The federal government last week again eased the lockdown imposed nearly four months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It permitted among others, interstate travels and the resumption of air travel subject to the observance of all COVID-19 safety protocols.
Up until May, the whole world had been on a complete lockdown because of the pandemic. Government offices, businesses and schools remained shut. No land, sea or air travels were permitted. This year’s Muslim and Christian pilgrimages have been cancelled. All forms of sporting activities, including the European football (the new religion for the global youth), were suspended.
Currently, there are over 11 million infections and 550, 000 deaths worldwide. There is as yet no proven cure for the coronavirus. Even the United States accepted medical help from Russia and India when faced with COVID-19 induced health crisis. This is the situation from which the world is trying to emerge today.
However, in spite of all these problems that have afflicted the world, the basic problem in Nigeria and Africa is the denial by citizens. This has, in no small measure, hampered efforts to slow down and defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.
A survey conducted in March and April in 28 cities across 20 African countries by the African Centre for Disease Control (ACDC) puts this in graphic detail. It revealed, among others, that 40 per cent of Africans believe they cannot contract COVID-19, while more than 60 per cent believe COVID-19 could be prevented by drinking lemon or taking vitamin C.
The study also found that although four in five respondents admit that COVID-19 is a big problem, but their personal risk perception for contracting the virus is low. About 73% thought that a hot climate prevents the spread of the virus.
It said this means that they are less likely to follow public health measures advice because they do not think they would be affected.
It is not difficult to observe that this reckless and dangerous attitude is daily exhibited by Nigerians in their daily life. They go about, sometimes defiantly, without wearing face masks, or observing the hand washing and social distancing protocol as prescribed by the COVID-19 safety protocol. And this conduct is flagrantly displayed in places that can easily be regulated such as offices, markets, worship centres and motor parks.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, described this attitude as “reckless confidence” in the face of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.”
In a speech in Abuja, Monday, at the interdenominational church service against COVID-19 organised by the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), he urged religious leaders to always teach their congregations the truth about the virus and how they could stay safe. He also said the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases among Nigeria’s top officials is capable of adversely impacting governance and security in the country.
We shall like to strongly advise the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 not to limit its interaction with religious leaders to a mere once in a while affair. It should go further and form a manageable committee which will meet weekly or at whatever interval to review compliance and exchange ideas.
The same should be done by the states and the FCT in order to deal with the problem at the offices, markets, motor parks and places of worship.
Though Nigeria as at yesterday recorded 30, 249 infections and 684 deaths, a small percentage of the world total, it is instructive that the daily rate of infections keeps increasing as more tests are carried out every day.
Religious leaders, especially imams and bishops, should put in more efforts in the fight to stop the spread of the pandemic because they bear a vicarious responsibility in the safety of their flocks.
Nigerians on their part must take personal responsibility and comply with the entire safety precautions to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. People should stay at home if there is no compelling need for them to go out and when they do so it is mandatory for everyone to wear a face mask. There should be no complacence as the nation wages the war to defeat COVID-19.