By Monsuru Olowoopejo
There are strong indications that President Muhammadu Buhari could extend lockdown imposed on Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States, to next month, in order to make Nigeria become the first African country to be removed by World Health Organisation (WHO) from countries ravaged by coronavirus.
Also, the President could add Kano State to the list after it coronavirus testing was halted in the state and hours after, about 32 deaths were recorded without the government and health experts identifying the major cause that led to the death, even after some experts claimed the deceased died after contracting COVID-19.
The indications emerged after states, that were earlier regarded as a safe haven, recorded first coronavirus case and confirmed cases jumped to an imaginable height 1,273 with less than 300 patients recovering from the virus in the country even after retired health workers were drafted into the treatment circle and testing of patients intensified across the state with 15 functioning centers.
After the initial 14-day lockdown imposed on the three states, which began on March 30, to flatten the curve of coronavirus, Buhari announced a 14-day extension of lockdown on April 13, to combat the pandemic, an action that earned him recognition from other West African leaders who elected him as incident commander for the region.
The aim, however, which prompted the imposed lockdown, pundits said, has not been achieved and demanded extension of lockdown in Nigeria to assist thousands of the citizens to ascertain their COVID-19 status and prevent new cases that could be discovered after from spreading the virus among Nigerians.
Buhari’s address is coming barely 24 hours after the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, led other top members of COVID-19 Taskforce team to brief the President on achievement recorded in the country.
After his meeting with the President, the minister said: “We do think that the restriction of movement limits significantly the spread of the virus. The models we have seen show that we have not gotten to the peak yet”.
The statement from the has further drawn reactions and appeal from health officials that the President should disregard any appeal from the Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF) that the lockdown should be relaxed, claiming that the consequence could be severe considering the manner at which the virus spread in the country.
Among the pundits supporting the continued extension of lockdown in Nigeria and other African countries is Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, in his address on Monday, raised concerns that the number of cases emanating from African countries including Nigeria, Europe and Asia further indicated that lockdown remains the best strategy to prevent further spread of coronavirus when there were no certified drugs to treat COVID-19 patient.
Apparently referring to health crisis rocking Kano State and other cities that could have allegedly adopted the denial strategy, Adhanom, argued that underreporting coronavirus related deaths would not end the virus but further elongate its stay within the region.
“As lockdowns in Europe ease with declining numbers of new cases, we continue to urge countries to find, isolate, test and treat all cases of COVID-19 and trace every contact, to ensure these declining trends continue. But the pandemic is far from over.
“WHO continues to be concerned about the increasing trends in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and some Asian countries. As in all regions, cases and deaths are underreported in many countries in these regions because of low testing capacity.
“We are continuing to support these countries with technical assistance through our regional and country offices, and with supplies through Solidarity Flights. In the past week, we have delivered supplies to more than 40 countries in Africa, and more are planned”, he added.
Also, Minister of State for FCT, Ramatu Aliyu, also supported the lockdown imposed by Buhari, describing it as the best strategy to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
“No nation prays for that and I will not speak for Mr President. But from what we have seen in other developed climes, lockdown seems to be one of the best ways out of the pandemic ravaging and spreading.
“So to curb this spread and to reduce it to the barest minimum, the lockdown is better. So many parameters have to come to play here. That is why it is the decision of the leadership,” she added.