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Covid-19: What State Governments Should Do

As of this morning, there are 26 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Nigeria across 5 States (Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti and Abuja), with Lagos being the epicenter so far.

With the absence of aggressive testing or any significant lockdown, it is possible that there are many unidentified, undiagnosed or unreported cases lurking around.

Looking at the spread of Covid-19 to the neighboring states around Lagos, we can as well predict the likely spread of Covid-19 out of Abuja and onto the northern part of our country.

Authorities in Niger, Nasarawa, Kogi, Kaduna and even beyond need to increase their preparedness against the likely spread of the pandemic to their states.

I particularly hope Kano is watching and taking appropriate measures. As the second most populous city after Lagos, Kano’s cultural and social peculiarities makes it a high risk Covid-19 target.

While the NCDC and the FMOH are doing well in tracing and identifying new cases, the Federal Government was very late in its response against the pandemic.

We were literally doing nothing and waited until the first case was confirmed before responding instead of putting strong measures (like travel restrictions from high risk countries) in place to prevent the spread of the infection.

Even as the first Covid-19case was reported in Lagos, the president and his team were still holding public events (which should have been cancelled) and he has so far refused to show the required personal leadership in our response against Covid-19.

That’s why Nigerian state governments need to be taking action and not wait until the first confirmed case is recorded in their own states or completely rely on what the Federal Government will do.

There’s so much that governors can do at the state level, measures like restricting public gathering (social, religious, political), expanding the capacity and preparedness of the public health system and increasing awareness.

It is always better to over-prepare than under-prepare. Experience has shown that countries that imposed strict restrictions very early into the spread of the pandemic were able to manage it better.

Those countries no doubt have the resources to cushion the economic shock wrought by those measures, with many countries proposing universal cash grants to their citizens over the entire duration of the lockdown.

Sadly, this is not possible in Nigeria as we lack the resources to keep the country on lockdown for several weeks. With majority of our people eking out their living from daily wages, the choice will be a death sentence by hunger (if they stay at home for too long) or Covid-19 (if they continue to ignore restrictions).

Pandemics like Covid-19 is the public health emergency of the future (and of course the present). With advancement in medical research and innovation, the theatre of global public health emergency will shift towards new infectious diseases that can spread rapidly and with no known cure, and with the capacity to cause great havoc in both human and material terms.

What’s more even more worrying is that there will be little concerted effort at the global level because every country is first invested in dealing with it’s own emergency before thinking of helping others.

Countries that build the capacity to deal with the economic and social disruptions of public health emergencies will fare better, while those caught unprepared and living in the sentimental illusion of their misguided notion of divine generosity or geographical/racial immunity have themselves to blame.

By Ahmed Musa Hussaini

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