Many Nigerians are excitedly looking forward to Monday, May 4, 2020, when the lockdown imposed on some parts of the country, particularly in Lagos, Ogun, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, the epicentres of the current coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, would have been relaxed.

For close to five weeks, many people have been forced to remain indoors, not to venture to come outside, sort of house arrest, which was aimed at preventing further spread of coronavirus currently ravaging the world. They call it lockdown.

In the circumstance, schools were closed, markets shut, churches and mosques locked, aircrafts grounded, public and private offices put under lock and key, etc. Everything was at a standstill. Many people groaned, because of the severe hardship the measures had entailed. It looked as if the world was coming to an end.

While some people applauded the government’s measures, others insisted that the continued lockdown of the country on account of coronavirus had done more harm than good, that it was of no effect, and hence, counterproductive.

According to them, while the lockdown was in force and many people suffered, the number of those who contracted the COVID-19 have continued to rise by the day. They thus pleaded that the lockdown be relaxed.

It was on the strength of the argument by the latter group that President Muhammadu Buhari in his last broadcast to the nation announced that the lockdown imposed on some parts of the country would be gradually phased out, effective Monday, May 4, 2020. And many people rejoiced.

What now will be the possible implications of relaxing the lockdown?

While many people would have their freedom to go about their normal businesses, at least, within the confines of their individual states, they would also be exposing themselves to the possibility of contracting deadly coronavirus and or infecting many other people with the disease, in the process.

Nigerians are not known to be very disciplined and in keeping the rule of the game. Even though the government might come out with some stringent guidelines while easing the lockdown, but how many people will keep to the rule? They must always find a way to circumvent the rule.

Some Nigerians do not even believe that coronavirus is real and deadly, but regard it as a mere gimmick designed by those in authority, aimed at milking the country dry, or to pauperize the downtrodden. When you tell them what to do to avoid contracting coronavirus or to prevent others from being infected with the disease, they will simply ignore it.

Even when the lockdown was in force, many people still tried to beat the system. They would not keep indoors. They would not wear face masks. They would not maintain social distancing. They would not wash their hands as regularly as demanded.

People still made inter-state travels with the connivance or compromise of our security agencies. That was why the number of people infected with coronavirus did not abate, but have continued to increase by the day.

Now that the pigeons are being let out of the cage, with the relaxing of the lockdown next Monday, everything will go haywire. Even if everybody is to be compelled to wear face mask through strict enforcement by the security agencies, how many people will maintain social distancing? If you go to the markets, every place will be jam-packed, people will be struggling to have their way, and pushing each other.

What of our public transportation system? How will social distancing be maintained when many people will be struggling to have a space inside the already crowded vehicle?

How about those who ride on motorcycles, clutching the Okada rider, how will they maintain social distancing, etc?

When you talk of regular washing of hands, how many of our markets and public institutions have water with which to wash the hands? Surely, the future is not so pleasant.

Experience has shown that in many countries where the lockdown was relaxed, like Ghana and Madagascar, and even in our own dear Kano State, there was always upsurge in the number of people that contract the disease soon after.

We pray that this will not be our portion. It will never happen in Nigeria when we relax the lockdown next Monday, even though that heaven helps those who help themselves.

Dr. Dons Eze.

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