A New Normal, as Northern Governors Lift Ban on Lockdowns

A New Normal, as Northern Governors Lift Ban on Lockdowns

AREWA AGENDA – With a significant rise in cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, some Northern States appear poised to be coasting to a new normal as Governors, Thursday began lifting of ban on weeks long lockdowns that have affected economies, trade, religious and social gatherings in their domain.

Barely 12hours after various state Governments made the announcement, Nigeria’s confirmed COVID-19 cases crossed the 5,000 mark as the country announce 193 new infections.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in a tweet late Thursday night stated that the new cases were reported in 15 States with 58 from Lagos, 46 recorded in Kano, 35 in Jigawa and 12 in Yobe.

Plateau and Gombe had five new cases with Borno, Kwara and Edo State recording three each.

Apparently reacting to the decision of some of the State Governors the NCDC had in a text broadcast message sent to Nigerians Thursday evening said it was supporting States to control COVID-19, urging Nigerians to, “Please follow rules put in place to protect Nigerians so that we can stop the disease together.”

Coronavirus May Never Go Away – WHO

The World Health Organization had said the coronavirus spreading across the globe could become a constant presence in the world.

During a media briefing in Geneva, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, warned Wednesday that the disease may join the mix of viruses that kill people around the world every year.

“This virus just may become another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away. HIV hasn’t gone away,” Ryan said. “I’m not comparing the two diseases but I think it is important that we’re realistic. I don’t think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear.”

More than 4.4 million cases of the virus have been recorded worldwide with over 300,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s latest tally.

Multiple teams of scientists around the world are currently trying to develop a viable coronavirus vaccine.

“We may have a shot at eliminating this virus but that vaccine will have to be available, it will have to be highly effective, it will have to be made available to everyone and we’ll have to use it,” Ryan said. “This disease may settle into a long-term problem or it may not.”

Lifting the Ban on Lockdown

In a move that seem like a knee jerk reaction to the latest proclamation on the virus by the world health body, some of the Northern State executives seems to have settled with the decision to prepare their people to live with the virus.

Borno Government took the lead with the State Government announcing early Thursday that it has “indefinitely” suspended lockdowns, asking Mosques and Churches to open.

The lockdown was imposed three weeks ago after the state recorded its COVID-19 index case.

But in a statement on Wednesday night, the Deputy Governor and state Chairman, COVID-19 Response Committee, Usman Kadafur, said the purpose of ordering a lockdown had been achieved.

He said, “The lockdown is being suspended indefinitely to study the situation for the time being, however, where the situation escalates, the government should revert to the status quo.”

Following suit, Adamawa State Governor Ahmadu Fintiri issued a directive easing the restriction order on worship places and social gatherings.

The directive was contained in a statement by Mr Humwashi Wonosikou, Press Secretary to the governor on Thursday in Yola.

“The easing of the lockdown comes as the state discharges five from its isolation center after testing negative of the virus. Therefore, churches, mosques and the International Cattle Markets under lockdown can now reopen,”
“Government now believes the contagion rate is low enough to justify a cautious easing of the restriction, but warned that citizens must work extra hard on personal hygiene and strict adherence to laid down guidelines.” Fintiri said.

On his part, Inuwa Yahaya, governor of Gombe who also lifted the lockdown on Thursday, said the decision followed assurances from the religious leaders to comply with all health directives on the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the restriction imposed by the state government to contain community spread of the disease had yielded results.

Also, Nasarawa State has announced it is set to relax the ban on religious gathering.

The State Security Council led by Governor Abdullahi Sule made this known to journalists Thursday after an expanded meeting at Government House, Lafia.

According to the governor, in a week’s time, when all the protective equipment must have been provided for the citizens, the state may relax restrictions on places of worship.

Further, restriction on shops other than those selling foodstuffs outside the markets has been relaxed from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. daily across to state, with provision for handwashing and sanitising of hands.

On Tuesday May 12, 2020, Jigawa state govnor Abubakar Badaru had announced that Muslims in the State can now perform Jumma’s prayers in Mosques for the first time in four weeks.

Similarly, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State has lifted the ban on congregational prayers in Mosques and Churches placed to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 in the state.

Mr Matawalle made the announcement in a state-wide radio broadcast on Thursday in Gusau.

“I want to commend the people of the state for supporting the government in our effort to frustrate the spread of coronavirus in our dear state by complying with the lockdown orders.

“In the light of this, therefore, we are suspending restrictions on congregational prayers in Mosques and Churches while appealing to people not to converge in large numbers at the same time,” he said.

