large-scale community transmission,” he said.
Already, Kasai said, COVID-19 had upended millions of peoples’ lives and had caused a major economic impact on the world.
He said that the governments in the region were making “extremely complex decisions about introducing or enhancing or easing or lifting lockdowns and physical distancing measures.
“As we move forward in these difficult times, our lives, our health systems and approach to stopping transmission must continue to adapt and evolve along with the epidemic.”
According to him, until a vaccine is found, the process of adapting to the epidemic will have to become a new normal.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to doing this but WHO strongly urges that decisions on measures be guided by public health principles, the lifting of lockdowns, and other measures that need to be done gradually.
“If restrictions are relaxed or lifted before the strong system is in place to identify, isolate and care for this sick, and trace and quarantine their contacts, this will likely lead to a resurgence of diseases,” he warned.
“As long as the new coronavirus is circulating no country is safe from potentially overwhelming outbreaks,” Kasai added, stressing the need to be vigilant and to work together to contain the viral disease.
Kasai also welcomed efforts by countries with COVID-19 experience like China to share with other countries in the region, their best practices on how to control the disease.
“And I think it’s very important the countries which have the experience to share those experiences with the countries that are really trying to ramp up their effective response. And I really wanted to continue to encourage and support that kind of things occur in these missions,” he said.
PMB To Receive Progress Report On FCT, Lagos, Ogun
Meanwhile, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 will by the end of this week submit a new report to President Muhammadu Buhari on the level of compliance and impact of the lockdown on Abuja, as well as Lagos and Ogun States to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Chairman of PTF and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, gave the hint yesterday at the national daily briefing on COVID-19 pandemic in Abuja.
Mustapha, who said the taskforce has continued to evaluate the impact of the lockdown ahead of the submission of its latest report to Buhari, however, noted that despite general compliance, more work was needed to create awareness among the people.
He noted: „While the PTF continues to assess the impact of the lockdown preparatory to the submission of a Report to Mr President, we have observed general compliance with the restrictions. However, much more work shall be required in the creation of awareness among the people and securing the buy-in of stakeholders.
“I find it necessary to remind us all that this COVID-19 pandemic is not a joke and it is a global pandemic. I therefore renew the appeal of the PTF to all Nigerians to view it as such and comply with all advisories and directives in the interest of humanity“.
The SGF added that more discoveries are being made from the PTF‘s collaboration with states of the federation as reports of such collaborations will soon be out.
“There is obvious need to support the states in strengthening coordination across board. More guidance should be provided in the area of non-pharmaceutical interventions Particular attention is to be focused on some states with heavy burden, particularly, Kano; and priority is being placed on Intensive State Level Support“, he stated.
Mustapa further revealed that the PTF has approved the distribution plans for medical equipment and consumables available in stock to the states, adding that the physical distribution shall commence immediately.
“This will be in addition to the Jack Ma equipment and materials already shared to the states,“ he added.
The SGF singled out media practitioners and frontline health workers, among other stakeholders, for their professionalism and hard work respectively in the war against COVID-19 even, as he called for unity of purpose among all stakeholders in order to win the battle.
He continued: „Let me once again thank the Media for the tremendous support we continue to receive. I similarly thank the selflessness of our frontline health workers for their professionalism and hard work.
“We stand with you as you work to save lives. I equally thank countless public-spirited Nigerians, corporate organizations, faith based organisations, etc for demonstrating unparalleled commitment to the survival of our nation and for being your brothers’ keeper.
“I consider it apt to repeat that this is the time for all hands to be on deck so that the PTF can improve on its delivery. Unity of purpose is critical. Everybody has a role to play for self, for family, for community, for the nation and for humanity“.