Borno State Report:
Civil Society Organisations in Borno State under the platform of the CSO Situation Room, have bemoaned the alarming rate of decline in the level of compliance of the majority of inhabitants living in State, to the laid-down COVID-19 protocol put in place by the Government to halt the spread of the pandemic in the State. Following the easing of restrictions on movement by the State Government and the re-opening of religious houses in the State, there has been a change in the people’s attitude towards combating the virus which some stakeholders reckon could be as a result of the feeling of liberation that came with the lifting of the lockdown. Complacency towards the fight against COVID-19 has gradually become the order of the day as many consider a resumption of religious activities synonymous to a return to normalcy. Hence, many people are now seen in public places brazenly flouting all the stipulated health safety precautions. They hug, shake hands, wear no face masks, converge in groups of over 50 and do not practise personal hygiene.
A public place in Borno State where people are seen violating the public health safety rules on COVID-19.
For some others, the innate quest for survival in the midst of squalor and deprivation is their sole motivation and they would rather focus on meeting the daily need for basic food for themselves and their families, than be bothered about the coronavirus outbreak. Also, not a few persons have told members of the CSO Situation Room during community engagements, that the lockdown and prolonged stay-at-home brought with it mental health issues such as depression, and their way of overcoming depression was to seek escapism by denouncing the existence of coronavirus in order to overcome the fear of it. Whatever the case may be for different folks, one thing is certain: a decline in the level of compliance to the health safety rules will lead to higher numbers of infected persons arising from the State.
Already, the State has witnessed a sharp hike in its number of confirmed cases within a period of one week following the easing of the lockdown restrictions in Borno State. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased from a total of 188 cases on May 13, 2020 when the lockdown was relaxed by the government, to 235 confirmed cases as of May 21, 2020. This increment occurred despite the inadequate testing so far carried out on the suspected cases in Borno State and in Nigeria generally. This has taken Borno to the 5th position on the report of highest cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria amongst the 36 States and the FCT. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC,which routinely publishes the nation’s COVID-19 reports, has repeatedly informed the general public that all specified public safety rules must be strictly adhered to, and adherence to only one or some of the rules, is not enough to protect a person from contracting the virus.The CSO Situation Room has within the last two months, helped in disseminating the guidelines issued by the NCDC, through its field missions and sensitisation campaigns to the people of Borno State, alongside the State Response Committee of the government.
However, the easing of the lockdown on May 13, 2020, which was done in the public interest of the residents of the State, may jeopardise the gains recorded initially, if not properly managed and regulated by the State Government. The CSO Situation Room is of the informed view that the government must develop more effective techniques in the management of the pandemic as normal social gatherings resume in the State. The government needs to also collaborate more with all stakeholders, traditional rulers, religious leaders and civil society groups to engender better harmony in the daunting task of providing a much more extensive public education and enlightenment to the people on the need to proactively comply with the laid-down COVID-19 safety precautions.
The CSO Situation Room therefore implores the Borno State government to immediately rejuvenate its public sensitisation campaign and embark on more engagements with the masses, not only through pre-recorded messages, but also through frequent engagements on Live programs on TV and Radio Stations, which would avail the people an opportunity to call or send messages asking questions about COVID-19 and be promptly educated.In addition, the government must also ensure that security agents enforce a strict compliance with the rules and prosecute offenders within the ambit of the law, in order to prevent a brazen disregard of the safety rules. The people need to be perpetually reminded of the risks of letting down their guard, as social gatherings resume once again. The Government must also make provision for the distribution of free masks and sanitisers to indigent people across the State. As social gatherings resume in the State, more resources have to be channelled into curbing the pandemic in order to avert an impending doom.