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Preventing COVID-19 in Public Places

In Nigeria, and other countries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the total lockdown initially imposed to contain the spread of the virus has been eased because of its economic impact. The implication of this is that some public places like markets, shopping malls, restaurants, boutiques, banks, and the local wings of some airports have been reopened. The reopening of these places, however, came with imposition of certain precautions and preventive measures. For example, in some states in Nigeria, markets are allotted days to open depending on the type of goods sold and services rendered while they also have specific time to open and close for business.

Apart from the aforementioned, other precautionary measures given by the World Health Organisation and local health authorities are still in place and restriction is still placed on all forms of social gathering. In fact, some of the measures have been passed into law. This is to minimise the spread of the virus while people go about getting their necessaries.

The onus now lies on the individual to take responsibility when they visit any public place to ensure that the curve is flattened.

Mandatory Facilities in Public Places

The following mandatory facilities must be in place at all premises and accessible to everyone:

  • Safe water should be provided for customers to wash their hands upon their arrival and when leaving the place.
  • Market areas, shops, banks, and restaurants should be properly disinfected and sanitised.
  • Promotion of hygienic conditions is essential to protecting workers, traders and visitors.
  • There should be provision for waste management facilities (waste bins and bin liners, incinerators).
  • Toilets/latrines: 1 stance for every 20 persons should also be available.

How to Transport Goods to Markets, Malls and Other Places

If possible, only the driver should be in the transport vehicle. However, if this is not practicable at any point in time, the following hygiene practices should be adhered to:

  • Everyone in the vehicle should wear cloth face masks properly;
  • They should clean their hands before getting into the vehicle;
  • The windows of the vehicle should be kept open; and
  • The steering wheel, inside and outside door handles and other high touch surfaces in the vehicle should be cleaned and disinfected before and after traveling in it.

Safety Tips for Workers/Attendants/Traders/Sellers

  • Wearing cloth masks will help to keep you and your customers from spreading the virus if you are unknowingly infected but feel fine and are not showing symptoms.
  • Use new plastic bags for packing and selling produce. Reusable plastic or fabric bags cannot be used at this time.
  • Consider pre-priced, pre-bagged produce to limit time spent in close contact with customers.
  • Clean hands after each customer interaction. Have a bottle of hand sanitizer available for staff and another one for customers to use.
  • Glove use is not required for handling produce and is not a substitute for hand washing. If gloves are used for handling payments, they must be discarded in a waste basket and hands washed before handling produce.

Guidelines for Everybody in Public Places

  • It is better to avoid visiting crowded places as much as possible, especially if you belong to the higher-risk categories like older adults and those who have serious chronic medical conditions.
  • If you cannot avoid visiting a crowded place, visit early in the morning when the place might be less crowded to make social distancing easy.
  • While going to a public place or travelling via public transport, ensure you keep at least 6 feet distance between you and the next passenger. Do so when you visit ATM points at banks, and other places as well.
  • Wear a facemask. If you cannot afford the disposable masks, get the cloth facemask. It is reusable.
  • Meticulous hand hygiene, along with avoidance of touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, is paramount in public.
  • When you cough, you should cover your cough with a tissue or their bent elbow.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub immediately after using the tissue or handkerchief.
  • Maintain a distance of 1 meter from anyone who is coughing or sneezing and remind them that they need to have a face mask to avoid infecting others. 
  • In markets, shopping malls, disinfect the handle of the basket or whatever you want to use.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others while buying stuffs.
  • If possible, pay without touching money or a keypad or use hand sanitizer after paying.
  • Try to apply hand sanitizer even after you leave the place.
  • Avoid hand-shakes and hugging at all times.
  • Do not spit in public. Identify secluded places like pit latrines or toilets for purposes of spitting and wash your hands immediately with soap and water. 
  • Avoid unprotected contact with dead animals. Do not eat meat of dead animals. Burn carcasses immediately an animal dies.
  • When you get home, wash your hands.
  • If you suspect any person has developed signs and symptoms of COVID-19, immediately alert the NDCC through their dedicated numbers.

Adhering strictly to the measures above will help minimise or even stop the spread of COVID-19. The virus has caged the world, so, we all need to act responsibly.

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