In a nationwide broadcast on Sunday, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the lockdown of Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19. The lockdown, which took effect at 11 pm yesterday, will last for an initial period of 14 days.
According to the President, his decision was based on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The decision of the President comes as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country increased to 111 as of 29th March, even as more prominent public officials tested positive for the disease.
Furthermore, the President noted that an initial intervention of N15 billion had been set aside to support the national response while a Presidential Task Force (PTF) had been inaugurated to develop a workable national response strategy that is being reviewed on a daily basis as the requirements change. The strategy is expected to align international best practices to the peculiarities of local circumstances.
The decision of the President did not come as a surprise to us considering the fast increase in the number of confirmed cases since the country confirmed its first case on 27 February. In our view, the fact that Lagos with 68 cases accounts for more than half (61%) of the total confirmed cases makes the decision for a total lockdown inevitable.
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Although we think the directive of the President will halt economic activities in the nation’s commercial hub with its attendant negative impact on GDP, we believe the gains associated with the prevention of a nationwide wide breakout outweigh the economic costs, more so that the nation’s health care system appears ill-equipped to deal with a widespread outbreak.
Beyond the lockdown imposed on the states, it is pertinent that relief packages should be made available for poor households and the vulnerable members of the society whose source of livelihood will be cut short, being daily wage earners. More importantly, the government needs a well thought out strategy to identify this segment of the society in order to ensure that the palliatives reach the right people.
In our view, asides imposing a lockdown, the government needs to ensure full compliance and ensure adequate and efficient contact tracing. Finally, to effectively contain the spread of the virus and prevent a nationwide outbreak, we think the government needs to enhance healthcare capacity and improve facilities at the quarantine centres. We enjoin all our clients to continue to stay safe.
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