WHY EASING COVID-19 LOCKDOWN IN LAGOS MAY BE MORE COMPLICATED THAN WE ENVISAGED.
Tope Babade is a lecturer in the Department of Estate Management, University of Lagos and also a member of Land Management and Administration cluster.
COVID-19 pandemic had infected over 3.7million people and killed over 250,000 worldwide as at May 05, 2020 according to tracking website – worldometer info. Nigeria had 2,950 confirmed cases, 98 deaths while Lagos had 1,183 confirmed cases, 30 deaths as at the same date according to the National Centre for Disease Control. Global efforts to get a cure a yielding slow results including COCID-Organics in Madagascar and Remdesivir from the USA.
On Sunday May 3, 2020 Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu released State guidelines for lifting the five-week Federal government-imposed lockdown. The lockdown which went into force on March 30 was somewhat unsuccessful because Lagos is a city of estimated 27 million people with an urban poor majority who live in slum areas scattered all over the State. In many areas, physical distancing was unachievable due to overcrowding and poor physical infrastructure.
The guidelines for gradual easing of the lockdown included markets opening on alternate days, reduced operating hours for markets and businesses, as well as offices and commercial transport vehicles (buses, tricycles and boats) operating below capacity. This is in addition to the mandatory use of facemasks in public places and enforcement of strict hygiene practices and social distances, as well as whistle blower helplines provided to report people and organizations contravening the laid down regulations.
However, based on what I witnessed during the actual lockdown; I believe the process is fraught with risks. For example, there was a high level of insecurity – from 1million robber gangs inflicting terror on entire communities to smaller groups of hoodlums hijacking food supplies and breaking into shops. Also, the stay at home directive was not enforceable as many low-income earners – who survive on a daily wage – had to leave home in search of livelihoods. Even though government provided some palliatives, these were grossly inadequate.
In the three days since the lockdown was lifted, the compliance level to guidelines has been low, in spite of various officials stationed to enforce them.
Face-masks: Compliance with the mandatory facemask guideline was somewhat effective. Even though cheap reusable masks were being sold in the markets and along the streets, few people (10% pedestrians and 30% commuters) wore them, often incorrectly on the chin or neck. The compliance level in corporate organizations was higher, with about 60% of security officers and 70% of bank customers wearing the face-masks correctly.
Hygiene: in spite of the recommendation to provide hand washing stations and sanitizers in public places and offices, compliance was low as it was observed that only banks, hospitals and supermarkets made provisions for such. Despite the heightened risk of COVID19 infection through cash handling, many places with high cash transaction/exchange such as petrol stations, open markets and motor parks were not compliant.
Physical distancing was poorly observed across the city. Large crowds gathered at bank premises, in markets and along the streets. This is bound to escalate further as schools and many government offices resume in the coming days. It is obvious that the robust campaign of public health advisories within various communities embarked upon by the government has not been effective.
Picture: Along the street in Bariga. Credits: Tope Babade
Transportation: many commercial buses (danfo) did not observe the recommended 60% capacity guideline. Those who did transferred the loss to commuters who had to pay higher fares per trip. The tricycles largely complied with the 2passenger rule, with some providing screens to further ensure physical distancing. Even though commercial motorcycles have been banned in the state, they were seen operating in places like Shomolu, Bariga, Gbagada, Ifako, Iwaya and Akoka.
That the lockdown should be lifted is not controvertible. There have been cases of increased domestic violence, redundancy and even outright destitution across the city. The situation over the last few days shows that there will be higher COVID19 infection rates, and more casualties because of breaches of recommended protocols which have been proven to work in checking the spread of the coronavirus. For example, in Taiwan, meticulous use of face-masks and physical distancing helped the country in checking to spread of COVID-19. In Lagos, only one of the eleven restaurants visited in the last three days had attendants wearing facemasks, keeping physical distancing and provided soap and running water to wash hands. The herculean task is how to ease the lockdown without endangering the more lives. I therefore recommend that the following urgent steps be taken in the immediate term.
i. Increased public campaigns on hygiene, use of face masks and physical distancing, with strong enforcement regimes.
ii. Rearrangement of markets and public places with distinct lines and space markers to ensure physical distancing guidelines are followed
iii. Medical and logistic preparation for upsurge in coronavirus cases, and amplify arrangements for increasing immunity of the population.
iv. Preparation for health and social support services to address the consequent effects of COVID19 on livelihoods and social relations. Health facilities should be prepared for more patients that may arise from unemployment, redundancy, domestic violence and other stressors that may have been triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Griffiths, J (2020). Taiwan’s coronavirus response is among the best globally.www.cnn.com. Updated 12:22AM EDT, Sun April 05, 2020
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development or the University of Lagos, Nigeria.