A human rights organisation in Nigeria, Lawyers Alert, has cautioned Nigerians not to let their guards down against the Coronavirus pandemic after the easing of the lockdown by the government.
The President of Lawyers Alert, Rommy Mom, noted that many people were no longer wearing face masks and that many have jettisoned other measures recommended to prevent the spread of the virus.
Mom expressed concern that life seems to have reverted to normal as citizens go about their daily activities uninhibited, following the lifting of the lockdown.
He urged Nigerians to support government’s efforts in curbing the spread of Coronavirus by wearing masks, maintaining social distance, frequent washing of hands under running water, as well as sanitising hands and touchable surface.
He called on Nigerian citizens to adhere to laid down COVID-19 protocols for preventing the spread of the virus in the country.
Mom called for awareness campaigns to sensitise Nigerians to the efficacy of masks in preventing spread.
He said: “Following the lifting of the lockdown, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 mandated a number of measures in line with World Health Organization’s proposals for preventing the spread of the virus. These include public use of masks, frequent hand-washing and physical distancing especially in crowded places.”
Mom said research has revealed challenges with enforcing the measures, especially in crowded areas and localities where citizens lack adequate information.
He noted that a number of community-related risk factors have been identified as the cause of non-adherence to practicing recommended preventive measures.
According to him: “There is widespread disbelief among the populace about the existence of the pandemic. Even citizens with adequate access to information choose not to follow the prevention guidelines.”
He said Nigerians have willfully chosen to ignore the potential possibility of infection and consequences of same, warning that living in denial will not halt the spread of the disease and has the potential to actually worsen the spread.
He also noted that majority of the populace still remain ignorant about their COVID-19 status owing to an inability or unwillingness to get tested.
Quoting the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Mom said as at September 21, 2020, there were 7,677 active cases, 48,836 discharged cases and 1100 deaths, which makes it a total of 484,051 samples tested and 57,613 confirmed cases recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
He said if citizens adhere to several guidelines provided by the NCDC, further spread of the virus would be prevented
He said: “Nigerians must not allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security owing to the low number of fatalities recorded so far. This is a new virus and the way it functions is yet to be fully understood even by leading scientists across the globe. It is therefore crucial that we do everything in our power to get our people to imbibe the message of prevention instead. It is after all said to be better than cure.”
The Lawyers Alert president called on the Government to scale up existing advocacy campaigns.
Mom said this can be achieved through advocacy visits to Community Based Organizations, Traditional Rulers, Religious Leaders and others such as community gatekeepers owing to how influential these groups tend to be.
He charged interest groups, from the formal to the informal sector to partner with NCDC, the PTF and other similar organizations to help spread the word on the significance of masks to halting the spread of the virus.
He said: “For instance, formal spaces such as business environments can mandate the use of masks for access. Transport workers (drivers) could be encouraged to wear masks and insist on same from passengers. Social distancing could also be practiced in commercial vehicles by carrying fewer passengers and spacing them in the vehicles. Individuals who can afford to should maintain frequent use of alcohol-based sanitizers where the option of washing hands is not readily available.”
He said Lawyers Alert is collating public opinion on the use of masks and has begun the process of sensitizing the general public on its importance.
Mom said: “The organization is also focused on gathering data on challenges faced by citizens especially poor and marginalized groups, and reaching the right stakeholders with this documentation in order to share lessons learnt and make recommendations.”