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Coronavirus not death sentence, say survivors

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Lagos discharges five patients as Makinde tests positive
• Why S’East, S’South states are not ready to battle COVID-19

Five persons who had tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) were discharged yesterday from the Infectious Diseases Centre, Yaba Mainland Hospital.

The survivors, four males and a female, had been undergoing treatment for two weeks at the facility.

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Looking calm and stable, they expressed gladness at receiving a clean bill of health. They were also full of gratitude to the health officials who cared for them, the state government and Governor BabajideSanwo-Olu.

“Coronavirus is not a death sentence. People can survive and I HAVE!” said Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi.The executive director, StandtoEndRape, who took to her Twitter handle, @AyodejiOsowobi, to proclaim her triumph said: “This is another phase of my life and I have won! I celebrate my resilience and strength. Call me SURVIVAYO. I encourage people to get tested and stop the stigma. Practise social distancing and stop the spread.”

She said further: “I thought I was going to die and contemplated a succession plan for StandtoEndRape. I was on drugs daily. Sometimes, I had to take eight tablets in the morning, 13 tablets in the afternoon, 10 at night. My system threw everything out! Water, food, soap and all disgusted me. But I had to look at the wall and force myself to stay hydrated. I fought to live! I fought!!”

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She also had a word of advice: “To every young person out there, please, give your lungs a chance to beat this. Can I encourage you to stop smoking and live a healthy life at this time? A healthy lung is key! The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and state governments need to improve their testing capacity. Test mild/asymptomatic cases too.”

Reacting to the news of the discharge, Sanwo-Olu said: “It is another pointer to us that with a concerted effort, we can defeat the coronavirus in Lagos and Nigeria.”

This came as Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday. “I just received my COVID-19 test result. It is positive. I am asymptomatic and will continue to self-isolate,” Makinde said via his Twitter handle.

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Also, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) yesterday followed the steps of President Donald Trump of the United States by ordering the manufacturing of chloroquine for clinical trials on COVID-19.

Chloroquine, an old antimalarial drug, was first tested in vitro (in the lab) using standard assays to measure the effects on the cytotoxicity, virus yield and infection rates of COVID-19. The drug was reported to function as antiviral at both the entry and post-entry stages of COVID-19 infection. Chloroquine has also recently been reported as potential broad-spectrum antiviral drug.

The pandemic, meanwhile, could give the South-East and South-South and South-West regions of the country a heavy beating unless key health facilities are functional.

South East governors, for instance, had met in 2018 and planned to build an ultra-modern specialised hospital in Enugu, to cater for the health needs of the zone.
The hospital, according to Dave Umahi, chairman of the governors’ forum and Ebonyi State governor, would end medical tourism in the region and boast of facilities equal to none in the country.

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Months after the promise, the site for the proposed structure remains an illusion while talks about its grandeur have ceased. But beyond being an unsettling metaphor of poor commitment to health by the region’s governors, the confirmation of COVID-19 cases in the South East could soon reveal a shocking state of unpreparedness.

Enugu, the first state to be hit by the virus, is battling with two cases. Ebonyi and Abia are currently keeping an eagle eye on certain individuals suspected to have contracted the virus. But sources say, given the contagious nature of the infection and the number of visitors who have since lodged in the region’s many hotels, the coming weeks may hold unpleasant surprises.

In one of the states, a source told The Guardian the situation was so bad that only three ventilators were available in the tertiary hospital. Ventilators are key equipment in managing COVID-19 patients. The source, a health expert, disclosed that no training had been conducted for personnel for the containment of an outbreak.

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“You can imagine what it will look like in a situation where you have more than three cases at the same time. There is nothing in this zone, and that is why a lot of us are crying out that we should try as much as possible to prevent the disease rather than treat it because you don’t treat such with empty hands.

“Even the Personal Protective Equipment is grossly inadequate, and most of the states here don’t have trained hands to manage the cases,” the source said.

As part of measures to stop the virus, all the states will be in a total lockdown this week, having earlier announced the closure of schools and markets. Residents have also been asked to stay at home, with the exception of persons on essential duties.

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Enugu, irrespective of its claim as the leading state in the zone, is still struggling to set up an isolation centre. Apparently, unaware of how pernicious the pandemic is, the state had relied on the facility at the Colliery Hospital, Enugu. The place was opened during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. It was, however, not used because the state did not witness any case.

The public might never have known how dilapidated the place is, had a woman, suspected of having COVID-19 not been quarantined there. The woman, in her 70s, died a day before her result (negative) was released. Her family promptly raised the alarm that the matriarch had died of sorrow, bred by the centre’s run-down condition.

The incident and the public outcry that followed has since roused the state government from its slumber with Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi approving N330 million to boost the state’s capacity to contain the pandemic.

The South-South region, which is the hub of the oil and gas industry, is not well prepared either. Edo State for instance has just one testing machine for COVID-19, highlighting the gap in public health spending.

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Rivers State, which recorded its index case on March 25, has set up a 30-bed treatment centre at Eleme General Hospital. Commissioner of Health Prof. Princewill Chike told The Guardian that the state had contacted the manufacturer of a diagnostic machine but the equipment was out of stock because of high global demand. He said samples from suspected persons were currently being tested outside the state.

The Cross River State government set up an isolation centre at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH), Calabar. The centre, however, has only four beds and one ventilator.

Also, the contractor who built the centre reportedly threatened last week to use all legal means available to shut down the place over an alleged non-payment of an N68million debt.
States in the South West would also need to do more in readiness for a possible spike in COVID-19 cases.

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Investigations by The Guardian at some isolation centres revealed that important medical equipment such as ventilators is insufficient. Oyo State, which has the second-largest number of cases, after Lagos, has only four ventilators. Health Commissioner Bashir Bello confirmed the figure to The Guardian yesterday.
Osun has seven ventilators while Ekiti State reportedly has 10 ventilators at the isolation centre at Oba Adejuigbe General Hospital, Ado Ekiti. The state is also currently constructing a 100-bed facility.
Ondo, the only state yet to record any case, is said to have 11 ventilators.

Ismail Omipidan, Chief Press Secretary to Osun State Governor, said the state has acquired seven ventilators. Osun has two cases of the disease as at the time of filing this report. The patients are currently receiving treatment at the isolation centre at Osun Specialist Hospital, Asubiaro, Osogbo. “We may not have all the millions in the State of Osun, but we will continue to get our priorities right,” Omipidan said.

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