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Sokoto: In face of second COVID-19 wave

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It took about six months from April 20 when the first COVID-19 case was reported in Sokoto to reach 164 cases on October 23, 2020. But in a single month, December 2020, the state has recorded over 180 confirmed cases of the virus.

As of December 31, the total confirmed coronavirus cases stood at 357 with 18 fatalities.  Sokoto reported one death on the last day of 2020, about four months after the 17th fatality in September. Many have been asking why the second wave is spreading fast.

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“We can’t say exactly why it is spreading so quickly, “Chair Sokoto state COVID-19 Taskforce and Commissioner of Health, Dr. Ali Inname, said. “The kind we see now differs from what we used to see.”

He, however, adds that in terms of the severity of the disease, it’s not that serious.

“Most of the patients are not symptomatic; almost 90 percent of them do not have symptoms.”

According to him, once a person tests positive, they begin contact tracing his/her close contacts.

“Though it is increasing, we don’t have up to 20 patients on admission now because most of them are asymptomatic. We advise them to stay at home.”

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Cold Season Connection
The cold season, low temperature may be a reason for many coronavirus cases, says the Health Commissioner. “The coronavirus and the common flu are from the same family.”

So, we advise people to use a facemask and observe other measures to avoid contracting and spreading it.

But while the cases are spreading fast, observing the COVID-19 preventive measures remains very low in the state.
Many residents say they had put the COVID-19 story behind them, especially as the state recorded no case for several weeks after the flattening of the curve of the first wave of infection.
 
From being subject to discussion at most “meeting points” across towns and villages, COVID-19 has become a thing of the past for many in Sokoto. A majority of people move around without facemask, social distancing, washing their hands, or using sanitisers.

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Yet, others remain skeptical about the entire issue; they believe that coronavirus never existed, alleging that it is a false alarm created towards individual selfish gains.
 
Abdullahi Umar, a trader, states: “ I am more concerned with how to put food on the table and the general economic crunch than to bother about something that I am not even sure exists.”

But others such as Umm Aisha, a primary school teacher, harp on the need to ensure strict compliance with the state’s COVID-19 protocols. She cautions against a total lockdown, recalling the adverse effect such had on businesses during the pandemic’s first wave.

She also notes that some schools in the state are preparing for examinations and urged the state government to allow the exams to continue under strict COVID-19 preventive measures.

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The Sokoto COVID-19 Taskforce Chair admits: “The biggest challenge is how to convince people to wear masks, do social distancing and reignite that kind of awareness, and re-mobilise people, because of that two to three months that we were reporting zero, zero, zero cases.”

Another challenge, he says, is how to manage the resumption of schools.

“Students returned after months of being out of school; some were about to write exam; then, there was Christmas break and the increase in COVID cases.”

He says they will strategise on how to go about it.

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Thousand pending tests
Over time, updates from the Sokoto Ministry of Health show over 1,000 people awaiting test each day.

The commissioner explains: “We are doing community testing. We are collecting a minimum of 200 samples per day.”
 
The laboratory at the Teaching Hospital can only run 40 to 45 samples per day, he adds.
They take samples of persons with symptoms or those on admission to UDUTH lab then the remaining to Abuja.

“When we send samples to Abuja, it takes three, four sometimes five days, and I told you we collect at least 200 samples a day, so you can see in a week we will have 1,400, so that is why we are having the pending.”

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Zero-surveillance Study
To get a picture of COVID-19 in Sokoto, the state government announced plans to begin a zero-surveillance study with the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.

“Before now, we did not have test kits. It was available, but NAFDAC and the Presidential Task Force, PTF did not approve it.  So now, they have approved it,” Inname explains.

“It is the test kit that we use when corps members come to camp. If they are positive with the rapid test, then we carry out the confirmatory PCR test to confirm, if they are negative, we allow them to move to the camp.”

Out of three batches of 700-800, he says between eight and 10 people tested positive.

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Given the increasing cases, Governor Aminu Tambuwal directs the State task force on COVID-19 to strengthen media campaigns in nooks and crannies of Sokoto to curb the spread of the virus.

“The pandemic which trend was slightly rolled back in the past few months has again bounced back with the same ferocity it debuted, “he notes.

“Coronavirus is still with us, so the task force must intensify sensitisation campaigns to enlighten the people on its protocols.”

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