On Monday, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), in a televised speech announced that there will be a phased and gradual easing of the lockdown occasioned by the coronavirus in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states from May 4.
The President also announced a nationwide curfew from 8 pm to 6 pm and reiterated the ban on public gatherings and non-essential interstate travel as well as enforcement on social distancing until further notice.
He also ordered new measures such as the compulsory wearing of face masks and a two-week lockdown of Kano State for health officials to investigate the series of mysterious deaths happening there.
Recall that on March 30, the president ordered lockdown for an initial period of 14 days in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states, followed by a two-week extension which ended at 11.59 pm on Monday. Several other states had introduced similar restrictions to curb the COVID-19 spread.
However, when the lockdown is eased, experts said it was not yet time to take things for granted. Dr Jeremiah Kajewole, a public health expert in Lagos said:
“Nobody should expect life to return to normal just at once. Even though we are making progress in containing the COVID-19 spread, it is not yet over.”
As of the time of filing this report on Friday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said there were 1,932 coronavirus cases. While 319 patients had been discharged, 58 had died. Kajewole said,
“Many people are looking forward to resuming their daily activities. People want to go back to work, go to the movies, spa and others. Parents want their children back in school because some are already tired of living with the kids; many people want to resume going to church and mosque.
“Couples who had postponed their weddings want to pick new dates; people want to bury their dead. In short, people are already tired of living at home. Many are depressed. All these feelings are expected. All the same, life won’t return to normal all at once when the lockdown is lifted.”
According to Kajewole and other experts, Nigerians should not do the following things when the coronavirus lockdown ends:
Don’t throw a party or hit the club
Kajewole asked Nigerians not to throw a party immediately the lockdown ends, saying since no vaccine had been discovered for the coronavirus, it was important to still observe the social distancing measure, which is to slow the spread of viral transmission from person to person. He said,
“When the coronavirus lockdown ends, it is not yet time to host a party at home or crowd into a bar or club when they reopen. It is not time to hold your wedding party or bury the dead unless you abide by the government guidelines.
“This is because these are activities that make people to be crowded, which means if there is any asymptomatic coronavirus patient, they can infect others, who then could pass the virus to their family and friends.
“The coronavirus is a highly contagious virus, and until a vaccine is found, social gatherings should still be avoided, like the President announced on Monday.”
Don’t stop washing your hands
A writer for CNET magazine, Jessica Dolcourt, asked people not to stop washing their hands when the lockdown ends, as it is a safe way to protect oneself from contracting any virus, whether it is coronavirus or others. She said,
“Of course, you should continue to practise common hygiene. Remember that relaxed restrictions don’t necessarily mean that the coronavirus outbreak is over, even after a vaccine eventually arrives.
“There may be economic reasons for schools and businesses to reopen, but remember that the goal of stay-at-home orders and thorough hand-washing is to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients in critical condition and minimise your risk of acquiring life-threatening symptoms.
“Hopefully, the good hand-washing habits you’ve acquired during this time will stick around. Remember, longer, thorough and frequent hand-washing is important after coming into contact with people and public surfaces.”
Don’t immediately visit loved ones
A medical practitioner based in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Bosede Osunniyi, urged Nigerians to resist the urge of visiting their loved ones immediately the lockdown ends.
“Most people will definitely want to rush out and meet their loved ones to catch up on the latest gist. But that might not be the best move for now. People should know that we are still dealing with a virus outbreak which can kill,” Osunniyi told Saturday PUNCH on the telephone.
She said with time, life would return to normal but while the country still battles the pandemic, it was not yet time to want to meet with people.
“We should be patient; this is not time to start shaking hands and hugging one another. It’s really depressing we can’t do all these things for now, but it’s better to make sacrifices and save lives than take foolish decisions and kill people.
“Keeping a distance may still be the best way to keep ourselves safe from the virus,” she added.
Don’t embark on flight
Dolcourt said when the restrictions were lifted, it was expected that hotel and airfare prices would be enticingly cheap, she, however, advised that unless it’s an essential trip, it was wise to avoid airports and airplanes, as flights remained one of the ways to contract the coronavirus. She said,
“The international movement of people contributed to the coronavirus reaching pandemic proportions so quickly – through person-to-person transmission like coughing and sneezing.
“If a recurrence were to happen, the last thing you want is the stress of finding yourself quarantined in an unfamiliar country, without a clear or quick way home. In many countries, including Nigeria, the coronavirus index cases were people who came on international flights.’’
Don’t dump face masks
“Not to be the bearer of bad news, but as a global society, we can’t say for certain what will happen next – if a sudden surge in new coronavirus cases will make it necessary to reinstitute quarantine measures, as has happened in Singapore and Hong Kong, or, worse, if a new strain emerges.
“When the time comes, the smart thing to do is remain cautiously optimistic about regaining your freedom to move, but remain realistic that we don’t know what the future holds. So keep those homemade face masks handy.”
Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough
While this practise has been made popular because of the coronavirus pandemic, medical experts said it was a practice people should observe when the coronavirus ends and throughout their lifetime.
According to Kristina Duda, a specialist in infectious diseases prevention and a writer for VeryWellHealth based in the United States, aside from washing your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, one of the most important and effective ways to stop the spread of germs is to cover your cough and sneeze.
She explained that an uncovered cough or sneeze could send infected droplets up to six feet away and remain airborne for several hours and for up to 48 hours on surfaces.
She said the idea behind covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze to avoid propelling the germs in your body into the air or across the room, which could make others sick.
“It’s not just good manners to cover your cough or sneeze. Doing so helps reduce the spread of germs, including the highly contagious influenza virus.
“The flu and some other infections are spread through microscopic water droplets expelled from an infected person, commonly through coughing, sneezing, and hand-to-mouth contact,” she said.
Duda, however, noted that although it sounded easy to cover your cough or sneeze, many people usually did it in a wrong way. She noted,
“Putting your hand in front of your mouth to cover your cough (or sneeze) is not advised. When you do this, the germs will then spread onto everything you touch, including surfaces like remote controls and doorknobs, but also things like food you serve and hands you shake. Put another way, your attempt to halt the spreading of germs will be moot.
“The CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends coughing (or sneezing) into a tissue and throwing the tissue in the garbage. Then, wash your hands with soap or use hand sanitiser just in case any germs were transmitted from the tissue onto your skin.
“If you don’t have a tissue handy, the next best option is coughing into the crook of your elbow. This is obviously simple, but it may take time to make a habit. It’s worth it, as this practice dramatically drops the odds of you spreading those germs.”
Don’t visit public places like malls, banks, others
Kajewole advised against visiting public places such as shopping malls, banks, parks and others when the lockdown ends, explaining that it would be easy to contract the coronavirus in such places due to the fact that they attract a large number of people. He said,
“Visiting shopping malls, restaurants, banks, Computer Village, pet shops and others are still risky for now; we should be careful. The only places I will advise people to visit are essential places such as pharmacies and market stalls for groceries. We must try as much as possible to comply with the social distancing rules.
“It will be a hard time for many people but if you look at the merits of still staying away from public places, they are more than the demerits. Meanwhile, people can explore alternative services. For example, you don’t need to go to the bank to carry out many transactions.
In fact, some banks have online call centres which operate 24/7; you can also order certain goods online without going to the mall. I think we should keep on exploring these options until the coronavirus siege is over.”