Nigerians should be worried about the news of some air passengers who refused to submit themselves for the mandatory quarantine as directed by COVID-19 regulations aimed at keeping the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria under check.
Over the past weekend, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Akin Abayomi, raised the alarm that 135 passengers from Brazil, India and Turkey refused to go on self-isolation. According to Abayomi, 568 inbound passengers have been documented under the new COVID-19 regime. Out of this number, 433 voluntarily submitted to self-isolation but 135 of them refused to do so. Also, nine of those tested were positive and 154 have already been discharged.
Since the battle against this pandemic is more of voluntary compliance than coercion, we appeal to these obdurate passengers, for the love of themselves, family members and humanity, to return to the isolation centres. Otherwise, they should go into self-isolation at home, arrange to get themselves tested, treated and certified negative by competent medical staff before continuing with their normal lives.
We must be reminded that it was just a single traveller from Italy that brought the pandemic to Nigeria on February 27, 2020 through the same Lagos. We have largely succeeded in keeping our COVID metrics low due to the gallant efforts of our front-line medical professionals, citizen compliance and the grace of God.
The pandemic met us at a time we had only four test centres in the whole federation. But we have bravely increased capacity. Government-owned testing laboratories and isolation centres have increased to 82, while the private sector has helped to boost capacity towards the 200 mark.
But even these will be a drop in the ocean if the vicious Indian and Brazilian variants flare up within our populace. India had already celebrated the defeat of COVID-19 until, suddenly, a new variant exploded and reduced the country to its current sorry state. We do not even come close to India in terms of medical facilities, personnel and access to equipment or vaccines. It is for this reason that we must not abandon ourselves to providence alone. We must continue to play our part in minimising the toll until the pandemic expires itself.
The Federal and Lagos State governments must combine efforts and go after the escapees who have failed so far to report back to the authorities for proper handling. Any of them caught should be taken to the isolation centre, tested, treated and arraigned in court for deliberate intentions to endanger innocent, unsuspecting public.
If a good example is made of these recalcitrant travellers, it will send the right message that Nigeria is still very serious in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
It will force intending offenders to think twice.