Mile 12, Maryland, Onipanu!
Ronke turned to the man in the passenger seat beside her. Like her, the man was wearing a face mask and had on plastic gloves.
Back outside on the street, crowds converged at bus parks and left physical distancing to chance. This could be a real catastrophe, Ronke thought as she arrived at her workplace moments later.
Since Nigeria’s index case of Covid-19 was detected in February, Lagos has continued to lead the pack of infections across the nation.
And while the Federal Government’s gradual easement of the lockdown in Abuja, Ogun and Lagos on Monday, May 4th was criticised by few, many Nigerians actually applauded this action.
Following the lockdown relaxation, Governor of Lagos state, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced a set of new transport guidelines to prevent community spread in the country’s commercial capital and most populous city.
Let’s get to it.
New Transport Guidelines in Lagos
Motorists are expected to take these basic precautionary measures seriously to avoid any encounter with special forces.
#1. Compulsory 60% Passenger Capacity
Speaking with my friend, Ese on Wednesday, she mentioned that transport fares hiked up because of this directive.
Across the state, BRTs currently convey twenty-one passengers and each person is expected to leave his next seat empty. And public yellow buses (danfo) now allow ten persons, some eight.
Related Article: WHAT EVERYBODY OUGHT TO KNOW ABOUT LAGOS BRT
Also, mini buses have seven as opposed to the regular ten while Keke Napeps (tricycles) and taxi operators slashed theirs to two and three passengers respectively.
#2. No Standing in Public Buses
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Lagos Bus Services Ltd (LBSL) are taking safety to the next level by observing a no-standing order.
This has made commuters waiting at bus terminals to quadruple over the past week.
#3. No Air Conditioning
Because sneezing or coughing in a confined space can increase risk of community spread, this directive is worthy of commendation.
Drivers are advised to switch off air conditioning systems and leave windows open while in transit. You know, that way the breeze vacuums lethal or non lethal droplets.
#4. Mandatory Use of Wash Basins or Hand Sanitizers at Bus Parks
With new videos surfacing on the internet everyday, you may have seen danfo conductors and other public bus staff providing handwashing equipment or alcohol-based sanitizers to passengers.
Everyone is encouraged to wash or sanitize their hands before and after trips and avoid touching surfaces.
Washing Of Hands. Photo Credit. BBC
#5. Indefinite Suspension of Okada
Like I said in this article, Lagos authorities restricted the access of Okada (motorcycles) from certain highways and neighbourhoods across the city.
But presently, this directive was stretched to stop Okada operations in the entirety of the state.
The Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, while briefing the media affirmed that the use of motorcycles for commercial activities would not support the physical distancing rule as directed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
In addition to curtailing the spread of Covid-19 via public transit, an eight p.m. to six a.m. curfew is enforced as well as a complete ban on interstate travels.
Agric BRT Terminal
Water transport operators aren’t allowed to work beyond six p.m., ferries can only operate after disinfecting their boats and waterways users have to wear a face mask.
To downsize travellers on Lagos roads, places of worship, schools and hotels are ordered to remain closed until further notice.
Markets where non-food items are sold will open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while food and farm produce sellers will open on the remaining days apart from Sundays.
So, should you really be in Lagos traffic right now?
Ahem, this is a tricky one. But before I can make my personal opinion understandable, I’ll like to take a look back at this past week when the lockdown order was initially relaxed.
Monday. Workers trooped out in large groups to recoup their losses after the 5-week lockdown and banks observed a record number of customers.
Crowd At GT Bank, Ikorodu. Photo Credit. technext
On the streets, public buses could hardly measure up to the commuters waiting at parks.
Motorists flooded Third Mainland Bridge and security personnel at Berger, the border town between Ogun and Lagos had their hands full even though an interstate travel ban was on.
At dusk, number of confirmed cases in the country increased by 245 new patients, Lagos had 1,183 cases of Coronavirus.
Tuesday. As gridlock continued to rise across Lagos, the Presidential Task Force complained of low levels of compliance with guidelines.
