When President Muhammadu Buhari announced the relaxing of the coronavirus (COVID-19) induced lockdown, it was meant to ease the lives and movement of Nigerians especially in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states. The easing on the movement of persons and goods within the affected areas was approved under the understanding that it would be implemented strictly according to laid down rules and regulations by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
But like all things in Nigeria, residents of the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states started off flouting the physical and social distancing order. Many people trooped out, with overwhelming crowds storming banks and shops, to either make withdrawals, buy goods or fix their gadgets. People carried on with their normal activities as if there is no health emergency in place; oblivious of the need to observe COVID-19 emergency measures needed to stop the spread of the new virus.
The only area of a high level of compliance was the use of face masks as the faces of people were adorned in their different shapes, colours and sizes, even though they all complained of the discomfort wearing them.
But most disturbing was that commercial drivers still filled their buses and cars to capacity contrary to the social distancing rule. This raises the fears that further halting of the spread of the COVID-19 may turn out a mirage as the attitude of Nigerians makes community transmission inevitable.
Already, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 pandemic has said that the chaotic scenes around banks and public places are dangerous with Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and chairman of the presidential task force, Mr Boss Mustapha, warning that the danger of infection is not over.
And as if in confirmation, the number of COVID-19 infections has spiked since the easing of the lockdown. For example, the rate of infections increased from 1,532 on the day of the easing of the lockdown on 28 April to 4,787 barely two weeks after. This calls for caution among all Nigerians.
The truth is that easing of the lockdown measures shouldn’t be reason for carelessness but essentially a way of ensuring stricter compliance to the guidelines issued by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The way forward is for all Nigerians, especially our commuters, to strengthen their personal hygiene with regular hand washing with soap and running water. As specified by the task force and the NCDC, there must be the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers and wearing of approved face masks in public.
All Nigerians must, in addition, maintain two-metre distance from other people, refrain from handshakes, abstain from gatherings of more than 20 persons and not to go outdoors unless it is absolutely necessary.
One can understand the enthusiasm of Nigerians to troop out to get their lives back after five weeks of lockdown, but this should not be at the expense of their lives and the safety of others. The way forward is for everyone to listen to the voice of reason and obey all laid down rules and regulations.
Beyond that, the state governments and the nation’s security agencies must rigidly enforce the measures and violators should be prosecuted.