To improve the economy, sustain the feats associated with containing the novel coronavirus as well as check further infections and deaths, experts under the aegis of Anap Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank, have called for the immediate lifting of the remaining restrictions nationwide.
They advised that tests should be conducted on international passengers on departure and arrival.
The recommendations of the group, established on March 22, 2020, were contained in an Occasional Paper 02, titled “As Nigeria Enters a New (Second) and Defining Phase of its COVID-19 Response” and published yesterday.
The 18 think tankers are drawn from the six geopolitical zones and the diaspora (United States and Germany). They are volunteers with expertise in diverse fields, including medicine, logistics, e-commerce, economics, finance, law, communications, academia, advocacy and disaster management.
The group’s membership includes Atedo Peterside (chairman); Abubakar Siddique Mohammed (vice-chairman); Obinnia Abajue; Konyin Ajayi (SAN); Innocent Chukwuma; Adwoa Edun; Leo Stan Ekeh; George Etomi; Reverend Buti Sam Kputu and Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah.
Others are Dudu Manuga; Ayisha Osori; Yinka Sanni; Lambert Shumbusho; Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman; Ibrahim D. Waziri; Dr. Yele Aluko (U.S.-based International Medical Advisor) and Prof. Kayode Ijadunola (Adviser on Epidemiology).
The professionals warned that the disease burden would rise for months, as the reproduction number (R0) is still above 1.
They, however, said it is unlikely that the RO would remain at that level for another year or two globally.
The team, therefore, predicted the emergence of an acceptable vaccine in the next one to two years or upsurge in community transmission of the virus, most of which would be mild to moderate.
Either way, they said, good herd immunity will be developed to moderate the spread in the long term.
A third possible scenario, according to them, “is that the infection itself will burn out based on its isolation from massive non-pharmacologic public health measures, provided individuals see the devastation that can accompany the infection (including the long-term sequelae reported to accompany mild infections) when people live carelessly.”
They said while the world awaits a silver bullet solution in the long term, achieving the third scenario should be the target of government and citizens in the short and medium terms.
The specialists said Nigerians need to rejig control efforts in the following manner: “We must now reopen the economy fully as there is a reasonable basis for believing that Sub-Saharan Africa will be spared from the worst possible COVID-19 outcomes. However, absent of disciplined risk mitigation through adherence to personal hygiene, masking and social distancing when possible, we should plan for and be prepared for clusters and outbreaks. Proactive strategies for identification, containment and management of these clusters and outbreaks should be put in place.”
They said the country must also embrace innovative behaviour change communication (BCC) strategies to overcome widespread myths and misconceptions among the citizens.