By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Editor
It’s only when in doubt about the capacity of Coronavirus to shut down the world, that you would applaud Federal Government’s response.Faced with an existential threat, the official reaction only increases the number of infections.
As at press time, 89 cases had been recorded, with 64 occurring in the last seven days.
The trend implies that no fewer than nine persons were infected daily last week.
Should the pace continue with an unpredictable circle of infection, the nation may be headed for more than 200 cases before the week ends.
Unless the authorities scale up preventive measures now, Nigeria’s situation could look a lot more like epic centres in Europe and America.
Should that happen, the nation’s ineffective health care system with a doctor-to-patient ratio of four doctors to 10,000 patients, would be rendered incapable.
The World Health Organisation, WHO, recommended one doctor to 600 patients.
Though the country was the first to defeat Ebola outbreak in 2014, its readiness for an epidemic had long been ranked low by relevant health platforms.
For instance, Prevent Epidemics, a body on epidemics preparedness, had ranked Nigeria 39 after Cameroon, Benin, Niger, Sao Tome and Principe, and Chad on its level of preparedness list.
Sunday Vanguard observed that among preparedness areas a country needs to establish to find, stop and prevent health threats, it scored the nation high on immunization, but identified gaps on biosafety, national legislation, policy and financing.
“Nigeria is not ready for the next epidemic. They have shown commitment to improving preparedness, but an outbreak could cause a devastating loss of lives and disrupt political and economic stability,’’ Prevent Epidemics noted.
Already, with airspace that remains open and varied measures, the pathogen is fast spreading undetected.
If the health ministry disputes this, it should consider the fact that apart from imported cases, some infected persons had no travelling history to Europe, America or Asia.
Without prejudice to certain measures taken so far, there is a clear absence of a defined framework to fight the plague.
In truth, Nigeria’s approach as exemplified by the late banning of flight from high-risk countries and stay home instruction among others is nothing but reactionary and half-baked.
As good as they may appear, the results are only narrowing available precautionary options.
Of the steps taken so far, self-isolation advisory hardly points at official seriousness in containing the epidemic.
After all, it failed sane societies in Europe let alone an undisciplined clime like Nigeria. That alone should have necessitated a stringent alternative like the early banning of international travel by government.
However, instead of mandatory instructions, advisories were being issued to a populace notorious for being undisciplined.
Now, the emerging exponential rise in infections means the measures are achieving nothing.
The implication is that available windows of stemming the tide are being closed.
Simply put, the opportunity to protect the days ahead is being frittered away.
Bearing in mind the failure of national governments in Europe and the United States to contain the outbreak, many had expected reassuring controls from government.
Top among long-expected clinical actions were the total closure of the airspace and mandatory quarantine for returning travellers.
But the contrary is on the ground as government seems not to have woken up to the weight of the imminent crisis.
Indeed, the situation strengthens notions of a clear absence of leadership in a time of grave crisis.
For a disease capable of historic disruption of human existence, belated actions are least expected, especially in a country with poor healthcare indices.
Now, without federal guidance states are filling the void with Lagos being exceptional.
At the last count, virtually all the 36 states have taken more stringent steps than the central government.
From shutting down schools and markets to the closing of borders, they acted in more decisive manners.
Of the states, none, however, shares the uniqueness of Lagos, a city of more than 20 million people.
Like Ohio State governor in the US, Mike Dewine, who is the most proactive state chief executive in the anti-Covid 19 race, Governor Babajide Sawo-Olu of Lagos, stands out.
Just like the former, who was the first to close schools and initiate multi-sectoral responses in America, Sanwo-Olu has been on the frontline since February 28, 2020.
With the successful treatment of eight people, and early restrictions of social mobility, Africa’s most populous city has shown great potentials in containing the spread.
But Sunday Vanguard feels the lack of a thought-through federal blueprint poses a threat to how well Lagos can go in preventing an exponential rise.
With a legal framework already enacted by the state House of Assembly to aid the battle, only a firm lockdown of Nigeria’s airspace could prevent an escalation.
That should happen simultaneously with provisions of medical equipment like surgical masks, ventilators, hospital beds, hazmat suits, N95 respirators, gloves and eye protection equipment among others.
Meanwhile, the lockdown bill, titled: ‘A Law to Combat and Stop the Spread of Coronavirus Pandemic in Lagos State and for Connected Purposes’ empowered security agencies to arrest residents, who flout directives aimed at stopping the spread of Coronavirus pandemic in the state.
Among other provisions, it empowered the governor to incur the kick-off expenditure sum of N20 billion to combat and stop the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Though things could get worse before getting better, Nigerians yearn for the Lagos model at the centre.