COVID-19: Doubts, violation of safety protocols heighten deadlier second wave risk

The signs at the entrance of Ndubuisi Kanu Park are clear enough to send the right message to any visitors.

‘No entry without a facemask’ and ‘Maintain at least two metres distance between yourself and other people’ are some of the instructions at the entrance point. Two washing hand basins with soap and running water are also stationed at the gate for visitors’ use before accessing the premises.

These are some of the measures put in place to avoid contracting COVID-19 at the amusement park located in the bowels of government offices in Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.

It was around 3pm on Tuesday, December 22, when our correspondent visited the park. The lively atmosphere at the centre that afternoon stood in sharp contrast with the drudgery expected of it at that time of the week. But in the spirit of the season, the fun was not out of place.

What was however puzzling was little or no observance of COVID-19 protocols among the visitors – young and adults.

Under a shade along the park’s walkway, a group of about 50 comprising children and few adults was immersed in merriment, sharing food and drinks.

They mingled freely, with many of them keeping their facemasks below the jaws while others did not wear masks at all.

Perhaps, a number of such gatherings would hold at the park managed by the Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency in the coming days, starting from December 21, 2020, to January 3, 2021.

Tagged ‘Family Funshare Fiesta,’ the event promised to treat fun seekers to a range of activities, including swimming, rides, bouncing castle, and games.

Our correspondent contacted one of the park attendants, whose phone number was written on the banner, asking if a group of 100 visitors together with children could be allowed into the park.

The attendant, who identified himself simply as Yemi, answered in affirmative.

“If they will come, they have to observe COVID-19 protocols. They will use hand sanitisers and they have to wear face masks,” he explained.

He warned that the adults must coordinate the children so they don’t just run around unrestricted.

He added, “We will accommodate all of you. They have to be taken to playground in batches because of COVID-19. Since it is a get-together, you may need a canopy and chairs.”

But the majority of the visitors at the park that day disobeyed the protocols, failing to wear facemasks or wearing them haphazardly and disregarding physical distancing.

Beyond the park, the breach of COVID-19 safety protocols is noticeable almost in every public place in Lagos, the epicentre of the coronavirus in Nigeria, despite resurgence in the number of people infected and killed by the virus in recent times across the country.

From Friday, December 25, confirmed coronavirus cases increased from 81,963 to 88,587 on January 1, 2021, according to statistics from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. Deaths recorded during the period also jumped from 1,242 to 1,294.

The rising second wave of the infection has compelled the Federal and the state governments to reinstate some of the measures taken early in the year to stem the spread of the virus.

Schools have now been shut down again till January 18, large gatherings banned in the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja), Lagos and Ebonyi states while government officials – except emergency workers – from Grade Level 14 downward were asked to work from home.

The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has banned concerts, carnivals, street parties and nightclubs; Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Bello, have also imposed some restrictions and issued fresh safety protocols in their respective domains.

Sanwo-Olu, who is said to have just recovered from the virus, cautioned in a statement last Friday that it was wrong and dangerous for the public to think the worst regarding the virus was over.

He also reinstated the 12am to 4am curfew imposed by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on the state.

The governor lamented that credible reports indicated that the entertainment industry was planning large gatherings, concerts, street parties and carnivals, in the spirit of the Yuletide while nightclubs have also reopened in reckless disregard for the existing guidelines.

He said event centres were also operating with huge gatherings without any regard for public health and safety guidelines.

“The protocol of ‘No Mask No Entry’ must be enforced by all public places: offices, businesses, markets, shops and so on,” Sanwo-Olu stated, adding that all places of worship, including churches and mosques, must ensure that no gathering exceed two hours, at 50 per cent of the maximum capacity of the venue.

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