A new Normal

Despite lifting ban on lockdowns across these states, it wasn’t going to be business as usual as the announcements came with operational guidelines.

Citizens have to be ready to live with the new normal of that mandated anyone in public spaces to use non-medical face masks and observe social distancing amongst other measures that has largely been observed in the breach by most people.

“The use of facemasks by the public be made mandatory and enforcible. Government, traditional rulers, religious leaders, community leaders, and opinion leaders should enforce social distancing, especially in public gatherings/worship places.

Henceforth, Juma’at prayers and five daily prayers shall be observed in all mosques as recommended by Borno State Council of Ulamas in strict adherence with the social distancing and the face mask.

“All churches shall conduct church services as recommended by the Christian Association of Nigeria, Borno Chapter in strict adherence to social distancing and use of facemasks.” Announced the Borno State Government.

On its part, the Adamawa State Government stated that, “the 8 pm to 6 am curfew will remain in place until further notice,” further warning that citizens must work extra hard on personal hygiene and strict adherence to laid down guidelines.

“Churches, Mosques and the international cattle markets under lockdown can now reopen, but must ensure social distancing with no more than 50 people at a time.

“Other measures include provision of hand sanitisers or washing of hands and temperature checks at the point of entry.” the statement reads.

Nasarawa also cautioned that the relaxation of restrictions would be with strict adherence to preventive regulations, including physical distancing.

Reimposing Lockdowns, an Emerging New Trend

Relaxing lockdowns in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is not new to the world. However, some countries that had already opened up are closing down again after renewed spikes in infections.

Lebanon on Tuesday became the latest country to reimpose restrictions after experiencing a surge of infections, almost exactly two weeks after it appeared to have contained the spread of the virus and began easing up. Authorities ordered a four-day, near-complete lockdown to allow officials time to assess the rise in numbers.

The reemergence of coronavirus cases in many parts of Asia is also prompting a return to closures in places that had claimed success in battling the disease or appeared to have eradicated it altogether, including South Korea, regarded as one of the continent’s top success stories.

South Korea last week rescinded a go-ahead for bars and clubs to reopen after a spike in cases, hours after officials announced the lifting of previous social distancing restrictions and the start of a “new everyday life with the coronavirus.”

In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic first emerged, authorities on Tuesday ordered the testing of all 11 million inhabitants after a cluster of six new infections emerged, five weeks after the city had apparently rid itself of the disease.

Germany, which is widely regarded as the model in Europe of a balanced coronavirus response, is warning that some areas may have to reinstate restrictions after localized outbreaks caused a rise in cases.

Lockdowns and Pandemics

With no vaccine or therapeutic drugs available against COVID-19, confinement and quarantine have been the prominent and proven measures taken across the world to contain the pandemic.

This scenario, though new to most of us, has played out multiple times over the past few centuries.

The first time in history that lockdown measures were used as a part of an organised response against health emergencies was probably during the plague outbreaks in Italy in the Renaissance period often referred to as the Great Plague of Milan which claimed possibly one million lives or about 25% of the population.

According to John Henderson, Professor of Italian Renaissance History at Birkbeck, University of London, that plague provided a template for public health strategies, developing what was described as the first effective plague measures which emerged over the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries and can be seen applied in full force during the plague in Florence in 1630-31 with parallels between the COVID-19 measures of today – confinements, quarantine and contact tracing – and those in Florence almost 400 years ago.

However, historical trends have revealed that whether it’s caused by fear, frustration, or the helplessness that comes with lockdowns, human beings do not respond well to forced confinement.
These feelings are often exacerbated by sentiments that the vulnerable are being taken advantage of.

There is also outrage that accompanies the gained knowledge that in almost all cases, the resources needed are not available – as it is difficult to prepare for the unknown.

According to Alex Navarro, assistant director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan, which detailed historical accounts of the 1918-19 flu pandemic in 43 cities, “I think that human nature being what it is, people don’t like to have their lives disrupted.
Initially, they might go along with it, but as these closure orders drag on and as people’s lives continue to be fractured, there’s a breaking point.”

With so many pressure on government from hungry citizens and religious enthusiasts, many other state are likely to follow in the same pattern of easing lockdowns, a decision that rests mostly on the shoulders of state Governors.

However, governments that agree it is time to start living with the virus should ensure adequate measures are being put in place with operational guidelines to curb spread strictly enforced otherwise a second wave of spike in the dreaded virus might proof to costly to contain.

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