Most Nigerians appear to have abandoned the use of face masks, despite the lack of a vaccine for the COVID-19 pandemic that grounded their lives for most parts of 2020.
A survey of major markets across Lagos, revealed that most traders have abandoned the daily use of face masks – a mandatory requirement of the Lagos State Government, and an offense under the law. Hawkers, roadside sellers, shop traders, clothe dealers, food sellers, cart pushers, textile sellers, etc. are no longer paying attention to the safety measures.
The Nairametrics research team, discovered most traders believe the virus is no longer a threat, as they go about their daily business without being sick. At the night market in Idumota, most of the traders can be seen transacting their business with customers, without wearing masks or any form of social distancing, suggesting life appears to be back to normal for a lot of them.
The same situation played out at Oyingbo market, where traders lined up their goods on the floor around the train tracks, beckoning on customers to buy their goods. Most did not wear face masks, and even those who did failed to comply with the minimum requirements.
The face masks appeared unwashed, and even worn below the nose area. Social distancing rules also did not apply, and most did not have a basic hand sanitizer. For those who bother to wear, they only do so, to avoid being apprehended by Policemen. If caught, they end up parting away with some money – a fine, to avoid facing the law.
What they are saying
Nairametrics asked some of the traders why they no longer wear face masks. According to Mrs. Chioma at Arena market, Bolade,
“We only see reported numbers, but we have not heard of anyone who actually had the virus. In my opinion, even if there was COVID-19 in the country, it is most likely gone and defeated.”
She told Nairametrics research, that Nigerians are no more interested in the figures of COVID-19 cases anymore, because it is assumed that the numbers are inflated. Meanwhile, she stated that the only reason traders and customers are compelled to put on a face mask, is because of the enforcement by the police and market authorities.
Nairametrics research also visited the Computer village at Ikeja, and found few people in the market due to the alternating market day policy declared by the Lagos State government. However, some of the traders were seen without the use of face masks, and others ate in close proximity to each other.
In a conversation with Mr. Wasiu, a phone repairer, he said,
“Though we hear there is still COVID-19 in the country, but we do not believe it is true, which is why we have been going about our businesses as usual, and we have been good. It is safe to say, God is the one protecting us.”
Also in the Mile-12 market, another trader who identified himself as KC, believes the pandemic may have been a hype
“I have come to the conclusion that the pandemic is not as bad as we were made to believe, as most people now go back to their usual practices.”
When asked if he now engages in handshakes, He said
“Yes. Furthermore, I used to have sanitizer before, but I don’t use it anymore. Our security personnel who enforces the use of face masks and sanitizers have stopped doing so, which has caused most of us to stop adherence. That alone is an indication that the disease is not as bad in the country as it was portrayed.”
While others claim the inexistence of the disease, Mrs. Bimpe, at Idumota, feels that Nigerians are not used to covering their faces, and staying apart from each other. That is why they tend to forget the guidelines stated by the government.
“I believe that there is COVID-19 in the country, we only need time to get used to the social distancing and the wearing of face masks.” She said.
In perhaps, one of the most remarkable take on COVID-19; a commuter explained how the BRT bus he entered was filled with passengers, without social distancing rules being applied. According to her,
“The new blue BRT going to Cement, Iyana-Ipaja area, was loaded beyond capacity yesterday, including standing. If the Government is not acting like there is COVID-19, why should I? My brother e no dey.”
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What the data says
Nigeria has about 56, 735 confirmed COVID-19 cases, since the first case in late February 2020. However, case numbers have dropped significantly in September, partially due to the reduced number of testing.
- As the curve flattens, the government has gradually lifted lockdown restrictions; opening Churches, Schools, Markets, and most public areas.
- Most publicized death cases have been of notable public figures, giving the impression that the disease does not affect the poor.
- Without reported cases of an outbreak in congested locations – with next to zero social distancing capabilities; it is difficult to convince most of these traders and artisans, that they can be affected by COVID-19
- Also, without palliatives, Nigerians have had no choice but to get back to their daily livelihoods, fending for themselves and their families. This is purely the motivating factor for most traders who have no one else to turn to, as higher fuel and electricity prices take toll.