OPINION: COVID-19: FG/NCDC must issue Negative Test Certificate before granting access to premises of public institutions
By Kayode Ajulo
In about few hours to the relaxation of the Lockdown pursuant to the Presidential Address of April 27th, 2020, the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and various state governments have issued various directives and guidelines for the resumption of business in various premises of public institutions in the bid to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Federal Government might have been pressured to relax the lockdown in order to savour the economy, however coming out of lockdown too soon could be catastrophic and lead to an explosion of new coronavirus cases. The key to easing the lockdown will be to work out changes that are enough to open up society and restore the economy but not to worsen the prevalent situation.
While it is important to commend the Federal Government and the NCDC for the proactive steps taken to ensure adequate testing, with the daily increase in the reported cases, it is still unclear how many people have actually been infected with COVID-19. Few days ago, there are reports that the Lagos State government has run out of testing kits and patients have to be taken to nearby Ogun State for testing.
While relaxing the lockdown for people to resume business as usual, is not without a grimace of relief, yet if people who do not know they are infected return to work, they risk infecting countless others and wiping out all the progress that has been made. There is need to speed up coronavirus testing and government should provide personal protective equipment before people can safely go back to work. As at the time of writing, the number of tests that have conducted by the NCDC is below 13,000.
It is pertinent to recall that sometime last week, Wednesday, the 29th day of April, 2019, as a Counsel representing two appellants/convicts in two criminal appeals to ensure the setting aside of their convictions and their eventual release, I was in a premises of public institutions for the conduct of my assignment and in the premises I sighted a renowned personality and who also double as my friend, mingling with others, who was later confirmed to have tested positive to the virus few days later.
One could only imagine how many lives would have been exposed to the virus. There is no gainsaying the herculean task that would ensue in tracing contacts of persons who have been to such premises of public institutions for the past five days before the case was confirmed.
It has been estimated that about 30% of people who contract the virus will not show symptoms, thus the use of temperature check may not prove effective in confirming the status of people who are granted access to premises of public institutions. Hence, the imperative for the Federal Government to take proactive steps in ensuring that before access is granted to premises of public institutions, everyone must present a ‘Negative Test Certificate’.
It suffices to point attention to the migration of some persons from some states to the Federal Capital Territory despite the invocation of interstate lockdown. I watch with dismay, a video of some persons being conveyed with the aid of long buses and trailers to the FCT.
This is no doubt a fallout of inducement of law enforcement agents to gain passes which will greatly spike the rate of the spread of the pandemic if no check is put in place.
Sunday, 3rd Day of April, 2020
Castle of Law, Maitama,