Osagie Ehanire, Health Minister
Ehanire

The threat of the second wave of Coronavirus pandemic hovers over the nation like the proverbial sword of Damocles; and there is a need for the Buhari administration, to halt this looming national disaster haunting spectre.

The dire implications for the nation of the second wave are too haunting and hurting to the economy, especially one passing through a recessionary phase in part occasioned by the first phase of the pandemic.

This is the more reason governments at all levels, non-governmental organisations, private sector and the general public must as a matter of utmost importance do everything possible to flatten the rising curve of the disease.

This newspaper finds it disheartening that just when most Nigerians are beginning to heave a sigh of relief after nearly nine months of lockdown and total paralysis of businesses by Coronavirus pandemic, what looks like the second wave of the deathly pandemic has emerged from the shadow like a bolt from the blue, further threatening the joy of most Nigerians at the prospect of a return to normalcy.

The haunting spectre has the potential to deepen recessionary state of the economy. Only last week specifically last Wednesday, Nigeria recorded its highest daily number of cases with 930 new infections. This came just five days after recording its previous highest daily figures of 796.

Until the resurgence of the infections in December, Nigeria never had a higher number of daily infections than the 745 reported in June.

These disturbing figures notwithstanding, some Nigerians believe the nation have seen the worst of the coronavirus, hence they have been treating the guidelines with levity; and have since lowered their guard with the authorities also lax in enforcing the rules.

In response to the spiralling figures, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has also made a passionate appeal to Nigerians to take the COVID-19 prevention advisories very seriously, especially during the Yuletide festivities

It is the considered view of this newspaper that both the Presidential Advisory on COVID-19, the National Centre forDisease Control and governments at all levels have not done much to prevent the emergence of the second wave of the pandemic.

After the first wave peaked in August, and the lockdown eased for people to go about their normal businesses, the guidelines laid down by the National Centre for Diseases Control in sync with the Presidential Task Force headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha were only observed in a breach.

Nigerians in large numbers have since the easing of the lockdown breached the mask wearing code including social distancing and the various other safety measures, particularly in social gatherings such as religious centres, burials and marriages.

The Nigerian authorities have since turned a blind eye to this breach. Commercial vehicles on their part have since returned to normalcy in terms of passengers’ capacity, including even the government buses.

The Nigerian authorities have since acknowledged the reality of the second wave. Last week, the Health minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, warned that the country may have been on the verge of a second wave of COVID-19 infections. He hinted that the country expects to roll out a vaccine by April next year.

Osagie Ehanire, speaking at a news conference in the capital Abuja, said 1,843 cases were recorded last week compared with 1,235 two weeks before that.

The federal authorities have since ordered the reopening of all isolation and treatment centres that had been closed due to falling patient numbers.

There is a need for the government to do more to stem the rising cases which have signaled the onset of the second wave because of its dire consequences on the economy.

This newspaper is piqued by the current reality of high unemployment. With many Nigerians made unemployed by COVID-19, combined with lower volumes of exports such as oil, Nigeria’s economy has contracted by 6.1% year on year in the second quarter of this year.

Already, 27% of Nigeria’s labour force (over 21 million Nigerians) is unemployed. The effects of the coronavirus pandemic has had on Africa’s largest economy is starting to show in data.

Nigeria’s economy contracted by 6.1% year on year in the second quarter of this year, latest reports from Nigeria’s statistics bureau have shown. The dip follows thirteen quarters of positive but low growth rates. The -6.1% decline is also Nigeria’s steepest in the last 30 years.

As with most other economies around the world, the sharp drop in Nigeria’s GDP growth is largely due to the slowdown in economic activity after the country resorted to a lockdown back in April to curb the spread of the virus.

While the lockdown has since been eased in the wake of “heavy economic costs,” the continued rise in cases across Nigeria—especially in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub— and Abuja, the nation’s capital, means the local economy is yet to fully re-open.

So far the country has recorded just over 72,000 cases and 1,002 deaths.

With the above grim statistics, it is imperative for the Buhari administration to come up with measures to curb the rising cases in addition to the guidelines rolled out by the Presidential Task Force. Already, the country’s fragile economy can no longer take any further shock.

The economy has also been crippled by external factors too as the coronavirus pandemic resulted in a near-total shutdown of economic activity around the world. The accompanying steep drop in oil prices amid a drop in global demand left Nigeria drastically shorn of earnings given its dependence on the commodity as its biggest revenue source.

For context, the United States slashed its Nigerian crude oil imports oil by 11.67 million barrels in the first five months of 2020, compared to what it bought in the same period of 2019. In fact, in the second quarter of 2020, local oil production dropped to its lowest since 2016 – when Nigeria endured a full year of negative growth.

It is high time the administration did take measures to curb the rising cases for the sake of the economy. Government can still roll back the gains of the disease without necessarily locking