Nigerians are abandoning the use of face masks and other safety protocols as rates of COVID-19 infections are declining in the country, findings by The PUNCH have revealed.
But the Nigerian Medical Association and virologists told The PUNCH on Sunday that with lax adherence to safety protocols, Nigeria could witness another coronavirus surge as schools prepared for full resumption.
They also warned that with resumption of international flights, failure to abide by COVID-19 protocols could trigger more cases of the deadly virus.
The PUNCH’s correspondents, who monitored adherence to COVID-19 protocols in states, reported that face masks had been abandoned, except in banks, where customers were forced to use them.
In Zamafara State, one of our correspondents observed that people stopped wearing face masks two months ago following the pronouncement of the state Governor, Bello Matawalle that “ Zamfara State is coronavirus -free.”
An engineer in the state Ministry of Education, Aliyu Abdul Aziz, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “I stopped wearing a face mask when the state government announced that there was no coronavirus in Zamfara.”
Another person, Mallam Aminu Duniya, said, “The disease is no more here, so why should I suffer myself wearing a face mask?”
The state’s Commissioner of Health Alhaji Yahaya Kanoma told one of our correspondents that the fight against coronavirus was successful in the state as according to him, “the state is now coronavirus-free.”
In Plateau State, which some weeks ago became the epicentre of COVID-19 in the country, only a few residents could be seen wearing face masks in Jos, the state capital.
A resident, Lucy Chindaba said, “It is not easy to be buying face masks, hand sanitisers and other materials all the time because not everybody can afford them.”
There has been a drop in the wearing of face masks in Benue State also.
The PUNCH correspondent, who went round Makurdi, the state capital on Sunday, observed that people had abandoned the use of face masks.
At the major motor parks at Wuruku in the capital city, most travellers and motorists were sighted without wearing face masks, while inter-state buses observed the physical distancing, the intra-state operators ignored it.
An Abuja-bound traveller who simply identified himself as Tony, said since the COVID-19 cases had reduced, he had not taken the use of facemasks seriously.
At the Wadata market, The PUNCH correspondent, who spent about 30 minutes in there, counted only six people with face masks.
A civil servant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “If you go to our offices, there are notices that everyone, including visitors, must wear face masks. Although the notices are still there, how many people are still observing the protocols?”
But the state Commissioner for Information and member of the state Action Committee on COVID-19, Mrs Ngunna Adingi, said that the committee would soon meet to review the protocols and take actions where necessary.
Also in Ondo State, the use of face masks has been abandoned in public places such as markets, government offices and shopping malls.
Some of the residents, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the matter, explained that there was no more enforcement of the use of face masks on the part of the government.
But people in Akwa Ibom, who spoke to The PUNCH, said they had not been using face masks because they had yet to believe that COVID-19 was real.