Containing COVID-19 in Nigeria: An Appraisal of Lockdown and Surveillance at Inter‑State Borders to Control Disease Spread
Introduction: The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‑19) in Nigeria prompted decision‑making at the various levels of governance. Ebonyi State Government in South‑east Nigeria closed her borders with neighboring states as a preventive measure for the spread of the pandemic. This study was an assessment of the effectiveness and challenges of border closure and surveillance activities in controlling the dispersion of the disease across states.
Materials and Methods: The five major borders of Ebonyi State with her neighboring States of Enugu, Cross River, and Abia were visited. Information was collected about movement restrictions and surveillance at the borders using an observation checklist and key informant interviews. Data collected were analyzed using IBM‑SPSS and thematic interpretation.
Results: Commuters on essential duty were enforced to wear face masks, perform hand hygiene, and undergo screening for the symptoms of COVID‑19 before entering the State. All the first 13 COVID‑19 confirmed persons in the State were from those picked up as suspected cases by surveillance at the State borders. People who travelled hundreds of kilometers across several States were stopped from entering Ebonyi State. However, movement restriction at the borders was undermined by some security personnel who were bribed by commuters to allow them crossover during night hours.
Conclusion: The lockdown and surveillance activities at the borders were effective in controlling the spread of COVID‑19, but alternative routes of entry and corrupt act during odd hours constituted serious risks. Uniformity of movement restriction across all the states borders with vigilante groups manning inter‑community boundaries may control the disease spread across regions.
Keywords: Coronavirus disease 2019 surveillance, infection control, inter‑state borders, lockdown, suspected cases