By Dike Onwuamaeze
The Anap Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank, has recommended that the federal government should totally and fully reopen the economy in order to save the economy from collapsing and bring life to normal in spite of the continued spread of the disease in the country.
The foundation also called for the reopening of all educational institutions and the removal of every form of curfews and restrictions on international travelling that were imposefd to checkmate the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
This call is contained in the foundation’s Occasional Paper 02 that was published on August 26, 2020, and titled “As Nigeria Enters a New (Second) and Defining Phase of its COVID-19 Response.”
The Anap Foundation, founded by the former Chairman of the Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Mr. Atedo Peterside, said: “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, absence 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. Our observation in sub-Saharan Africa is that most infected individuals will survive while the minority will have severe adverse consequences and require hospitalisation.”
The foundation said that the second reason for reopening our economy in full was the reported devastating collapse of the GDP in the second quarter of 2020 when Nigerian economy recorded 6.1 per cent “year-on-year real GDP drop is worse than we were expecting and has conclusively exposed the fragility of our economy and its inability to cope with disruptive lockdowns and needless curfews.”
It also recommended that the country “needs innovative behaviour change communication (BCC) strategies to overcome widespread myths and misconceptions among the citizens. Local channels such as town criers and other platforms used by people in the communities will prove invaluable here. Also, civil society, religious and opinion leaders, youth organizations, influencers and volunteer networks need to be better engaged by designing social and BCC interventions with consideration for the need to tailor interventions and age-appropriate messaging to different communities and groups.”
It added that government and citizens should target, in the short and medium terms, the achievement of the scenario where “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.”
It further stated that “all remaining curfews nationwide should be lifted immediately,” adding that “governments at all levels and the private proprietors must invest heavily in the planned reopening of schools across the country if we are to prevent an avoidable disaster. We accept that schools must now be reopened and so the debate must shift to ensuring minimum accompanying measures and installations to help achieve a safe reopening.
“Finally, all remaining local and international travel restrictions should be lifted immediately.”