COVID-19 pandemic: Experts warn of massive surge as Nigerians abandon face masks
Nigerians are abandoning the use of face masks and other safety protocols as rates of COVID-19 infections are declining in the country, findings by The PUNCH have revealed.
But the Nigerian Medical Association and virologists told The PUNCH on Sunday that with lax adherence to safety protocols, Nigeria could witness another coronavirus surge as schools prepare for full resumption.
They also warned that with resumption of international flights, failure to abide by COVID-19 protocols could trigger more cases of the deadly virus.
The PUNCH’s correspondents, who monitored adherence to COVID-19 protocols in states, reported that face masks had been abandoned, except in banks, where customers were forced to use them.
In Zamafara State, one of our correspondents observed that people stopped wearing face masks two months ago following the pronouncement of the state Governor, Bello Matawalle that “ Zamfara State is coronavirus-free.”
An engineer in the state Ministry of Education, Aliyu Abdul Aziz, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “I stopped wearing a face mask when the state government announced that there was no coronavirus in Zamfara.”
Another person, Mallam Aminu Duniya, said, “The disease is no more here, so why should I suffer myself wearing a face mask?”
The state’s Commissioner of Health Alhaji Yahaya Kanoma told one of our correspondents that the fight against coronavirus was successful in the state as according to him, “the state is now coronavirus-free.”
In Plateau State, which some weeks ago became the epicentre of COVID-19 in the country, only a few residents could be seen wearing face masks in Jos, the state capital.
A resident, Lucy Chindaba said, “It is not easy to be buying face masks, hand sanitisers and other materials all the time because not everybody can afford them.”
The PUNCH correspondent, who went round Makurdi, the state capital on Sunday, observed that people had abandoned the use of face masks.
At the major motor parks at Wuruku in the capital city, most travellers and motorists were sighted without wearing face masks, while inter-state buses observed the physical distancing, the intra-state operators ignored it.
An Abuja-bound traveller who simply identified himself as Tony, said since the COVID-19 cases had reduced, he had not taken the use of facemasks seriously.
At the Wadata market, The PUNCH correspondent, who spent about 30 minutes in there, counted only six people with face masks.
A civil servant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “If you go to our offices, there are notices that everyone, including visitors, must wear face masks. Although the notices are still there, how many people are still observing the protocols?”
But the state Commissioner for Information and member of the state Action Committee on COVID-19, Mrs Ngunna Adingi, said that the committee would soon meet to review the protocols and take actions where necessary.
Also in Ondo State, the use of face masks has been abandoned in public places such as markets, government offices and shopping malls.
Some of the residents, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the matter, explained that there was no more enforcement of the use of face masks on the part of the government.
A trader at Oba Market, Akure, the state capital, Mrs Omowumi Idris, said she was no more using the face masks because she believed that the COVID-19 had ended in the state.
Another person, Mr Rotimi Akinleye, “I always have it (face mask) in my pocket wherever I go but I may not put it on. But I think it is the government that is not doing the enforcement again.”
But people in Akwa Ibom, who spoke to The PUNCH, said they had not been using face masks because they had yet to believe that COVID-19 was real.
He said, “Enforcement is still very strong. We are still pushing. Recently, we issued a directive telling people to observe the necessary protocols and keep social distancing. Enforcement is practically the duty of the police.”
On its part, the Ogun State Government expressed worry over the high level of non- compliance with the wearing of face masks.
The Special Adviser to the governor on Public Communications, Remmy Hazzan, who spoke to The PUNCH, said “People think that because they are not manifesting symptoms or because they are not falling sick is a reflection of the fact that maybe the problem is not as serious as being portrayed.”
Expect more COVID-19 troubles – Tomori
A virologist and former president of the Nigerian Academy of Science, Prof Oyewale Tomori, in an interview with The PUNCH, warned that Nigeria might witness massive second surge of COVID-19 with schools and airports reopening. He said Nigerians should expect more COVID-19 troubles.
He attributed the drop in confirmed cases to the reduction in the number of tests being conducted.
Tomori stated, “The numbers drop when we test fewer samples only to shoot up when we test more samples. What will give us a better gauge of COVID-19 situation is the positivity rate; that is the proportion of tested samples that are positive. These percentages remain uncomfortably high. You will recollect that the PTF (the Presidential Task Force) and the NCDC (Nigeria Centre for Disease Control) have confirmed that the intensity of testing went down during the Sallah holidays and even during the weeks after. Sampling and testing have gone down in many states or non-existent in some states.
“We need to let our people know that we are not out of the woods yet. There are examples of countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East that eased their lockdown based on dropping number of cases. They are paying for their errors with huge second wave of COVID-19 cases.
“So, unless we return to abiding by the guidelines – wearing face masks, regular hand washing and keeping the safe distance – COVID-19 will return with a massive second wave vengeance. Now that we reopened our airports, expect more COVID-19 troubles.”
Also, a professor of Virology at the University of Ibadan, David Olaleye, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the effect of failure to adhere to COVID-19 protocols might be serious as seen in developed countries.
He, however, warned that while those countries that re-opened businesses in a hurry were proactive about measures to take to mitigate the effect of their actions, Nigeria remained largely unprepared.
Supporters not wearing face masks, observing social distance at Edo, Ondo gov campaigns – NMA president
The President of the NMA, Prof Innocent Ujah, in a chat with The PUNCH, said the disregard for the use of face masks might increase COVID-19 cases in the country.
He said, “People have not been wearing face masks like when the pandemic started, this is as a result of lack of communication and orientation from the appropriate quarters. Look at what is happening in the governorship election campaigns in Edo and Ondo states, people are not wearing face masks and there is no social distancing.”