• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Businesses eye recovery as COVID-19 shows early signs of abating

There is a sense of relief in the private sector over the gradual drop in the number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria, with businesses beginning to make projections for the first time in over four months.

COVID-19 cases in Africa’s most populous country have fallen 27.4 percent nationally to 453 on August 7, from 624 on July 28, according to daily data released by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

In Lagos, which is the epicentre of the pandemic, cases have crashed 66.5 percent to 71 on August 7 from 212 on July 28. Death to recovery in Lagos stood at 1.46 percent on August 7, below the national average of 2.86 percent. Similarly, death to cases in Lagos was 1.22 percent on same day, far below a national average of 2.04 percent, according to BusinessDay’s analysis of NCDC data.

With 10 straight days of relatively lower COVID-19 cases in Lagos and recovery rate of 83.5 percent in the state as against the national rate of 71.4 percent of Saturday, businesses are canvassing full but cautious re-opening of the economy to cushion the effect of the impending recession. Test data seen by BusinessDay showed that Lagos tested 1,607 persons between July 26 and 29, but 1,654 between August 5 and 7. The data showed that though tests have been low in Lagos, drop in numbers does not mean low testing. Lagos has tested 68,085 persons as of August 7, which is 22 percent of the total national capacity.

“With the reduction in COVID-19 cases, the closure of some isolation centers and the gradual re-opening of economic and social activities, the private sector expects that more businesses will re-open, workers will be recalled to work and there will be increased consumer spending on non-essential goods which hitherto had affected the productivity level of businesses,” Timothy Olawale, director-general of Lagos-based Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), said in a phone conversation with BusinessDay.

Muda Yusuf, director-general, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), said the declining numbers are a relief to businesses, but cautioned the government on quick relaxation of anti-COVID-19 measures.

Yusuf expects that businesses will begin to recover by early 2021 as many enterprises are down and struggling for survival. Nigeria’s economic capital has seen a dip on COVID-19 cases on the back of efforts by the government and the private sector to curtail the spread of the deadly virus.

Lagos ranks top in the number of infections, with 15,551 total cases on August 5.  But it has also successfully managed and discharged 13,106 patients, leaving only 2,253 active cases.  The state is closing down a number of isolation centres, including ones in Eti-Osa, on the Lagos Island, and Agidingbi, Ikeja, the state capital.

Speaking on the decline, Doyin Odubanjo, a public health expert, and former chairman of Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Lagos chapter, said the epidemic is expected to decline after a while, which is what is happening.

“Care must be taken to ensure that people are not just treating themselves at home or are not testing. Though this is not likely, it can have a profound impact on the numbers as we are seeing,” he said.

However, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, state governor, who, incidentally, is the chief incident commander of the battle against Covid-19 in Lagos, offered some explanations.

“Most of our patients in Lagos recover under our supervision. We now have two pathways through which confirmed cases are managed: either through our Home-Based Strategy, or in designated Covid-19 Care Centres,” Sanwo-Olu said.

He explained that those in the Home Care category are being supported medically with care packs, and psychologically through counselling teams available via 08000CORONA.

According to Sanwo-Olu, in addition to the above, the patients are allowed access to the Lagos’ telemedicine services through the state-owned EKOTELEMED, and are also visited  weekly by doctors to ensure that they are recovering adequately and in a timely fashion.

Akin Abayomi, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, had at one of his earlier briefings said that the state is using ‘the curve model’, meaning that it may experience the peak of coronavirus by August and after then have a gradual decline.

Abayomi said that the COVID-19 prediction model of the state holds that the pandemic will soon reach its peak, followed by the flattening of the curve and a gradual decline in the number of cases.

“Lagos will theoretically peak in the month of August, it will flatten out and over some time we will see a decline,” he had said.

A June 2020 survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that 42 percent of the Nigerians who were working before COVID-19 outbreak (mid-March) had lost their jobs to the pandemic.

During that time, some 20.9 million Nigerians were unemployed. Seventy-nine percent of the respondents reported that their total income had decreased since mid March, with many struggling to keep up with the purchase of staple food like yam, rice and beans.

Ambrose Oruche, acting director-general of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), said he is expecting Lagos to be COVID-19 free before September to enable the state open up economy and revive businesses.

On his part, Olawale, earlier quoted, called for better policies and more government support to aid business recovery following the devastating effects of the pandemic.