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FEATURE: Combating This Resurgent Plague Head-On

  The recent resurgence of cases of COVID-19 pandemic in the State of Osun and the rampant nature of the cases in some parts of the state have compelled a one-week total lockdown of affected local government areas in the first instance. NIYI OLASINDE treats issues revolving around this resurgence; just as he beams searchlight…”
Yusuf
July 12, 2020 5:35 pm

 

The recent resurgence of cases of COVID-19 pandemic in the State of Osun and the rampant nature of the cases in some parts of the state have compelled a one-week total lockdown of affected local government areas in the first instance. NIYI OLASINDE treats issues revolving around this resurgence; just as he beams searchlight on ways out of the deadly scourge.

IT is sad indeed that we are still here, several months after our editions debuted on Coronavirus, dealing with the same ravaging viral infection. We will not be sincere if we start to apportion blames or point accusing fingers at any one person or group for arriving at the crossroads we currently find ourselves. In all sincerity, we all tried, both as government and people, to see to the riddance of this debilitating plague. As a state with a responsible and responsive government in the saddle, efforts were made and all available arsenals were employed / deployed to see to it that incidence of the virus came to zero. But as at today, that has not been the case.

No sooner had the Federal Government issued a lockdown directive on Abuja / Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states than the State of Osun went on the first round of lockdown. The lockdown went on in several rounds, accompanied by closure inter-state borders. The efforts that went pari-passu with the lockdowns are so numerous and overwhelming. We were all taken through series of conscious and deliberate reorientation in adjustment in lifestyles and behavior patterns. Places of worship, sports centres, recreation centres, markets and other diverse places of public convergence were locked down.

Aside these, schools were closed. There was total clampdown on all activities. Restriction in movement could not allow for economic activities to move on well. All markets, all businesses and all activities that wield the potential of drawing people together in large numbers were forbidden. In this way, the entire State of Osun, likewise many other places across the nation, was locked down for two weeks in two separate instances or even more in some places.

Upon the relaxation of the lockdown, partial restrictions were introduced with curfew introduced within certain hours of the day. In the State of Osun, the curfew was introduced to last within the hours of 5:00 in the evening till 6:00 in the morning everyday. In addition to this, the economy was opened from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. everyday from Mondays to Thursdays; while the entire state went on total lockdown effective from Thursdays to Sundays. This situation also went on for about three weeks. The weekends were absolutely locked down to enable residents resist the temptation of resuming to the ‘owanbe’ traditions which usually persisted during the weekend. With the inclusion of Fridays and Sundays on the lockdown schedule, it had been made clear that worship in convergences were still forbidden for both Christians and Moslems. This situation held sway over time.

Alongside the measures enumerated above, other measures, strict and stringent were imposed. Throughout the lockdown periods, only the personnel on essential services were on free movement; and these ones were issued with tags for proper identification. This was in addition to their various means of routine identification. Waivers were given to transporters of essential goods like food, drugs/pharmaceuticals and other vital commodities that are considered essential to life. Operators of passenger buses, commercial commuter buses, mini buses, commercial tricycles and others; who convey passengers either within towns and cities or across towns were restricted to certain number of passengers. Commercial motorcycle operators, popularly called ‘okada’ riders also got the number of passengers they could convey to one. These were efforts to curtail the spread of the notorious virus through avoidance of overcrowding, via consummate application of physical distancing rules. In virtually all situations, residents were educated and enlightened not to exchange handshake, or extend other intimate gestures like kissing, hugging and the rest. It became more fanciful to find people extending goodwill pleasantries through various gestures like elbow knocks, feet strikes and other funny non-verbal and non-interactive gestures.

More than before, etiquettes were more pronounced in sneezing, coughing, yawning and other manners that could activate the release of the mucus membrane. The saliva, spittle and other fluids in this category could cause the spread of the virus from a carrier or an infected person upon contact with a non-infected one. Having gotten the awareness and consciousness, adherence became much easier. Above all, the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers and face/nose masks became the order of the day. The hand sanitisers served the purpose of disinfecting and sterilizing hands, skins and other parts of the body and surfaces that could have been exposed to infected contacts. The practice of hand washing became a creed renewed with vigour.

