Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has shown his anger with Lagosians and others who pass through the State by reading the riot act about sanctions for those not obeying COVID-19 protocols, especially the use of masks and crowding.
He is very upset. Every rational person will understand his frustration that residents do not take the rampaging virus serious enough to continue to comply with imposed protocols and regulations.
But the government itself will take the blame for some of these infractions. It has published what it would do, including the introduction of mobile courts to try offenders on the spot if they do not wear their face masks in the right way. We keep seeing notices saying the ‘law takes off this Wednesday’ for those caught not wearing masks but we have not seen the implementation of such laws. Instead, everywhere you go, people are walking about without masks.
It is a known fact that Nigerians need to be forced to comply with laws, even those meant to protect them and save their lives; that is how we are programmed. It is only in corporate environments and formal business outlets like banks and other business offices that wearing of masks is enforced. Even government offices are not enforcing the protocols. Just visit any local government council office to transact business and nothing has changed from pre-COVID times. Visitors and staff mill about renewing one form of license or another without facemasks and without observing social or physical distance.
The issue of vaccination is a different kettle of fish. It has taken months to exhaust the small number of vaccines allocated to Nigeria, with opposition even from so-called educated people. Many of such people know everything negative about the vaccines and have done all they can to convince people not to be vaccinated. Some fly outright stupid theories of the vaccine containing magnetic matter or it can generate electricity to power light bulbs.
And the main issue of the 3rd wave of the virus, with the advent of the Delta variant, does not even seem to worry these Doubting Thomases and their disciples.
National Centre for Disease Control infection figures have been on the rise in the last two weeks. The Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 has had to come out to confirm that the new virus strain was in Nigeria, brought in by air travelers, and that the Delta variant is here to do more damage if we continue to ignore the protocols.
From almost zero figures, NCDC confirmed last Friday 146 new cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, made up of Lagos-110; Enugu-18; Oyo-7; Rivers-5; Gombe-3; FCT-2; Kaduna-1.
Yesterday, NCDC reported 154 cases, with Lagos-119, Akwa Ibom-11, Rivers-6; Oyo-5; Ekiti-4; Ogun-4; FCT-2; Gombe-2; Kwara-1.
Then came the news yesterday that the University of Lagos was closing down its halls of residence and lecture halls because infections had been discovered on the campus. Only virtual lectures would go on and all the halls are expected to be empty from today. Tough for the students, but what must be done, must be done.
Governor Sanwo-Olu did not mince words in his coronavirus press statement on Sunday, 11th July, 2021 – the rapid infection increase gives great cause for concern, with the occupancy rate at isolation centres increasing from an average of 1% to 6% – all this even as Nigeria is counting on Lagos State to be resolute in its stand against the virus.
Going down memory lane, the Governor noted that starting around the end of March 2021, “The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Lagos State began to wind down, and we began to enjoy some reprieve from the worst effects of the virus. This allowed us to further open-up the economy to allow the start of the journey towards full normalcy in our lives and the pursuit of livelihoods, after what has been a very difficult year”.
He regretted that from the beginning of July, Lagos started to experience a steep increase in the number of daily confirmed cases and “We will continue to test aggressively. We will also focus on sequencing the samples we are collecting to ensure we are detecting and keeping track of the different variants in circulation. It is only by testing and sequencing comprehensively that we can collect the data required for informed decision-making”.
On vaccination, he said the percentage of residents of Lagos who have received two doses of the vaccine stands at a mere 1%, stating that this is not adequate, and given the imminent third wave, and the priority to reduce COVID-19 related deaths, the State is exploring all avenues possible to ramp up access to vaccination so as to reach the herd immunity target of at least 60% COVID-19 vaccination coverage of the population of Lagos State. Sanwo-Olu expressed confidence that Lagos will be getting a second batch of vaccines very soon, to kick-start the second phase of vaccinations.
On travel protocols for in-bound passengers, between 8th May 2021 and 7th July 2021, a total of 50,322 passengers of interest arrived in Lagos via the Murtala Mohammed Airport. Of the 50,322 passengers, 18 percent could not be reached by EKOTELEMED because of the provision of either wrong numbers or wrong Nigerian contact details to be reached on.
Going forward, therefore, passengers that do not provide the right details, including a phone number they can be reached for monitoring and an address for isolation, will face serious sanctions, including fines and imprisonment according to Lagos State Coronavirus Law of 2021.
On quarantine defaulters, the Governor disclosed that 15% of the 2,386 passengers expected to observe mandatory isolation absconded and they will be sanctioned according to the law, as follows:
- For Foreigners: Revocation of their Permanent Residency, and deportation; and
- For Nigerians: Prosecution to the full extent of the Lagos State COVID-19 Law.
As for Churches, Mosques and other places of religious worship, the Governor warned them not to be carried away by the illusion that all was now back to normal, especially as Sallah approaches.
For this reason, government is insisting on mandatory full compliance with all protective protocols:
- Compulsory use of masks in all public places
- Social distancing
- Temperature checks
- Provisions for hand-washing and sanitizers, and
- A maximum of 50 percent occupancy in enclosed spaces
The resistance or reluctance of citizens to abide by the set out protocols, as the Governor noted, may be due to pandemic fatigue. But as our elders have repeatedly told us, unless you fully eliminate the enemy, you cannot sleep with both eyes closed; i.e. you cannot put a half-dead animal in your bag – it must be confirmed dead.
Therefore, COVID-19 is still very much with us and vaccination by only one percent of Lagosians is not something to be happy about. I am quite sure that the percentage of those vaccinated will even be much less in other States.
The onus is on every one of us to obey the protocols more diligently now, because the Delta variant is said to be even more dangerous than the original COVID-19 that those of us still alive today have managed to avoid in the last 18 months.
IMAGE CREDIT: meridian health
Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairsmeridian specialist, writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.