Editorial: Lock Down Nigeria, Now

Nigeria has, at last, recorded a death from Coronavirus, death of a high profile retired public officer.

This death is not a surprise because everyone expected that at some point, a confirmed case might go this way. Most, however, expected that the first report of death might have come from Lagos – the state where majority of our citizens who flew in from overseas have flocked to. Instead, it came from Abuja, the city where only three cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed prior to this time.

It is instructive that the death came from a case that was not hitherto captured in the public record. It must be a sobering moment for all of us. This death indicates that it is no longer a matter of speculation that there could be others silently battling the disease in their homes and not submitting themselves to the processes that could save them and also save millions of their fellow citizens.

Nigeria has done everything it could possibly do wrong to ensure that, first, the virus is allowed free entry, and second, that it continues to spread silently and ferociously.

As you read this today, 23 March 2020, the Nigerian airspace is still not closed to commercial airlines from overseas. The order from the regulator – the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) – is for Lagos and Abuja international airports to close to foreign airlines with effect from 11.00 p.m. tonight.

The result of this dithering has been obvious: More than 90 percent of Covid-19 cases so far confirmed in Nigeria are from people who flew into the country within the past seven days.

As you read this, people are still jetting around through domestic airlines, including those that came in from overseas and are mingling with the fortunate few who could afford to fly.

As you read this, the Nigerian e-visa policy has not been officially cancelled. Foreigners with US visas are said to be exploiting this loophole by flying into Nigeria and boarding aircraft for the US, something they could not do from their home countries.

Oversea transit passengers passing through Lagos and Abuja international airports without knowing they already have the symptoms will definitely pass it on to immigration officials processing their e-visas who, in turn, will take it to town in Lagos and Abuja.

As you read this, 33 states in Nigeria do not have the facility to test the virus but must take a trip, with samples from suspected cases, to laboratories in two of Nigeria’s six regions. As happened in the Enugu case, suspects may even have died before the results come back.

As you read this, we can safely say that the silent battle for self-glorification – between Lagos and Federal authorities on the one hand, and between actors in the health sector, on the other hand – has been subdued, possibly as a result of the overwhelming threat they all can see clearly now.

Nevertheless, who will be surprised if some federal and state actors take this as an opportunity to approve budgets that can be diverted into private pockets while equipment and processes they need to put in place are corrupted?

As you read this, Nigerian authorities are asking travelers from high risk countries to self-isolate. This essentially means to go back to their homes and not mingle with society until after two weeks. Going back to their individual homes is not self-isolation – if the home also habours other family members and relations that the returnee freely mingles with within the self-isolation period.

All that needs to happen is for the person in so-called self-isolation to be positive to the virus and to infect a family member who freely mingles with society, and the result is too obvious to miss.

As you read this, save for Lagos State, many churches, markets, and areas with high footfalls in all the states of the federation are still in business, our people are freely mingling, and we are creating jokes about the virus and about social distancing.

We are saying enough of this tomfoolery. It is time for our various governments to go into near-panic mode, stop fooling around, institute and enforce drastic solutions. Domestic flights need to be grounded. All schools need to close. All open markets and anchor shops need to close. All social gatherings need to be banned and the bans strictly enforced. Governments need to buy food for the people that they will be asking to go into self-isolation because, for majority of our people, there is hunger in the land and no money to buy food.

eMetro News calls on Nigerian citizens to be aware of the danger we face at this moment and face up to it as individuals and as families. We are facing an existential threat. We all need to collectively fight this thing and stay safe.

If deliberate and intentional panic will do it for individuals and families, we highly recommend it.

Social Distancing is the Solution

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