With all these measures in place, proper enforcement modalities were instituted, with virtually all security apparatuses of the state fully deployed to use. Either within neighbourhoods, towns, city strategic locations, inter-cities or inter-state, barricades and roadblocks were mounted. Media announcements and public notices sounded warnings repeatedly. It became undeniable for any class of people that they were well cautioned.

Upon the realization that it was impossible and non-expedient to lock down the economy indefinitely; coupled with the fact that with or without the deadly Coronavirus, life must go on, it became imperative to begin to embrace some forms of relaxation in the lockdown. With the gradual relaxation of the strict measures, movement of persons and vehicles was coming alive gradually again, some offices were opened, especially for some categories of essential services providers, all these were coming gradually alive until worship centres got some leverages to worship under strict and stringent conditions. These were well-studied steps and phases and they were enacted with the full consent and involvement of concerned stakeholders.

We need also to state in passing that while the lockdown lasted, it is commendable how governments, organizations, corporate bodies and public-spirited individuals demonstrated their copious goodwill as their brothers’ keepers when they distributed essential commodities and stimulus packages to residents, especially the vulnerable and the less-privileged.

Through thick and thin, we have to applaud the courage, discipline, endurance, forbearance and understanding of our people in abiding by all restriction and preventive measures. To be honest, it is hard to break away from old habits and ways of life. In spite of this fact, our people did well in helping to rid the epidemic from our land. Consistently for some time, the pandemic did not get foothold in our midst. The chef question at this stage is: What went wrong to bring about resurgence in incidents of infection? Upon the sacrifices made so far, should we begin to follow restrictions we have once endured all over again?

With the recent lockdown in certain parts of the state, are we not trailing the path of absolute lockdown gradually again?

The relapsing nature of the pandemic outbreak was brought about by some mistakes of the past and half measures in the application of the strategies imposed. One, the Federal Government erred in failing to lock down the entire states of the federation all at once in the first instance. Secondly, while we cried out to high heavens that our interstate borders were still porous, in spite of visible restriction measures put in place, it appeared nothing serious was done to fortify them. It is also a well-grounded fact that the relaxation of the lockdown and restrictions came to early and too soon. While the lockdowns lasted, there were always escape routes for people with semblance of infection to escape from one state to another. This same mistake currently appears to be roaring its head to hamper the recently-imposed lockdown by the State Government of Osun on four local government areas of the state, namely: Ilesa East, Ilesa West, Atakunmosa East and Atakunmosa West. With the lockdown effective from Tuesday, July 7, 2020 and its declaration since last Friday or Saturday, enough time lapse had been allowed for infected escapees to have infiltrated virtually all parts of the state.

The stage at which we are at present is most sensitive and delicate. We should address the lockdown issue now, once and for all. If the Federal Government finds it either too inexpedient or too late to close the entire nation down all at once, the inter-state restrictions should be re-imposed with stricter enforcement. Within our state, total lockdown and massive scrutiny of nooks and crannies of the state are necessary measures to enable massive detection, testing, diagnosis and treatment of possible cases.

Already, the virus is with us and resides in our midst. The rest of the effort subsists in our prompt action in getting it arrested and killed dead; so it will cease to spread like wildfire. The community transmission stage noticed with some parts of the state could, if timely care is not taken, spread fast to other parts of the state.

We call on our security agents to beef up their strategies and shun all unprofessional conducts reported against them. Their genuine concerted effort will go far in forestalling doom and peril for us as far as this pandemic and all other security risks are concerned.

For now, we should not risk the reopening of our entire schools’ structure. The students at the transit stages, say Primary 6 at Elementary Stage, Junior Secondary 3 and Senior Secondary 3 could resume for their final examinations. For all others who are getting promoted internally from one level to another, the wiser and more expedient approach is to assess them cumulatively through their previous continuous assessment records. We are a generation of the wise. We are endowed with sages as forebears. May God endue us with strength and courage to act wisely.

 

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