It is hunger I am worried about, not a virus

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As more than 100 million people are placed on a four-week lockdown in parts of Nigeria in a bid to curtail the spread of coronavirus, poor people in congested neighbourhoods are worried about how they will cope.

I really don’t see the need for any lockdown in some states of the federation seeing that the coronavirus is concentrated in Abuja and Lagos.

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Some states like the south east should have simply blocked the Niger Bridge to stop people coming in from Lagos, and then block Nsukka in Enugu state to stop people coming from Abuja.

What is required is to encourage Social distancing.

With social distancing and partial lockdown there will be no reason of shutting down the entire zone.

Moreover, is there any coordination between the South East governors, and indeed with other southern governors? Was there any thinking and strategy session and brain storming before the lockdown was announced and before sharing cups of rice to villagers? Or did someone simply wake up one morning and heard that Europe was locking down and also announced a lockdown…and then heard Europe was helping people cope with lockdown and decided to start sharing rice… where is our God-given brain?

Who considered and weighed the costs and benefits of a lockdown…whether to do a gradual lockdown or “bisikwam” lockdown, or whether there should be any exemption to the lockdown?

With all the brains in Igboland, has the Anambra state government, for example, explored the possibility of establishing their own testing centre rather than simply waiting for the Federal Government.

Has anyone sat down and thought about turning the covid-19 crisis into an opportunity? For example, rather than sharing cups of rice, why not use the opportunity for data collection purposes…ask people to register for money relief, with name, address, phone number and bank account, so that anyone that wants to benefit must have a bank account, and then distribute the covid-19 palliatives in a properly coordinated and transparent manner and thereafter use the data so collected for future planning, institutionalized approach and promote a cashless society.

Moreover, has the government invited our experts to plan the exit strategy, or will they simply wake up one morning and declare the lockdown over?

Other countries are already having a debate on when and how the lockdown will be lifted.

In the United Kingdom, Ministers and their advisers are discussing having a plan for how to leave the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, after the chief medical officer said the country is “probably reaching the peak” of the epidemic.

With signs that the rate of new infections is flattening, the government is under pressure to outline some ideas about how the UK could leave its state of shutdown. The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has demanded the publication of an “exit strategy”.

Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, will set out plans on Thursday for an extension of the lockdown potentially for another three weeks, after a Cobra meeting involving the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Different cabinet ministers were working out their own theories from within their departments. These include allowing certain business sectors to emerge first, prioritising reopening schools, letting younger people have more freedom than older people or relying on antibody tests to relax restrictions for those who may have developed immunity to Covid-19.

Ministers are under orders to avoid talking about exiting the lockdown but Nadine Dorries, a health minister, hinted on Wednesday night that it would be a long process, tweeting: “There is only one way we can ‘exit’ full lockdown and that is when we have a vaccine. Until then, we need to find ways we can adapt society and strike a balance between the health of the nation and our economy.”

Sir Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, had been pushing for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, currently recovering from hospital admission, to return before a plan was agreed, the hope in Downing Street being that the prime minister may be able to return to some degree of work next week.

The UK’s approach contrasts with that of many other European countries, including Denmark, France, Germany and Switzerland, which have announced how they will come out of lockdown. Italy, Spain and Austria have already reopened some shops or sent workers back into specific factories.

Prof Dame Angela McLean, the deputy chief scientific adviser, said experts expected the spread to slow evenly throughout the country, suggesting there will not be a geographical difference in when people are allowed to leave the lockdown.

With signs of the curve flattening, health experts said it was essential for the government to start preparing better for leaving the lockdown with the help of public health academics.

Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter medical school, with field experience in the Sars and Ebola epidemics, said the government needed to commit to testing and contact tracing, then start hiring and training contact tracers at scale.

“Keep the shutdown until we know we can cope with patients. Use the opportunity to scale up manufacture of PPE and ventilators. When you feel you have amassed your PPE, test kits, the army needed to do the tests and army of contact testers, that is when you lift the shutdown. But you only do that when you know the test numbers are in a sustained downward trajectory,” he said.

Similar debates are taking place in the USA.

President Trump said the White House would issue guidelines about opening up the economy in the U.S. while the country deals with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The Thursday announcement will come after a conference call with all 50 governors.

The U.S. death toll spiked sharply for the second day in a row, and sick workers were putting a strain on the nation’s meat supply, but the national payday prompted by the pandemic arrived Wednesday for more than 80 million Americans.

Payments of up to $1,200 per person were being transferred into bank accounts as the federal government injects vast sums of money into the economy left battered by stay-at-home orders.

The cash influx comes as the U.S. daily death toll doubled, although it remains possible that newly implemented methods to count the dead in New York City could be responsible for the spike.

Citing the positive impact of the social distance guidelines, President Donald Trump said recommendations about opening the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic would be released Thursday.

Trump, speaking Wednesday at the White House task force press conference, noted improvements in fighting the COVID-19 hot spots in New York, Detroit and Louisiana in addition to other areas across the country.

The president said some states could start with economic activity before the current guidelines aimed at slowing the pandemic end on May 1. The unveiling, according to Trump, will come after a conference call with all 50 governors Thursday.

“These encouraging developments have put us in a very strong position to finalize guidelines for states on reopening the country,” Trump said.

If Nigeria is to start rebuilding the economy after the lockdown, similar conversations should be taking place across the country.

Presently, all non-essential travel has been banned in most states and many workers, including civil servants, have been told to work from home.

But with a lack of reliable electricity supplies and poor internet connections, it is hard to see how most people will get any work done.

Many Nigerians live hand-to-mouth, often on less than $1 (£0.80) and they cannot stock up on food or other essentials.

Many workers are also yet to be paid their wages for March so there are deep concerns about the financial implications of a lockdown.

Meanwhile, back in some areas, many still struggle to sell their wares, ignoring any thought of social distancing. Most were not concerned about the virus.

Many reason like a woman selling smoked fish on a tray, “All death is death, If I stay home, I will die of hunger, if I come out to hustle you say I will die of coronavirus.”

“It is hunger I am worried about, not a virus,” She concluded.

Elombah