PROF ONYEBUCHI CHUKWU ON COVID-19 LOCKDOWN

REACTION OF PROF ONYEBUCHI CHUKWU, FORMER MINISTER OF HEALTH, TO PROF SOLUDO’S POSTULATION ON THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN

The goal has always been: Least morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 plus Least economic and humanitarian impact.

For me, the only rarional excuse for the lockdown is to buy time and space to catch up with the viral trajectory by getting better prepared with (a)the provision of adequate isolation capacity; (b) the provision of environmental disinfection capacity; (c) the attainment of capacity for treatment; (d) the scale-up of knowledge penetration to at least 90% of adults and children over 3 years of age; (e) the setting up of an innovative team to search for and encourage local (including but not necessarily limited to herbal) remedies; (f) the setting up of a broad-based committee of ‘thinking’ persons drawn from nearly all sectors to serve as a strategic powerhouse to continually appraise, review, adjust (and if need be alter) and direct the health, humanitarian and economic responses as well as initiate policies and actions to source needed tools, on shore and off shore, for the prescribed responses; (g) the ramping up of tests by widening the eligibility criteria and the accessibility and by random sampling of population clusters as a way of identifying carriers, isolating them and treating them, and thereby debulking the community disease burden; and (h) the motivation and protection of all personnel involved in screening, contact tracing, identification of infected persons, transportation of infected persons, treatment and caring of infected persons, and disposal of remains of those unfortunate to have succumbed.

Sadly, the country seems not to have been able to exploit the opportunity offered by the lockdown, an interim measure at best, to take those necessary actions as quickly as possible.

If we can, this week and the next,take action, it should be possible to end the Lockdown by the first week of May (next month) and open our borders in installments (first to approved goods, then approved services, and then to approved tourists). It should also be possible to open schools and places of worship with practicable but effective social and physical distancing rules in place. Of course protective barriers such as the mandatory wearing of face masks must be part of the rules. Daily disinfection of halls, rooms, vehicles, vessels and the surroundings must become the new normal. Work and study were possible should be conducted online. Cashless transactions, where possible, should become mandatory. Immune boosters such as vitamin C should be distributed to all residents by government (federal, state, LG) free of charge. Hygienic and sanitary practices must be enforced with government ensuring the provision of water at affordable rates.

All these and more are doable.

Lockdown and border closure are temporary palliative measures (please excuse the pun) and are not sustainable. We definitely have to wean ourselves from them at some point. To avoid the bomb of socioeconomic disaster about to explode, it must be done as soon as possible. It would be sooner if we take the outlined actions
now. Dispensing with the Lockdown without having taken those actions will translate to a primitive philosophy of survival of the fittest. And not ending the lockdown is tantamount to mass suicide.

We are civilized enough to seek the survival of all.

Or are we not?

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