COVID-19: Health NGOs ask governors to reverse directive on lockdown

The Health Sector Reform Coalition (HSRC), a group of non-governmental actors, has asked governors across the country to reverse all directives on lockdown relaxation to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Many states had banned large gatherings and restricted movements in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

But in a sudden turn of event, some states began to relax the measures to allow religious events take place.

Some of the states where the lockdown measures have been relaxed include Abia, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Niger and Ondo.

In a statement issued by Mike Egboh and Chizoba Wonodi, co-chairs of HSRC COVID-19 response task team on Friday, the coalition expressed concern over the lifting of ban on movement.

It said the lockdown measure is considered a welcome development as it remains the safest way to prevent a catastrophe from occurring in Nigeria.

HRSC called on governors to cancel all plans to relax the lockdown, while asking those who already gave the directives to reverse their decisions.

“Scientific evidence and experience from developed and developing countries reinforce that avoiding crowd, physical distancing, hand-washing and respiratory hygiene  are still the best ways to prevent the spread and associated deaths,” the statement read.

“With the high number of people living in poverty, high prevalence of chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes (underlying diseases) and very weak health systems, it will be catastrophic if the virus spreads widely in Nigeria.

“Data from the WHO and Johns Hopkins shows that 1.6 million people  have tested positive and more than 95 thousand have died from COVID-19 between December 2019 to April 9, 2020. While majority of infections and deaths have been in developed countries, both infections and deaths are also rising in Africa.

“Cases in Nigeria have multiplied from one to 288 in six weeks with seven deaths. Number of states with established cases have risen from one to 17 within the same period.

“Because our testing is grossly inadequate, the true numbers of cases  in Nigeria may be hidden. It is highly likely that community spread is happening because up to 85% of the infected may be asymptomatic yet capable of transmitting the virus. Our containment is still in the nascent stage, this is not the time to relax our guard. The couple of weeks are very critical in containing an upsurge in the  number of confirmed cases.

“We implore our governors to cancel all  plans or reverse the directives to lift the ban on gatherings until the NCDC  and Federal Ministry of Health advise otherwise, No matter the pressure, this is not the time for populism.

“We call on the federal government and state  governments to increase the delivery of economic mitigation packages to households and individuals that are in need, to reduce the pressure on people to go out for their daily living.

“We ask all Nigerians to PLEASE continue to listen to the advice of health experts represented by NCDC and WHO at this critical time. Nothing is more important than staying alive.”

Nigeria currently has 288 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 51 patients have been discharged and seven deaths recorded.