COVID-19 second wave: Does Nigeria need another lockdown?
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DURING the Thursday briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja, national coordinator of the PTF, Sani Aliyu, said the federal government might impose another lockdown if the recorded cases continued to increase, but Nigerians are divided about this proposal.
The ICIR examines the pros and cons of another lockdown in Nigeria.
On March 29, 2020, Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president, imposed a total lockdown on COVID-19 hotspots in the country, including the commercial hub, Lagos, and political capital, the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja).
Buhari had said the lockdown was part of efforts to curb the spread of the deadly disease.
Many unwanted events, however, followed the restrictions.
During the lockdown, the economy and commercial activities were on a total lockdown in most parts of the country, with Nigerians in almost every sector facing unprecedented economic hardship.
Apart from the economic crunch experienced by 85 percent of Nigerians, 82.9 million Nigerians were thrown into extreme poverty, constituting 40.1 percent of the total population, with real per capita expenditures below N137, 430 in 2019, according to two separate reports by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
During a five-week lockdown imposed by federal government in Lagos, Ogun states and the FCT to curb the spread of Coronavirus, entrepreneurs and firms lost billions of naira.
According to a survey by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), 64 percent of respondents (mainly business leaders and owners) said they lost below N500, 000 daily, while 16 percent lost between N500,000 and N1 million each day during the lockdown.
Similarly, 12 percent lost above N5 million each day, while 7 percent incurred between N2 million and N4 million loss daily.
There was also massive disruption in the academic calendar of Nigerian schools, which was made worse by lack of a national plan on digital learning.
The NBS also reported that a high rate of households recorded income losses since mid-March, adding that 79 percent of households said their total income decreased.
The government’s statistics concluded that incomes from all sources were affected by the pandemic and reported to have decreased since mid-March.
The ICIR investigation also detailed the increase in Sexual and Gender-based Violence, (SGBV) due to the lockdown which meant that families had to spend more time together than usual.
While further crippling the economic strength of Nigerians, smallholder farmers, most of whom were women, narrated the harrowing effects of the lockdown on their farm produce due to ban on transportation.
Their worries also included lack of access to fertilizers and other inputs.
Holistically, this and other factors contributed to the economic recession of Nigeria, with the economic growth contracting by -3.62 per cent in the third quarter of 2020, recording a second consecutive quarterly gross development product, (GDP) decline since the recession of 2016. The cumulative GDP for the first nine months of 2020 stood at -2.48 per cent.
The recession and other negative impacts were some of the effects that are bound to recur if the federal government decides to impose another lockdown in the country.
Chukwuma Soludo, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) government, had said before the first lockdown that Nigeria and Africa would not be able to bear the consequences of lockdowns due to the fragility of their economies.
Caught in-between unresolved dilemma
However, if the government does not impose another lockdown, there are chances that the cases of the deadly virus would skyrocket due to the high disrespect for the preventive measures rolled out by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Amidst allayed fears of a second wave of COVID-19 and increase in the number of recorded cases, many Nigerians continue to gather in their hundreds for religious activities and festivities with total disrespect for social distancing or use of facemasks, resulting in government’s consideration of a fresh lockdown.
However, some Nigerians believe that COVID-19 is not as bad as being reported in Nigeria, arguing that government and its agencies are only profiting from the situation.
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“Have you ever seen anybody killed by the virus?” Samuel Ibeabuchi asked on Sunday.
“They are only using it to make money. It only kills people in the Western world,” Ibeabuchi said.
Ibeabuchi’s position represents the position held by many Nigerians. But his assertion could only be half-truth, as 1,350 persons in Nigeria have been killed by the virus as of Saturday, January 9, according to the NCDC.
Data from the NCDC reveal that since the outbreak of the virus earlier in February 2020, a total of 97,478 cases have been confirmed as at January 9, 2021, out of which 78,552 have been discharged, representing over 80 percent recovery rate.
The federal government and its over 200 million masses are caught between the options of risking an increase in the number of cases and facing the hardship that comes with a total lockdown (again).
But some think that the government does not need to copy the lockdown measures adopted by the West where the number of infections is higher.
They suggest that social distancing, legislation of compulsory mask-wearing and increased efforts to acquire vaccines would be more fruitful.