Nigerians should continue to wear their face masks and maintain social distancing
The federal government recently warned Nigerians against travelling to countries currently experiencing the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The warning was predicated on the fact that new infections from such places could worsen our fragile situation. The airlines were also told that they could be fined as high as $3,500 for each passenger coming from these affected countries. To demonstrate its seriousness, the federal government declared 90 travellers who recently visited or arrived from India, Brazil and Turkey as potential health hazards.
According to the chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, these identified individuals failed to observe the newly instituted mandatory protocols recently put in place against the spread of the virus, adding that the public declaration was necessary in other to drive home the need for Nigerians to take extra care to avert the third wave of the scourge. Mustapha further stated that health officials would not accept COVID-19 PCR test results older than 72 hours upon passengers' arrival in Nigeria.
Apart from the named travellers who flouted the country's COVID-19 protocols, many Nigerians now hardly put on face masks or maintain social distancing. To many, the virus no longer causes serious harm to those infected. However, the number of deaths and infections in the last few weeks across the country is enough reminder that the pandemic is still very much potent.
As at the time of going to press, the country had recorded about 170,000 infections and 2,200 deaths across 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). But these relatively low figures should not be taken for granted particularly with what is happening in India which recorded the highest single-day spike of more than 6000 deaths barely 24 hours ago.
Since the third wave of the pandemic started, India had recorded 2.24 million new COVID-19 cases with 16,257 deaths in the first seven days. The surge has overwhelmed hospitals, morgues and crematoriums and has left families scrambling for scarce medicines and oxygen. Health experts in the country believed mass religious gatherings and political rallies were the major factors that led to this major health disaster. To say the least, Nigeria does not have what it takes to handle such major health crisis.
We therefore call on every Nigerian to sustain the precautions that have ensured the number of infections did not outgrow our fragile health system. Religious clerics, traditional rulers and other stakeholders must lead the efforts for the continued adherence to protocols put in place by the Nigerian government. No time is more apt for the collective effort against COVID-19 than now, especially since the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Federal Ministry of Health have not done much to vaccinate the public. As of this week, less than two million people have been vaccinated in the country for the first dose, while only about 100,000 Nigerians have taken the second jab in a population of over 200 million people.
In the absence of an effective COVID-19 vaccine distribution across board, what the country has for now are the infectious disease protocols which must be adhered to pending when most Nigerians are vaccinated. Under the prevailing circumstance, prevention remains the most plausible cure.