Africa’s largest city, Lagos, returned to work on Monday after a five-week blockade against coronaviruses ended.
In the metropolis of 20 million people, where exuberance and poverty live side by side, the relief of being able to earn money again was almost palpable, despite the increase in the Covid-19 toll in Nigeria.
All the shops seemed to be open, the parking lots were full and the street vendors selling cold drinks, grilled meat and vegetables threw their goods around the corner as before, AFP journalists said.
Adewale Oluwa has reopened its fruit and vegetable stall, carefully presenting a fine range of tomatoes. At 10 a.m., his customers were in force and laughter resounded as old acquaintances spotted themselves.
“We were so impatient” to end the isolation, said Oluwa.
“Today is wonderful.”
The minibus stations were as busy as before the lock, although the touts wore masks when calling passengers.
Many people have said they are happy to make money – 80 million of Nigeria’s 200 million or so people live below the poverty line.
For those with no savings or working in the informal sector, the foreclosure was a big blow.
“It was really a big loss,” said Oluwa.
“You know, we sell perishables (food), so we have to open every day. So locking up for weeks has been (a) big problem for us.”
Bus driver Ganiyu Ayinla said: “It has been over a month of hunger and suffering.
“I can now earn money to take care of my family,” he said, smiling as he braked at a busy stop to pick up passengers.
From Ajegunle Tollgate, an area bordering Ogun State, a long queue of passengers waited on board.
Security guards and transportation union officials were on hand to ensure drivers complied with guidelines for social distance, face masks, hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers before boarding. .
“We will only allow passengers with a nasal mask to enter. And only drivers who provide water, hand soap and hand sanitizers for their passengers can operate. Buses must also transport no more than 60% of their ability, “said police. An officer who gave his name to George, told AFP.
He said his team prevented about 50 buses from breaking order Monday morning.
Large numbers of people rushed to the reopened banks for cash – many did not have an ATM card to withdraw from an ATM.
“Look at this mess, there is no social distancing,” said driver Anderson Kiagbodo, watching hundreds of people striking at a GT Bank branch, with security guards standing helplessly at proximity.
“Don’t be surprised if the spread of the virus explodes after that.”
Lock to curfew
The home stay order applied to Lagos, the neighboring state of Ogun and the Nigerian national capital Abuja.
But in the face of mounting social distress and dissatisfaction, President Muhammadu Buhari last week ordered “gradual and gradual easing”, replacing the lock with a night curfew.
The relaxation has raised deep concern in some quarters, given the ease with which the coronavirus has spread and the poor state of the Nigerian health system.
According to official figures, nearly 2,500 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Nigeria, resulting in 87 deaths.
But as elsewhere, the real scale of the epidemic could be much greater, given the scarcity of tests.
In northern Kano state, investigators have determined that a series of deaths – previously described as “mysterious deaths” by authorities – were largely due to Covid-19.
“The coronavirus is currently the leading cause of mass deaths in Kano,” said Nasiru Sani Gwarzo, whose team carried out door-to-door searches on Sunday.
Gwarzo did not provide a figure for the deaths, although the gravediggers say they buried dozens of corpses a day.
Kano had seen a series of highly publicized deaths, including academics, bureaucrats, businessmen and traditional leaders.