Social distancing: Death sentence or an imperative




As at 8.35pm on March 26th 2020, Nigeria had recorded 65 cases of COVID-19 scattered in over six States and counting (Lagos- 44, FCT- 11, Ogun- 3, Ekiti- 1, Oyo- 1, Edo- 1, Bauchi- 2, Osun-1, Rivers-1).

The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) are currently tracing over four thousand (4,000) individuals that have been exposed to the confirmed cases.

At this point, it is glaring to all that Nigeria and it’s handlers are beginning to get overwhelmed as warned by experts, in the midst of this crisis are a large population of Nigerians who do not believe or care about the COVID-19 spread, for them it is an elitists virus and for all they care should ravage them at the top.

While a time like this should necessitate a whole-of-goverment and whole-of-society intervention, the government in it’s usual high handedness have gone on to press hard on the people by the abrupt shutting down of markets, shops and everything that the average Nigerian depends on for survival all in the name of keeping the people safe without providing any alternative.

How safe will the people be when they have no food to feed on or money to purchase from the serving capitalist businesses who care less about the people but their profit.

It’s over three months since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic yet up till this moment Nigeria does not have a COVID-19 National Response Strategy (NRS), what we have so far are States doing all within it’s powers to keep it’s territory safe however none of the strategy considers the suffering of the poor street kid, the widows, the senior citizens; the national assembly has also not made any emergency law(s) to reduce the suffering of the people.

Interestingly while government continues to shift the burden of responsibility to the already impoverished populace, they are also swift to enforce shutdown which in many case abusing the rights of the people.

There are trending videos of Police task force destroying goods and properties of people yet we do not have a strategy of how the people would survive during this period, even people who sell food have been asked to close by this overzealous police men in direct contravention to government directive.

LESSONS FROM WUHAN

Wuhan the epicentre of the COVID-19 virus was in lockdown and this was possible because beyond the behavioral change messaging that every resident in WUHAN received, local authorities had established relationship with the central government and autonomy to help their people adapt to their new lifestyles and public health lifestyle, the WUHAN people were not terrorised by it’s government (unlike the case in Nigeria), because of the clarity and political will in tackling the virus, the people considered themselves partners and became passionate to own the process.

The WUHAN authorities used apps and smartphones to escalate information about local clusters where people could make reports and receive adequate care. Of the over 11 million residents in the city of WUHAN, government ensured they could order food online and have it delivered to their door steps and in just seven weeks the spread reduced drastically.

 Other countries, including South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan, have copied this strategy, with local modifications, and have recorded similar results according to a report by the guardian.com.

WHAT CAN BE DONE DIFFERENTLY

1) Just as during elections, the government needs to set up a COVID-19 situation room to engage real-time with the people on ways it is working to reduce any inconvenience that may arise during this period, people need to become  aware of government steps and actions and we already have the machineries and structures set-up by INEC which can be used.

2) The FG needs to play the lead role by developing a national COVID-19 response strategy for states to adopt and adapt taking to account our peculiarities.

3) The government and the organised private must workout modalities to ensure food security, supply and adequate pricing lest people begin to hoard essential items or people starve to death.

4) The needs of the most vulnerable in the society including people living with disability, internally displaced, the elderly, OVCs must be taken into account and provided for.

5) The government must see citizens as partners and should reach out to neighborhood associations, civil society etc to volunteer in coordination of things within their locality.

Nigerians have shown respect and displayed a high sense of patriotism to it’s motherland, it is time the country reciprocates.

Social distancing shouldn’t be a death sentence.

Bassey is

Executive Director-

HipCity Innovation Centre, Abuja

07034520685

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