Another lockdown is likely in Nigeria with the rising COVID-19 cases, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Novel Coronavirus Control has warned.
The ad hoc body working on prevention of the virus is worried that despite the second wave whose effect is deadlier than the first wave, Nigerians have continued to shun the prescribed protocols.
National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the only way to prevent a re-introduction of a lockdown is by adhering to the advisories.
Many business concerns and the generality of Nigerians have cautioned against another lockdown because it will hurt the economy that has already slumped into recession.
Business leaders have advised the government to seek other options to control the spread of the virus.
Aliyu, speaking on a television programme on Sunday, said: “If you don’t want a lockdown, the only way is to make sure we use our facemasks, avoid mass gatherings, avoid people who have respiratory tract infections, sanitise our hands and follow those non-pharmaceutical interventions.
“The very vaccines that we currently have are those non-pharmaceutical interventions.
“If numbers continue to go up, all options are on the table. There are countries in the world that have been able to control this pandemic simply by following these non-pharmaceutical interventions. They may be inconvenient, but they will not be as difficult as a lockdown”.
Aliyu said cases were multiplying in recent weeks.
“We are talking holistically here. All I can say is that 33 people died of COVID-19 in the last one week. Are we saying those people died for nothing? We have just recorded 6,000 cases in one week, far more than we ever recorded.
“COVID-19 exists; anybody who says COVID-19 does not exist is probably living in a completely different world. In the last one week, we’ve had a tripling of cases. You can see what’s happening in the United States, you can see what’s happening in the UK.
” I’m sure most of those who have been following the numbers will realise that what we have now far exceeds what we had in June/July last year.
“In week 52, which is the week we’ve just finished, we’ve seen a tripling in weekly number of cases, compared to what we had three weeks ago. The 6,000 cases per week is really huge. Our hospitals are already starting to get overloaded and we are already starting to feel the pressure within the healthcare system.
“So, talking about the projection, the projection really depends on whether people will start taking this very seriously and start following those non-pharmaceutical interventions that we’ve been talking about for the last one year.
“We’ve been able to demonstrate that it’s possible to flatten the curve, but we need the cooperation of everybody, we need the cooperation of the general public, we need the cooperation of the state governments”, he said.
Aliyu said vaccines are expected to be available in Nigeria by the end of January, allaying fears being entertained in some quarters about its safety.
He said the administration of the vaccine would be voluntary, as government would not force anyone to take it.
“The vaccine, together with the non-pharmaceutical interventions, is the only way to get on top of this epidemic and by the way, Nigeria cannot afford to be a pariah nation. I can tell you that in the coming months, as more and more people start taking this vaccine, it will be very clear there’s not going to be an issue with safety.
“If you don’t have the vaccine, you are going to be stuck because I am very certain that countries, internationally in the next six months to a year, will start insisting on a certificate before you get into their country. So, you’ll not be able to go for the Hajj, the Umrah or the Christian pilgrimage, holiday to Dubai, or business trip to China or South Africa, if you do not have the vaccine.
“Hopefully, we should have the first batch of the vaccine in the next four weeks, by the end of January.”