Will Lagos “sectional” enforcement of COVID-19 protocols flatten the curve?

In the last two weeks, Nigerian police have arrested more than 200 people for violating COVID-19 protocols in clubs, strip joints in Lagos State. While this is a way to make examples of violators, there are questions if those are the only places the virus spreads.

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At least, the success or failure of coronavirus regulations is often assessed on whether they affect the rate of transmission in the community, and whether or not people comply with them.

Recent coronavirus records in Lagos gives the answer.

Lagos continues to take the lead with 37,310 officially confirmed infections out of the country’s 102,601 infections. The state also leads in fatalities with 256 deaths recorded so far.

The resurgence of COVID19 began in the first week of December when the state recorded almost double what it recorded the previous week (from 392 cases in the last week of November to 694 cases the first week of December). The state then recorded over 1,000 in the second week of December. Lagos recorded about 7,420 cases in December, according to the Lagos health commissioner, Akin Abayomi.

To put it in perspective, Lagos recorded more cases in December than it recorded in August, September, and October combined.

“The resurgence of COVID-19, through the newly mutated form, is ravaging our land, claiming many lives. Unlike what we witnessed in the first wave, this one is even more easily transmitted and deadlier too,” Chief Medical Director (CMD), Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, Prof. Chris Bode, said in a conference in January.

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Chikwe Ihekweazu, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control boss, Monday said that Nigeria may be forced to take “tough decisions” about serious COVID-19 cases. But he did not say what those tough decisions would be.

“We are reaching a critical level where our hospital capacity will no longer be able to cope with more serious COVID-19 cases & health workers will be forced to make tough decisions,” Ihekweazu said on Twitter.

But it is not a secret that Nigeria has a fragile healthcare system that may not withstand a massive uptick in the number of confirmed cases.

Already, bed occupancy at COVID-19 Lagos care centres is about 61 percent as of Monday, the latest figures from the state health ministry show. The state said it has reactivated one of the isolation centers that was closed down last year.

But what is the Lagos State government doing?

“On Friday, 8th January 2021, during a night operation, that was coordinated and commanded by the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, the Command pounced on some deviant night clubs where two hundred and thirty-seven (237) violators were arrested,” Lagos police said in a statement.

The police gave the reason for its operation. It said, “it has been observed that many Lagosians have disregard for compliance with COVID-19 protocols across the state which has been so worrisome.”

But continuous flagrant disregard of COVID-19 protocols in workplaces, religious centers, bus parks, market places, supermarket malls, amongst others has been ignored by the government.

Enrollment for the National Identification Number (NIN) has continued across the country even in Lagos – with thousands of people bombarding the National Identity Management Commission offices on a daily basis.

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But the state government and the security agencies seem to be more concerned about enforcing the virus protocols act at entertainment spots while the coronavirus measures remain advisory everywhere else.

Our correspondent could not get a reaction from Lagos information commissioner Gbenga Omotosho after he excused himself for a meeting during a phone conversation. He did not pick up calls subsequently.

Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a tweet on Monday said “we also do not want to go into another lockdown” but the state is yet to introduce any stringent measures or even ensure the existing protocols are duly followed or enforced everywhere.

Lagos’s second wave was largely caused by events and an uncoordinated exit from the first lockdown. Much needs to be done to pull the majority to adhere to the protocols.

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