Participants at the Penpushing Media held a 24 hour discussion to review the situation in the country since the index case of the novel coronavirus pandemic was reported in Nigeria in February, 2020.
The participants including medical personnel, media practitioners, lawyers and key players in the polity after a thorough review of cases of the virus, its management and fatalities so far recorded came up with the following:-
*They commended the NCDC for being proactive and the disclosure of COVID-19 data and updates as required of public institutions by the FOI Act;
*The participants acknowledged the efforts of NCDC in publishing many guidelines such as those for school and learning facilities reopening; Home Care of confirmed COVID-19 cases; the conduct of elections during COVID-19 pandemic; for safe mass gatherings; among others.
*They commended the NCDC and the PTF for the daily press briefing, to enhance seamless communication flow between Nigeria’s COVID-19 leadership and the public.
However, they observed that there was still widespread doubts and myths about COVID-19 requiring a retool of the NCDC Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) interventions. This is necessary for the much needed attitudinal change of the people in the face of this pandemic
*The Penpushing media discussants noted that the NCDC should continue to emphasize the importance of hygiene as a preventive measure in curbing the spread of Covid-19 through a synergy between the NCDC, the PTF and the State governments to pass vital information down to those in the rural areas by breaking the information down to them in the language they understand
* Going by the harsh economic reality occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Media – a vital source of information and partner in the Covid-19 war, has been massively hit, so it is expedient for Governments at all levels to come up with a robust plan to bail out Media organizations to cushion the effect of this pandemic
*Schools should be opened for academic activities to positively engage the children and youths educationally. Governments at all levels should as a matter of urgency commence fumigation, sanitation and preparation of all public schools at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, ahead of the planned resumption of activities in these institutions of learning.
* State governments should not back-pedal in their push to get rid of the deadly virus. They must intensify their efforts in sensitizing the people on the importance of wearing face mask, physical distancing and other Covid-19 protocols and guidelines.
*State governments must also intensify their efforts to scale up testing which as at 19th August, 2020, showed that only 366,244 tests have been carried out across the country with an estimated population of 200 million. The discussants highlighted that the more tests carried out, the more positive cases will be discovered and treated, and the faster we will get to the peak and flattening of the curve
*State governments need to enforce the law and directive on wearing of face masks and insist on the limit on public gathering. They regretted that despite the stipulated 6 month jail term in Ogun state, people still go about without wearing a face mask and therefore suggested that government can adopt community work as punishment for violators while deploying the “town crier method” of sensitization of the people in garages, parks, markets etc.
*They suggested the breaking down of the daily updates at each state level taking into account discharged and active cases, deaths, tests carried out and the gender demographics
*Since the beginning of the lockdown, there has been an upsurge in cases of domestic violence, rape, incest, teenage pregnancies, insecurity and other crimes. It is very important that the state governments look into curbing all these and bring succor to the victims. They proposed the establishment of a state counseling office to assist those in need of help in this regard.
*Whilst we acknowledge the efforts of the government in responding to the socio-economic challenges of the pandemic, we call on government to be more transparent in its socio-economic interventions aimed at mitigating its impact on the people.
* Government should not wait till COVID-19 is completely gone before initiating the post-COVID “building back” strategy.
In conclusion, the discussants noted that “it is everyone’s responsibility to keep everyone safe from the pandemic by taking responsibility to maintain safety standards at all times.”, and also acknowledged and expressed appreciation to all frontline workers