Covid-19: My Fellow Nigerians, We need to fight this pandemic into submission

Just noticed that the ubiquitous yellow “danfo” buses that are usually packed to the brim carried just a few customers or run empty.

As people adjust, many will agree, the effort to contain the coronavirus is necessary.

“It will not be easy for us as human beings because the streets is where we make our money, this is where we make our daily bread”

So we need money, fine, but above all our lives – our safety is the priority.

My country people, dis Covid-19 story na true ooh. E beta Make we try stay home for sometime, dey drink garri but stay alive tell the story.

It is right to worry about how Covid-19 will wreck the economy.

Projections already suggest that the Nigerian economy could contract and that the unemployment rate could surpass what we already have.

But the economy cannot be fixed without solving the pandemic. Only after the virus is contained can we reopen restaurants, bars, gyms and stores; allow people to travel, attend conferences and visit museums.

The window to win this war is about seven to 14 days.

The president needs to establish a system of social pressure for local governments to wield to enforce physical distancing strictly but compassionately.

It needs to be acknowledged that while these physical distancing measures are burdensome, adhering to them is a heroic, crucial response. It would help for officials themselves to model these physical distancing measures — such as no longer holding news conferences with numerous officials on the podium.

The president must be honest with the Nigerian public: The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies failed to roll out testing quickly enough. Such a program needs to be accelerated now. If the delay resulted from a technical error, has suggested, it is important to assign blame only so that we can learn from these failures immediately.

The federal testing director needs expanded authority so he can invoke the Defense Production Act to secure the emergency production and national distribution of testing components like swabs and viral culture media. Over the next two weeks, all Covid-19 testing should be removed from hospitals and clinics so these institutions can focus on treating patients.

Instead, we should immediately use the military, and even a new Public Works Corps made up of unemployed Nigerians to erect thousands of walk-up and drive-through testing sites nationwide.

We must immediately begin to conduct random samplings of people in a community to determine the percentage of the population with coronavirus and the percentage of people with the virus who die. Establishing up-to-date and localized figures will help inform the intensity and efficacy of our remedies.

The lack of masks, gowns and ventilators endangers both patients and health care workers, and stymies the nation’s ability to respond to the crisis.

Hospitals are about to be overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, and personnel is going to be the most scarce resource.

Hospitals must be ordered to suspend elective surgeries and other procedures, because they use valuable health care personnel, equipment and operating theaters that could be converted to intensive care units. Visitors must be banned (except for terminally ill patients) to reduce coronavirus spread and the need for personal protective equipment.

All hospitals must be directed to institute policies that decrease demand for supplies. For instance, intravenous machines for Covid-19 patients should be kept outside their room when possible so workers can adjust medications without donning protective gear. Hospitals that comply with such rules should be guaranteed interest-free loans for operating expenses.

Any physicians, nurses and other clinicians who are working less because of restrictions on their practices should be encouraged to work at hospitals. We should encourage the reactivation of all retired and nonpracticing physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other clinicians who can work.

We should ask for volunteers to travel to cities with more urgent demand, providing salaries and housing stipends. A national hospital oversight director could reposition those clinicians for maximal impact. A coronavirus compensation program could ensure no hospital or clinician is held liable for adverse events during the outbreak unless there is clear negligence.

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants should be allowed to prescribe medications without restrictions.

The Public Works Corps could rapidly train people for clinical functions that do not require full degrees. Even educated laypeople can be trained in weeks as respiratory therapists under the supervision of a certified respiratory therapist.

States should get block grants to create temporary jobs needed to control the public health crisis, such as workers for testing centers, thermal screening in public places, widespread contact tracing, quarantine monitoring and disinfecting public transportation and public places.

To win this war, we need Nigerians to mobilize faster than they ever have before. We have already lost valuable months. These measures, only a start, will bring out the best in Nigerians by giving them direction and opportunities to contribute in the war against Covid-19.

If they are successful, then, as China has shown, in two to three months the country can begin to return to normal, stores can reopen, people can work, and Nigeria will have a rapid, V-shaped economic recovery.

If the government fails to act decisively now, it will follow Italy’s course or, worse, that of Iran, and recovery may take a decade or more with extraordinary levels of death and dislocation.

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