A United States, US-trained Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr Abdul-Jhalil Tafawa Balewa has frowned at the federal government’s decision to lift the ban on religious gathering, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking with reporters, Dr Tafawa Balewa described the decision to ease the ban on social gatherings as “premature.”
Recall that the Nigerian government had a few days ago announced the easing of restriction on religious gathering.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, had made the disclosure during a briefing in Abuja.
Mustapha, who is the Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 had disclosed that the lifting of the ban was for four weeks.
However, Tafawa-Balewa warned that gradual easing of the restriction on religious gathering may further complicate things.
According to Tafawa Balewa: “The NCDC and the government must agree to talk with religious bodies, by advising them that as much as people may want to go for services, they still need to adhere to social distancing.
“This is the politically correct answer but, in truth, if all the major religions in Nigeria believe in God’s ubiquity and omnipresence, why would people not pray in their own homes and do without the social part of congregational prayers for a while for things to get better, and for the clergy to understand this as an accompanying austerity to the act of God, that the pandemic is. If we are as God fearing/loving as our outward ardour indicates, this should be no problem.”
The Infectious Disease Specialist warned that Nigeria lacks the healthcare capacity to handle COVID-19 explosion that may come as a result of easing the lockdown prematurely.
He said: “But the truth is we don’t have the healthcare capacity to take care of any explosion than what we have now, so I would prefer the government should be brave enough to say, ‘look this is about taking care of my people and we need to have social distancing until it gets better’.
“Easing the lockdown now is premature, looking at Ogun State, they are known for parties in the Southwest but the Governor was smart enough to place a lock down during the weekends because that is when people are most likely to come together. I think the systematic lockdown for when people are most likely to get together is a lot more sensible than what is being done nationally now.”
He lamented that the government had not done enough in sensitising Nigerians on identifying those who died of the virus.
Tafawa Balewa said: “There are so many different aspects and facets to this, one of the things the government has not done enough is to let the public know that these are real humans, you may have seen some adverts on your phone that people with COVID-19 are humans and you should be careful but i’ts still so abstract. When they buy adverts on television stations they grieve with those that have lost loved ones to COVID-19 by showing pictures of the deceased, it will make people come closer, more people that know them will recognise them, and make them more human, which will psychologically help to further prevent the virus.
“Since we don’t know if we have reached our peak or not, easing lockdown might complicate the situation because there will be more inelastic collisions (transmissions) meaning more people with COVID-19 will meet those that don’t have it and they will have more of this infection and eventually more people will get sick.
“We might have been getting to a peak, but now it feels as if we are just playing Russian roulette.”