Stakeholders and observers are not convinced by the reasons given by the governors and other advocates of relaxation of the current lockdown.
They are of the view that Nigeria is yet to get to a point in its fight against the virus, where it can allow people flood the streets.
They wonder how government which has found it difficult to enforce a total lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun will be able to enforce social distancing at public gatherings including markets and public transportation.
They are also worried about a possible explosion in the number of infections resulting from uncontrolled public gatherings and the massive pressure that may result on social and health facilities.
They recalled the statement April 11 statement by Buhari in which he said the lockdown would last for as long as necessary and that he would rely on experts in taking decisions on measures to check the spread of the coronavirus.
His Senior Special Assistant of Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu quoted him as saying: “No elected government could ask more of the citizens of the country that elected them than today we ask of you.
But we must ask you – once more – to observe restrictions on movement where they are in place, and follow the instructions of our scientists and medical advisers: stay home, wash your hands, save lives.
“The freedoms we ask you to willingly forsake today will only last as long as our scientific advisers declare they are necessary. But they are essential – world over – to halt and defeat the spread of this virus.
“All that the Government is asking you to endure is because nowhere in the world today is there any known way of defeating this pandemic. There is no vaccine. And that means there are choices to be made: between continuing as usual, or accepting the restrictions even when they come with unintended consequences.
“But at this darkest hour, it remains our duty to offer you the full and unvarnished truth: This is a global pandemic. 210 countries and territories across the globe are affected. We cannot expect others to come to our assistance. No one is coming to defeat this virus for us.
“Instead, the defeat of the virus in our country will be in our hands, alone. We cannot wait for others. We can only depend on ourselves now. And so we must – and we will – end this outbreak ourselves as Nigerians, together.”
In his first broadcast to the nation on coronavirus last month, Buhari had said: “In Nigeria’s fight against COVID-19, there is no such thing as an overreaction or an under reaction. It is all about the right reaction by the right agencies and trained experts.
“Accordingly, as a Government, we will continue to rely on guidance of our medical professionals and experts at the Ministry of Health, NCDC and other relevant agencies through this difficult time.”
In a follow up broadcast on April 13, he said: “The National Centre for Disease Control has informed me that, a large proportion of new infections are now occurring in our communities, through person-to-person contacts. So we must pay attention to the danger of close contact between person to person.
“Today, the cessation of movement, physical distancing measures and the prohibition of mass gatherings remain the most efficient and effective way of reducing the transmission of the virus.
By sustaining these measures, combined with extensive testing and contact tracing, we can take control and limit the spread of the disease.
“This is not a joke. It is a matter of life and death. Mosques in Makkah and Madina have been closed. The Pope celebrated Mass on an empty St. Peter’s Square.
The famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris held Easter Mass with less than 10 people. India, Italy and France are in complete lockdown. Other countries are in the process of following suit. We cannot be lax.
“The previously issued guidelines on exempted services shall remain.
“This is a difficult decision to take, but I am convinced that this is the right decision. The evidence is clear.
“The repercussions of any premature end to the lockdown action are unimaginable.
“We must not lose the gains achieved thus far. We must not allow a rapid increase in community transmission. We must endure a little longer.”
Recently, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) called on some state governments not to place any consideration above public health issues in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement by the president of the association, Dr Francis Faduyile, and the secretary-general, Dr Olumuyiwa Odusote, NMA called on states not to relax the lockdown measure yet as the country is not ready for such a decision in its fight against the dreadful killer virus.
NMA warned that with more community transmission of COVID-19 being reported in the country, it was vital to eschew any measure that would promote mass gathering. “As such, relaxing any guideline that promotes mass gatherings in any part of our nation now can only heighten and not flatten the curve of transmission dynamics.
The NMA and others warning against the relaxation of the lockdown must among other things, be thinking of the poor living conditions of many Nigerians.
On Friday, the Federal Government, through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, explained why the lockdown measure should not be relaxed just yet. Director-General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said, “We will eventually exit this stage and restart our normal life but that stage is still a while to come and I ask for your endurance, support and patience.
Lots of efforts are going on across the world to find new therapy, to find vaccine.” If this is how the man at the head of the fight against the disease feels, I’ll suggest we really think well about whether to relax the lockdown or not.