By Dapo George
Social distance, hand washing, face masks and blockages. These are guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), Presidential Task Force in Covid-19 and the Nigeria Disease Control Center (NCDC) to contain the transmission of the pandemic by the community.
The rich and poor countries of the world, including Nigeria, have adopted these security guidelines wholesale, regardless of the local socioeconomic conditions of some poor economies.
These poor economies, like Nigeria, do not have the necessary financial resources to effectively enforce these security guidelines, purchase protective equipment for health personnel and provide necessary palliative care to at least the most vulnerable members of society continuously for months, especially in total or partial blocks.
The federal and state governments have only tried their best in this regard, within the limits of the available financial resources. Therefore, there may be a need to adapt these security strategies to local socioeconomic conditions and financial capabilities.
We need to ask ourselves the following pertinent questions in Nigeria: Is social distancing possible in densely populated slums in large cities like Lagos and Kano – especially in shared houses in one-bedroom apartment buildings (face-to-me-me-me-you) ), each with an average of 10 rooms and each room housing at least four to five occupants, totaling a shared population of 40/50 people sharing a maximum of two bathrooms, two bathrooms and two kitchens?
What happens then if it is a multi-storey building with about 120 to 150 people in the building? Is social distance possible in this environment?
Will social distance be effective in our public and private transport system, operated mainly by 18-seater buses, with the best BRT buses in Lagos being the best available? During this period, there will be scarcity.
Will these carriers be even or will passengers be patient enough to wait for these buses without fighting for spaces if social distance is imposed? Social detachment is more practicable in prosperous climates, where trains carry at least 3,000 passengers on one trip and double-decker buses with at least 100 passengers.
Will hand washing for personal and community hygiene be possible and enforceable in homes, communities, markets and public places without public water supply? Even major cities in Nigeria lack public sanitation facilities, with only gas stations and restaurants providing relief to people when pressed.
The usual alternatives in densely populated areas, slums and highways are latrines and open defecation in shrubs and abandoned houses.
How is social distancing possible when Okadas (motorcycles) are used as a means of public transport? The passenger or passenger may be asymptomatic to the virus.
Will the masks alone be enough to protect the rider and the passenger? As the passenger carries many passengers daily, what happens if he is infected? Won't your subsequent customers be infected, thereby increasing transmission from the community? Will contact tracking be possible in this situation?
Is social detachment possible in our five-day markets, with people mixing in chaotic and uncoordinated movements, without knowing who is infected or not? Will there be a continuous supply of soap and running water in these rural markets?
With a conservative estimate of the population of 200 million Nigerians, and with a capacity of less than 50,000 that have been tested across the country so far, the signs are threatening that we have not reached the zenith of the infection, but we talk less about flattening the curve .
The United Kingdom, United States of America, Italy, France etc. continue to test an average of 20,000 to 50,000 people daily, with plans for 100,000 people a day. With this testing capability, the US has managed to identify more than a million infections and recorded more than 80,000 deaths, but has not yet peaked.
The UK reports between 600-800 deaths daily and the US a daily average of 2,500 deaths. So, if gold rusts, what will iron do?
If the recent revelation by the Presidential Task Force and the NCDC is that out of 100 samples recently collected in Kano, more than 80 were positive, isn't that alarming?
Therefore, it is necessary to improve our mass testing of the population, especially in densely populated cities and in the satellite states of Lagos and Kano in particular, which now appear to be the epicenter of the pandemic in Nigeria.
To stem the rising tide of Covid-19 infections, in addition to more testing and isolation centers, the federal and state governments must address our infrastructure deficit, especially in areas of water supply, provision of recommended safe materials, such as soaps, facial masks and disinfectants. all the time, at least in densely populated areas that are exclusively vulnerable to Covid-19, along with ongoing palliative care in the event of another blockade.
It is not enough to decree the use of face masks, soaps, disinfectants, hand washing when people's livelihoods have been damaged by the pandemic.
These materials must be provided free of charge and at all times during this period of health emergency – if not all, at least to vulnerable groups in densely populated settlements and slums. It is the least that any responsive government should do, besides providing palliative care.
In addition, it is suggested that all Okada operations should be suspended during this period until there is a decrease in the rate of infection, as was done in the states of Lagos and Kano.
Alternatively, the federal and state governments should subsidize Okada riders to buy tricycles that must carry only one passenger at any time. As a tricycle has a small compartment, transporting two people together with the cyclist violates the principle behind social detachment.
Most importantly, federal and state security agencies must continue to strictly enforce the president's order prohibiting interstate travel, except for exempt purposes.
Cases of complicity on the part of security agencies in violating this directive must be investigated and the culprits punished. All federal, state and local government borders, including motorized, non-motorized and bush paths, must be monitored by security agencies and local watchdogs in different communities.
However, the president and most state governors should be commended for their proactive decisions that helped to mitigate the Covid pandemic19.
It is also suggested that all state governments adopt community or home tests to ascertain the enormity of the problem, in order to make adequate provisions for its cut. Where insufficient funds and test kits are available, random samples from families can be tested.
Finally, for an appropriate response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria, we need to have adequate data on the magnitude of infections and the health outcomes of government interventions.
This data can be obtained by our numerous public health professionals, epidemiologists, health economists and other relevant social scientists.
This data can be used to design models that take into account our socioeconomic realities to predict the incidence of Covid-19 and other viruses, and the effectiveness of safety response measures and treatment outcomes.
- George, professor of economics and public policy analyst, writes from [email protected]