The Lagos State Government has raised the alarm of a possible third wave of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, following a sharp increase in the number of positive cases recorded in the last few weeks.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Sunday, imposed restrictions and sanctions after disclosing that the State’s daily cases of COVID-19 confirmation had shot up by 6.6 per cent over a period of one week.
The development may not be unconnected to the careless attitude of air passengers from countries in the “high risk” zones and the complacency by the residents to follow the protective protocols issued by the Government after the end of the second wave.
Sanwo-Olu disclosed that 18 per cent of 50,322 air passengers of interest, who arrived in Lagos via the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), could not be reached for COVID-19 status monitoring by EKOTELEMED because they supplied wrong contact details.
Going forward, the Governor ordered sanctioning of in-bound air passengers that failed to provide verifiable contact details, including accessible phone numbers they can be reached for monitoring.
Sanwo-Olu said air passengers would face prosecution, including fines and imprisonment in line with the Lagos State Coronavirus Law of 2021.
The Governor said: “In spite of our hard work and dedicated efforts towards sustaining the return to normalcy, over the last three months, after the flattened the curve of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, we are now finding ourselves at what appears to be the start of a potential third wave of the pandemic in Lagos State. From the beginning of July, we started to experience a steep increase in the number of daily confirmed cases.
“The rapid increase within a week gives great cause for concern. Also, within the last two weeks, the occupancy rate at our isolation centres increased to an average of six per cent. This is the disturbing reality that now confronts us. As directed by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC), passengers from red-listed countries (India, South Africa, Brazil and Turkey) are required to observe mandatory isolation.
“We have successfully isolated 2,386 passengers in Lagos. Of this number, 15 per cent have absconded. Sanctions are being recommended and have already been meted out to defaulters. Revocation of Permanent Residency and deportation are being meted out to foreign nationals defaulting the protocols. For Nigerians, there will be prosecuted to the full extent of the Lagos State COVID-19 Law of 2021.”
The situation at hand, Sanwo-Olu said, required reactivation of full compliance with all protective protocols already outlined by the State Government.
The Governor said there should be compulsory use of masks in all public places, while also directing social distancing, compulsory temperature checks, provisions for hand-washing and sanitisers, and a maximum of 50 per cent occupancy in enclosed spaces.
Sanwo-Olu urged worship centres to be particularly vigilant, advising them not to be carried away by the illusion that all activities were back to normal.
He said: “It is understandable that many are tired and want their old, pre-pandemic lives to return. Unfortunately, we do not have a choice in this regard, and fatigue is not an option. We cannot afford to be tired, frustrated or distracted. Without the cooperation of the public at large, we stand the risks of losing both lives and livelihood, on a devastating scale.
“The enemy (COVID-19) is formidable and opportunistic. The pandemic will only go as far as we allow it. Having triumphed over the first and second waves, we must now find within ourselves new reserves of energy to quell this emerging third wave before it snowballs out of control.”
The Governor decried the low vaccination rate in the State, pointing out that only a fraction of the populace received the recommended doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine being rolled out to achieve herd immunity.
This, he said, is not adequate, adding that the State Government was exploring all avenues possible to ramp up access to vaccines to reach the immunity target of 60 per cent coverage.
Sanwo-Olu said Lagos would continue to work with all partners across the Government and private institutions to ensure permanent isolation of the virus.