To avert losing billions of dollars in gross domestic product (GDP) to the effects of COVID-19 and fast track economic recovery, experts have goaded the federal and state governments to enforce the use of face masks across the country.
It may be recalled that the African Development Bank (AfDB) recently projected that the coronavirus in Africa could cost Nigeria, Togo and other countries on the continent $236.7bn in their cumulative Gross Domestic Product. The bank projected that if the COVID-19 pandemic and its harsh impacts persist on the continent beyond the first half of this year, there would be deeper contraction of the continent’s GDP.
In a telephone conversation with NATIONAL ECONOMY last night, Dr. Bongo Adi of the Economics Department, Lagos Business School, after caveating that Nigeria should focus more on the country’s death rate than infection rate, said that it is high time the federal government opened the economy fully to avert poverty and other diseases killing more people that would otherwise have been the case.
While stressing that the use of face mask would reduce the spread of the coronavirus and allow for quick economic recovery, Adi said Nigeria’s current death toll of about 750 owing to the pandemic is not significantly above normal. He added that it would make sense to open the economy and enforce compliance of wearing face masks.
He urged the federal government to open the economy for at least three months and take proper data of the death rate in the country over that period and decide whether to lock the economy based on the three month data analysis, otherwise the government may only be succeeding in impoverishing Nigerians which population is composed of mainly young people who are generally asymptomatic of the disease.
Also on a phone conversation with Tope Fasua, a businessman, economist, writer and 2019 Nigeria Presidential candidate for Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party, he said: “The science around COVID-19 can be confusing, but things are getting clearer,” adding, “it is apparent that cooperation from members of the public in the area of face masks will help reduce infections and give more confidence to other members of the public to resume business and patronize business places. This may help in reopening at least some hitherto shut-in sectors.”
Former Medical Director of the Nigeria Electric Power Authority (NEPA), Dr. Japhet Ogunsona, also speaking with NATIONAL ECONOMY on the use of face masks, said it is important to understand that the use of face masks guarantees more protection that face shields.
Stressing the need of wearing face masks, Ogunsona said the effect is maximized when everybody is wearing same because it ensures double protection.
Another economist, who opted for anonymity urged government at all levels to invest in providing quality face masks for its people, a move he claims government can use to ensure compliance.
The AfDB had pronounced that a prolonged situation into the second half of this year caused by the pandemic would result in deeper GDP contraction.
It projected a deeper contraction of about 3.4 per cent, down by 7.3 percentage points from the growth projected before the outbreak of COVID–19.
In a related development, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Robert Kaplan has said a nationwide mask-wearing mandate would slow the coronavirus’ spread and boost the US’s economic recovery.
Kaplan recently said “Additional monetary and fiscal stimulus is important, but adhering to public-health protocols is “the primary economic policy” for helping the US grow faster.”
COVID-19 cases have recently spiked in several states, raising fears of a halted economic bounce-back.
Goldman Sachs analysts estimated last month that a mask mandate would cut the daily growth rate of infections to 0.6% from 1.6% and spare the US from a 5% hit to gross domestic product.
“While monetary and fiscal policies have a key role to play, the primary economic policy from here is broad mask-wearing and good execution of these healthcare protocols,” Kaplan said. “If we do that well, we’ll grow faster.”
A mask-wearing policy would ultimately push the unemployment rate lower and increase the chances of near-term re-openings, he added.