Nigeria and the world at large are facing a new reality, SARS-CoV-2. The virus that causes COVID-19 has forced us to make difficult choices to protect ourselves and our loved ones. The lifting of the ban on interstate travel has come with a great deal of relief to individuals and companies who can now move and freely transport their goods. Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Nigeria on February 27, infection rates have continued to rise.
During the World Health Organisation (WHO) media briefing on COVID-19 on July 7, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus cautioned the global community that “the outbreak is accelerating.” For the past few months, since the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, Nigerians have been asked to be socially and physically distanced from one another. The distancing has been from people they love and care about. In many ways, this is very contrary to the Nigerian way of life, as weekends were usually filled with social events. , birthday parties, weddings, owambes, igbankwus and church bazaars. In the East, many women would now be preparing for August meetings. All this has changed as an invisible virus has taken hold of the country, devastating those it manages to infect.
The COVID-19 virus does not discriminate who catches it and everyone is just as vulnerable, but certain groups are more vulnerable than others. Recent data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has shown that three out of five people who die from COVID-19 are over the age of 50. The speed of transmission of the virus and the high fatality among our older population is a cause for concern and provides further reason why every protective measure should be taken to limit the spread of the virus.
During the lockdown, families wanting to pay their last respects to loved ones who had passed away or those who wanted to attend family events had to postpone all ceremonies. Now with the inter-state travel restriction lifted, asking people not to visit loved ones, especially older family members and relatives, is a tough discussion. However, right now, this is necessary as until we halt the spread of COVID-19, we will be in this fight against the COVID-19 virus for much longer, or until a vaccine is found.
This is why although interstate travel restrictions have been lifted, the spread of the virus has not stopped. The repeated emphasis on taking responsibility has become even more glaring as there is clear evidence of community transmission across the country with burden more pronounced in certain local government areas. Since the easing of the initial lockdown measures, adherence to the directives has been poor and the Federal Ministry of Health has asked Nigerians to continue practising many of the preventive public health measures advised, such as physical distancing, frequent hand washing and the wearing of face masks.
The easing of the interstate travel restrictions puts vulnerable groups such as the over-50 and people with pre-existing co-morbidities at increased risk. Health care services outside of the urban areas are more limited, so if COVID-19 were to take hold in rural areas, the consequences would be terrible. We must, therefore, do the best we can to shield and protect these high-risk groups, keeping them physically apart from populations that are most likely to spread the virus.
COVID-19 does not spread on its own, if people keep moving around, the virus will keep on moving with them. The easing of interstate travel restrictions will now increase the potential of the virus to spread further. That is why Nigerians have to take individual and collective responsibility, protecting themselves and their loved ones by restricting the spread of the virus. The government cannot do it alone.
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