By Adewale Kupoluyi
THE sit-at-home directive meant to mitigate the adverse effects of the ravaging coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic is timely and reasonable. It would be recalled that the federal and various state governments closed down institutions, schools and offices as preventive measures to curtail the spread of the deadly virus. Hence, parents, children and family members are compelled to be home for the next month or thereabout to encourage social distancing.
Staying at home has a burden. In other words, as we are looking for a way forward in tackling this problem, there is the need to solve another serious challenge at hand. People go about their normal businesses for those working, while students are pre-occupied with academic work alongside their teachers during office hours and weekends for extra classes. Sitting at home means less academic work and more time for pleasure and extra-curricular activities. This may eventually lead to slow academic work by the time schools resume. As planned by several public schools, the deployment of online teaching facilities would help keep teachers and students busy.
Ordinarily, when people are busy working, they think less of food even though they still find the time to fill their stomachs; but staying at home and doing far less work tends to make them eat more. Normally people would have to spend more money to keep body and soul together. Not to defeat the essence of staying at home, governments at all levels should pay workers’ salaries without delay. They should not wait till the end of the month before doing so because of the peculiarity of this period. This would enable them to purchase basic needs, otherwise staying home and doing nothing could be counter-productive. Employers of labour in the private sector should also endeavour to pay the outstanding salaries as many employees are being owed several months of unpaid salaries.
Apart from food and other consumables, many homes hardly enjoy the public supply of electricity. Many Nigerians often resort to alternative sources of power such as the use of generators, inverters and solar. Aside from this, they require power to pump water, watch the television, charge their mobile telephones and electronic devices. They also need to monitor news in the media and get updated on developments on the pandemic. To make life bearable for the people, affected authorities should ensure that there is at least uninterrupted supply of electricity for a certain period daily.
Regulatory agencies should ensure that artificial scarcity of petroleum products is prevented otherwise the suffering of the people would become unbearable. This is because unscrupulous persons often hide under emergencies to exploit their fellow citizens by hoarding petroleum products and selling at cut-throat prices. Nigerians spend a huge amount of money on fuel, diesel, kerosene and gas. It is disheartening to note that despite the reduction in the pump price of petrol from N145 to N125, many filling stations have either refused to adjust to the new price regime or have complied but the volume of fuel being dispensed does not commensurate with the correct pricing.
Government ministries, departments and agencies in charge of public health and safety should not go to sleep simply because the people have been sent home. They should continue to put in place, sufficient, realistic and sustainable programmes of action to end the scourge, which could be a time-bomb waiting to explode, if not well-managed. This should not be allowed to happen. The confinement should enable the relevant authorities to holistically address what has become a global problem. Public officials should stop playing politics with questionable statistics that they churn out to the people to give the impression that a lot of work is being done; that casualty is abysmally low, and that adequate equipment are on ground to curtail the viral spread.
Honesty and openness is what is required at this period and not deceit, false claims, and propaganda that would help no one. Law enforcement agents should ensure that they keep a tab on peoples’ movement bearing in mind that some people are just restless and can barely stay indoors. Appropriate punishment should be meted out to violators that are reckless in moving from one place to another. As additional measures are to be unfolded, government should be realistic in what is communicated to the people to ensure smooth compliance.
In the next few days, there is the likelihood that many people would switch-over to social media to keep themselves busy. This should expectedly increase activity on the new media. Hence, utmost care should be taken before posting and reposting fake, unverified and misleading information that may likely cause more harm to society. Most of the information disseminated in social media appears to be incorrect. A potent way of ending the spread of falsehood is not to re-share anything without verification or authentication.
We should be our brother’s keeper by being more responsive, observant and caring. We should cooperate with health officials by sticking to approved guidelines and instructions. Reporting any suspected cases of coronavirus to designated offices, telephone numbers and social media contacts would go a long way in reducing the spread of the disease. Parents and guardians should monitor their children and wards more closely because of the tendency to engage in illegal and immoral acts. Apart from the idleness that would be experienced by these young chaps, the urge to wanting to try new things and misbehave cannot be ruled out. Scrutiny and spontaneous checks on their activities should be taken seriously at this moment.
On a positive note, rather than see the confinement in a negative light, it should serve as a good opportunity for family members to stay closer more than before, discuss and sort out issues. This period should spur people to take well-deserved rest, read, write, reflect deeply, be creative and observe penance, especially the faithful that are currently observing the Lenten season, to pray for quick end to coronavirus, pray for Nigeria in distress, and also pray against bribery and corruption in Nigeria. The reason for this is simple. We badly need divine intervention to solve the myriads of problems facing the nation and humanity in general, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, tribe, and race. It is hoped that the sit-at-home order would soon be over. This optimism can only translate into reality when we all do the needful. COVID-19 would certainly go just as it came!