Coronavirus: Doctors seek extension to lockdown

Ahead of the imminent review of the lockdown imposed on the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian Medical Association has advised the Federal Government to again extend the lockdown, which ends on Monday (tomorrow).

This, the association said, would help to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus disease.

It added that with the “exponential” rise in the number of cases recorded across the country daily, people should not see the lockdown as a punishment but a necessary measure to contain the spread of the deadly virus. It, however, stressed the need for fair distribution of the palliatives to cushion the hardship the restriction had caused Nigerians.

But the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture; the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association; and the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Muda Yusuf, opposed the possible extension of the total lockdown, saying the government should consider the partial opening of the economy.

The President had on March 29 imposed a 14-day lockdown on the FCT and the two states to contain the spread of the virus. At the end of the 14 days, which terminated on April 13, the President extended the lockdown, saying the pandemic had become a matter of life and death and that it was no longer a joke.

However, barely a day to the end of the extension, stakeholders have disagreed on whether the President should extend the lockdown or ease it. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, had maintained that only the President could decide on whether there would be an extension of the lockdown or it would be lifted.

As of April 13 when the President extended the lockdown, the number of cases was 343 in 19 states and the FCT. The number of deaths was 10 while 91 persons had been discharged. But, there were 87 new cases on Saturday, pushing the number of cases to 1,182 in 28 states and the FCT. The number of deaths rose to 35 while 222 persons had been discharged.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, said on Sunday that the state had yet to reach its COVID-19 peak despite recording the highest case so far. He had also warned on March 27 that the state might see up to 39,000 cases but that if everyone practised good social distancing, the figure would be limited to 13,000.

During the week, the Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chike Ihekweazu, had also hinted that the virus would eventually spread to all the 36 states. “There is no reason why it won’t (extend to every state in Nigeria), it is a respiratory virus,” he added.

The DG also said on Tuesday that the President would make tougher decisions in the coming week on measures to contain the spread of the virus. He, however, advised Nigerians to be prepared for the tougher directives. “Next week, Mr President will make some very difficult decisions for the country in terms of the lockdown in three states but also across the country in different ways,” he added.

Already, there is increasing tension and impatience among people in the affected states and the FCT over the possibility that the lockdown might be extended.

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