IT has been eleven weeks since the war on the new coronavirus diseases was declared at the Federal level by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 30, 2020. As the pandemic rages, some of the most sophisticated healthcare systems in the world were made to look ordinary, with millions of people infected and hundreds of thousands dead.
Nigeria was caught in the same drift, quite understandably. However, we have responded quite spiritedly. When we started we had only five testing centres located in Lagos, the FCT, Edo and Osun states. Today the number has increased to 26, with more springing up in the states.
Our testing capacity, though still far behind even by the African standard, is gathering pace with 36,899 Nigerians tested by Monday, May 18, 2020. This improvement also resulted in a dramatic rise in the number of infected persons.
With massive amounts of funds from governments, the private sector, international donor groups and the able support of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, more isolation centres are springing up, along with procurement of relevant equipment and personnel training. Nigeria’s capacity is growing and we are now readier to effectively tackle future outbreaks than at any other time in our modern history.
We have to work harder at connecting the efforts of the Federal and state authorities in a more seamless mechanism. Cross River and Kogi states remain very worrisome blind spots. President Buhari’s urge for the states to work with the Presidential Task Force is not adequate. Governors will feel better working directly with the president or vice president.
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Also, the President, as the Commander-in-Chief, must take firmer control of the security agencies. Asking them to ensure they enforce the rules is not enough. Security chiefs have often ignored Buhari’s directives and nothing happened. Someone has to get them to do their jobs and also listen to them to know the needs of the officers at the checkpoints. Unless we find a way to stop the illegal migrations the distribution of infections may never reduce.
The next two weeks offers the nation a prime opportunity to stage a dress rehearsal for either a wider reopening of the economy or a return to total lockdown. We strongly believe that the nation cannot afford the latter.
Nigerians are clearly tired of hiding from COVID-19. The strategy of government should be to recondition the citizens to learn to live in spite of it.
We must create the needful protocols to enable every section of the economy to operate safely. We must engage with the unions and interest groups in every sector and get them to take full responsibility to ensure safe practices when we fully reopen, with dire consequences for defaulters.
Law enforcement and personal responsibility with be key if we are to throw the economy wide open again.