Banking premises had crowds ignoring social distancing rules. And the Police relocated checkpoints at Berger to restrict motorists entry into the state.
To avert a sudden spike, residents were advised to conform to the new norms but after eight p.m., private car owners and commercial transporters reportedly breached the curfew.
Irrespective of the difficulties, there was good news at the Yaba, Eti-Osa and Ibeju-Lekki Lagos Isolation Centres, a total of 60 patients got discharged.
Wednesday. Earlier today, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde expressed his displeasure over the low compliance of post-lockdown advisories.
The Police arrested over a hundred violators who were either curfew defaulters or persons without a face mask and banks continued to struggle with customer demands.
Commuters were seen ignoring physical distancing guidelines and many had their hands on railings at bus stations while others stood next to each other!
195 new cases were reported nationwide and numbers in Lagos summed up to 1,308.
By evening, investigators found security operatives collecting kickbacks from motorists at Jibowu and Berger.
Blockade At Berger, Lagos. Photo Credit. pmnewsnigeria
Thursday. 37 patients were discharged today but it wasn’t all great news as 10 persons in the Marina State House tested positive.
It was also the second time in the week that food sellers opened their stores, and there was a bit more adherence to physical distancing.
At the daily briefing in Abuja, the National Coordinator, Mr Sani Aliyu warned of a fresh lockdown because of an increase in violations. He said, “the gains of the lockdown may be destroyed if we continue to disregard these guidelines.”
Friday. NCDC published new guidelines for business operations.
Women Selling Protective Equipment. Photo Credit. Humangle
In Lagos, 253 voluntary returnees from UK arrived at Murtala Mohammed Airport before a subsequent flight to Abuja.
Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi issued an alarming forecast by the Lagos state government. He said that cases may rise to 120,000 by July.
At dusk, 386 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the country. Lagos accounted for 176 and this brought the total number of confirmed cases in the state to 1,667.
No doubt, security operatives have had their hands full since the calling off of the lockdown. Arrests. Vehicles impounded. Traffic control. It’s hectic!
As a densely populated city, it’s really scary that some persons have chosen to blatantly ignore these safety guidelines.
Also, crowding at public buildings and bus parks may cause a sudden increase in number of cases. In fact, it’s very likely that this happens in two weeks or less.
Crowd At A BRT Terminal. Photo Credit. Twitter
And while putting on face masks is already a habit for many, someone needs to tell Lagosians that leaving their face mask to dangle on their chin isn’t best for anyone.
To arrive at a reasonable conclusion, it’s important you know that Nigeria isn’t the first to relax its lockdown. This has been executed in China, Italy and Spain.
However, these countries all have one thing in common, authorities had to wait for the pandemic to ‘peak’ before slowly allowing people on the outside.
So, where has Lagos gone wrong?
Simple! We haven’t neared peak yet.
Even when the lockdown was in full swing, local health workers continued to record increasing number of cases and deaths from Covid-19 everyday.
Between Monday and Friday, Lagos had a steep 40.91% increase in confirmed cases and on Thursday, officials started recording three-digit figures and this hasn’t dropped since.
Governor Sanwo-Olu while briefing journalists on Saturday said, “The gradual easing of the lockdown is dependent upon the compliance of each and everyone of us… we may review the terms of this easing if there is no improvement in coming days.”
I think with the continuous disregard for physical distancing rules, it isn’t safe for anyone to be on the streets of Lagos this moment, traffic or no traffic. And that’s the painful truth.
Yes, I know people particularly low income earners need to eat and store supplies but I believe the government could have stepped up palliative services instead of rushing to ease.
Heck, everyone including business owners and households could use some form of aid.
Over to You!
If you found this article helpful or educative. Kindly share with friends, family or loved ones.
Lagos By Sunset. Photo Credit. Instagram
Do you agree with me or nah? I know many Lagosians work for someone else but if this was up to you, would you have stayed home? I’ll like you to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Thanks in advance and cheers to many blissful days ahead.
Featured Image. @thattokelady