The pressure of managing the COVID-19 pandemic has come with its own oddities, even with some prisoners using the pandemic as reason to press for early release.
The government’s task is clear-cut: to impose sanctions on a few to save the majority. Even then, there must be a sustained message of hope, to discourage COVID-19 stigma (anyone can test positive for the virus); and stress, now more than ever, that testing positive is no death sentence. Most of the people, down with the virus, survive it.
Still overall, prevention is better than cure; and with the virus entering the community transmission phase, with its rising numbers, the government must do what it takes to rein in fleeing COVID-19 cases, lest they become active cells infecting their respective communities.
That is why the three Kano COVID-19 confirmed cases, that nevertheless opted to scram instead of dutifully submitting selves for treatment (for which they don’t have to pay a kobo), is rather worrisome.
“Out of 77 confirmed cases tested in Kano, we are yet to trace three persons, because they have changed (their) place(s) of residence and switched off their phones,” rues Tijjani Hussaini, the Kano State coordinator of the technical response team on COVID-19. “But we have sought the assistance of security personnel to trace them and take appropriate action.”
Such willful scramming is dangerous. So, the Kano State government should take every legal and humane step to find and drag these fleeing cases to the treatment centres.
It should also consider stiff post-treatment sanctions, just to ingrain the message that such irresponsible behavior, likely to worsen the COVID-19 situation, would not be tolerated, more so as the virus is spiking in Kano.
But no less unhelpful is the reported preference, by some FCT cases, to be treated at home, rather than report at the treatment centres.
Though home treatment might not be bad in itself, the prevailing situation suggests it could worsen the COVID-19 situation, at least for neighbors, and the host community. The pandemic is highly infectious.
Which is why the FCT authorities should proceed, with dispatch, with their decision to forcibly move patients in this category into the treatment centres.
If the government is paying for the treatment and management of these cases, the least the patients could do is to be reasonable and cooperative.
Then the situation down south, in Sapele, Delta State, where some inmates were reported to have rioted to press rights, reportedly COVID-19-specific.
The first grouse appeared legitimate enough: that their visitors’ time had been greatly curtailed. Might that have to do with the general COVID-19 restrictions? If so, then the correctional centre should have properly communicated the situation to the inmates.
That could mean a crisis of communication segueing into a global crisis of public health. That can and should be avoided.
But the reported inmates’ clamoring for “palliatives”; and protests for not benefiting from the COVID-19 prerogative of mercy, are as hare-brained as they come. For starters: palliative for what? Then, a prerogative is a privilege, not a right.
Besides, COVID-19 prerogative of mercy criteria are well spelt out, skewed in favour of older prisoners; and those nearing the end of their terms. So, it is not some general amnesty, to favour all categories of inmates.
Still overall, the government should scale up the message of hope in this season of despair. Those who test positive for COVID-19 should be reassured the paramount interest of the state is to bring them back on their feet.
The government should also tamp down the atmosphere of fear. COVID-19 stigma should also be comprehensively addressed.
To triumph over COVID-19, the message of hope must tower above the message of despair. That way, those who test positive would know it is in their own interest to embrace, instead of dash from, treatment.
But that general carrot is without prejudice to the hefty stick to conk into line the obdurate and unreasonable ones, if only to protect the reasonable majority.