In reality, we do not have to wait until the end of Coronavirus before we open our economy, if there is one thing Coronavirus is leading us to, it is a new way of life. Now, it is time to design a new lifestyle and open the economy despite the presence of the virus. Here is how and strict guidelines to follow in my own opinion.
Closing a weak economy for the second phase of which next week another phase will come because of increase in number of cases doesn’t mean it will disappear. The lockdown due to Coronavirus is tantamount to the absolute death of African economies that are largely comprised of small and informal enterprises. The economic repercussion of the lockdown could be costlier than the virus itself. Locking down the economy will mean continued loss of jobs, income and productivity, leading to extreme poverty, unemployment, and inflation. These economic issues can cause anarchy that might cost more lives and resources. The challenge is, how we save these lives and resources in the presence of the deadly Coronavirus.
We have already started experiencing increasing desperation, hunger, insecurity, and poverty in just a second phase of the lockdown, Now ask yourself, what will happen if you lock down a hungry and idle person for a longer time? First, as they say, “a hungry man is an angry and desperate man, and an idle mind is a devil workshop”. So, when these negativities come together, we should expect the worst as the cases raised. The good news is that the social and economic costs of the lockdowns are avoidable. Believe me!
If we are to wait until the virus is gone before we open our economy, then we will not even have the economy to open. In fact, even if we have the remains of the economy, we will need to spend so much money to revive it, do we have the money for that? I guess No. The daily losses of these lockdowns, both human and financial are far more than that of the virus. That is why in my own opinion I recommend that these lockdowns should not last a month.
It is okay at the beginning of a pandemic like this one to lock down countries and states to buy time to study, prepare, plan, and adapt to the virus. So, one month should be enough for that. Unfortunately, by the end of this week the month is up. Any lockdown beyond that will harm the economy beyond our ability to repair. That is why I recommend opening the Nigerian economy as soon as possible based on the following conditions and recommendations.
Similarly, it is not advisable to lock down cities with some weekly opening days, the threat is that even a one-hour window can cause spread of the virus if the following measures are not taken. If the right measures are taken, then we can open the economy not only on those window days but completely. So, the following codes of living can guarantee the opening of the economy despite the presence of the virus.
1. Testing: we should increase and provide adequate testing booths across the country, just the same way we have election polling units. We should have testing units with 10 minute results and people should be scheduled for testing so that everyone in a ward can rapidly get tested within 30 days. People must observe the required distance and wear face masks while in the queue. Everyone that gets tested, must collect the certificate of clearance, with which they can report back to work or open their businesses. The idea is not to risk allowing carriers of the virus to report back to work and infect others. Anyone that test positive should not be allowed to go back to work or open their business. The clearance certificate must contain an authentication barcode so that law enforcement officers can ascertain the validity of the certificate at any time.
2. Contact tracing: As we open the economy, everyone must minimise the number of people they meet every day. Whoever you are meeting must be very urgent and important, otherwise, do most of your conversations and transactions online, video calls or over the phone. Everyone must have a book or diary in which they document names, contact, meeting location, date, and time of all the people they meet daily. This will make the contact tracing easier.
3. Social distancing: As I mentioned above, after opening the economy, we must minimise contacts, and create the required physical distance when meeting someone, this does not matter if it is our friend or a family member. What about in a taxi or bus? In this scenario, everyone going out and taking public transport must sanitize their hands, minimise talking and observe spacing in seating (not overcrowded as usual), wear face masks, and do not touch their faces or any surface, wash their hands more than three time daily. Recreational centres and shopping malls must enforce similar measures and crosscheck clearance certificates as well. Mosques and churches can also be opened, but members must bring their prayer mats in the case of the mosque or pray at home. Weddings can take place using similar measures. That goes to other events.
4. Enforcement: There should be a law that will incriminate any negligence or failure to observe the safety measures by business owners, employers, religious leaders, and even individuals, etc. The new job for police and Civil Defence will now be to ensure compliance with these measures. Security agents must patrol every location to enforce compliance.
5. Education distance learning: University to the primary school should be incentivized to take their operations/teaching online. The majority of transactions and education must be online unless it is economically and technologically impossible (we have come of age, no more talks but action). Schools that can operate online must be encouraged to continue online teaching, and their examinations should be online too. Teachers must learn to ask analytical or practical questions for fair assessments of true understanding, which is a rewarding skill for this century. Radio stations are good mediums for learning for those that cannot afford the internet.
6. Protections and cure: There must be sensitizations on the need for everyone to protect themselves and all the protection facilities should be provided for free by the government, this should include hand sanitizers, temperature tester, and face masks. Local manufacturers should be encouraged to supply these things in order to create jobs for them.
For the cure, we must not give up, we should not wait for others to give us the cure or tell us otherwise. We should set up a special task force responsible for exploring all possible cure and procedure for the treatment of the virus like hydroxychloroquine, which has shown it works. This should also include unconventional medicine like traditional and herbal medicine. So, we should do our very best to find the cure ourselves (no politics).
So, every state should constitute a committee responsible for designing the roadmap for reopening their economies and set up guidelines suitable for their own realities and set a target date for the reopening. The above guidelines provide the starting points and ideas on how to go about it. This is urgent, because, every day we spend under these lockdowns, we incur irreplaceable costs. Let us stop these avoidable costs. Stay safe and stay hydrated.
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