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COVID-19: Ewekoro, Lafarge’s host shows courage as panic spreads

By Gbenga Akinfenwa, Gbenga Salau, Paul Adunwoke (Lagos) Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi (Jos) Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna) Agosi Todo (Calabar) Ahmadu Baba Idris (Birnin Kebbi), Mathew Ogune (Abuja) and Oluwaseun Akingboye (Akure) 
01 March 2020   |   7:17 am
Palpable fear has enveloped Ewekoro, host community of Lafarge Cement Company, in Ogun State, where the index victim of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) visited on arrival in the country from Italy.

…Far off is Lafarge Wapco Furnace, billowing…yesterday PHOTOS: GBENGA AKINFENWA

• Cement Factory Still In Full Operation
• NCDC Introduces 4th Public Health Advisory
• Quarantine Yourselves If You Notice Symptoms – NGF
• Three Chinese Nationals Quarantined In Plateau State,
• No Suspected Case Escaped From Ogun – Govt
• C’River Cautions Residents Against Panick
• Kaduna Govt Sets Up Emergency Operational Centre
• Kebbi Trains Health Personnel
• NARD Officials Warns Against Fatal Complacency
• Lagos Insists Index Case Stable, Environment Clean

Palpable fear has enveloped Ewekoro, host community of Lafarge Cement Company, in Ogun State, where the index victim of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) visited on arrival in the country from Italy. The Guardian observed that the hitherto boisterous community currently wears a mournful look, as some shops, kiosks and a makeshift mini market opposite the factory had been deserted.
Investigations showed that apart from Ewekoro, neighbouring communities are also in panic mode as a result of poor information. From Akinbo to Itori, Iyana-Egbado, Lapeleke, Papalanto, Gudugba, Abule-Oko and Abule-Egba, among others, residents are generally on edge. Yesterday, the cement company’s second gate, which is always busy, was quiet, with only a mobile police officer manning it. A few trucks waited for their turn to be asked in, while drivers chatted away under a tree.
The Baale of the community was not around when The Guardian visited, but the Iyalode of the community, Chief (Mrs.) Musili Gbadebo, who said her child called from Kaduna to inform her of the development, on Friday, explained that the incident has created tension across the community. While noting that everything is under control as those who had contact with the victim had been quarantined, she said people outside the community are creating more fear in the hearts of the residents, as the general impression from outside is more serious.

“All residents should let their minds be at rest. They should not panic as the situation is under control. What is happening is temporary, and it will soon pass away. Those shops that you claim are shut is because of the environmental sanitation that took place earlier in the day, in addition to the fact that today is Saturday,” she told The Guardian, yesterday.
“On Tuesday, we’ll be having a meeting with the management of Lafarge Cement Company, the issue of Coronavirus will top the agenda. We need them to address this issue immediately, and they’ll need to put in place necessary safety measures to ensure that the disease does not spread.” A resident, Mr. Kabiru Salaudeen told The Guardian that since the news broke, some residents have relocated from the community, while he has prevailed on some to stay put.He said the quietness observed around the factory was because of parties attended by shop and business owners, and not out of fear.
At Itori, a teacher, Mr Kareem Odunola, said the whole area was in panic mode because a large number of Lafarge’s staff members reside in the community.
He said the fears still being experienced was due to the state government’s inability to trace everyone, who might have had contacts with the Italian, saying those isolated were just a few of those that he had contact with.Contrary to the claim by Ogun State government that the company had been shutdown, The Guardian can confirm that the company is still in full operation.
Workers were seen going in and out, while smoke was billowing from the kiln.Interestingly, no precautionary measures were noticed to safeguard the safety of both workers and visitors.The Director, Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainable Development, Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, through a release on Friday said the company “is also working in close partnership with International SOS, our medical service provider….”When The Guardian entered through the Quarry gate, there was no sanitiser for use by workers and visitors, neither were workers or visitors there wearing facemasks to protect themselves against contracting the disease.
MEANWHILE, the Ewekoro Local Council Chapter of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), is calling for adequate attention from the state and federal governments so as to contain the outbreak.In a statement jointly signed by the Coordinator and General Secretary, Sogo Great and Kazeem Surakat, respectively, the youth body solicited for proper medical investigation of all suspected persons that had direct physical contact with the index case.
“This will control the spread of this deadly disease. We heard from different sources that this Italian had direct physical contact and conversation with his driver and some top managers that always have interaction with our community youth representatives, workers and contractors and of course, interactions continueD outside the work premises down to individuals’ residence,” the youths said.

MEANWHILE, Ogun State government has described as false, reports that a cab driver, who drove the Italian from Lagos State to Ogun State, was demanding a ransom of N100m or he would spread the virus.The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Abiodun, Kunle Somorin, said the news was not only false, but fake.A social media platform had reported that the cab driver identified in the report as Adewale Isaac Olorogun, was diagnosed to have contracted the deadly virus from the passenger.
But Somorin, said the report was untrue, adding that no such message was received, either by the health commissioner, or the state government.The Ogun State government has also activated an Emergency Operation Committee (EOC) to manage any development that may arise from the reported case of the disease, even as it has dispelled rumours that the taxi driver of the index case has escaped.

The Committee, which is headed by the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, comprises staffers of the state Ministry of Health, Hospital Management Board, Representatives of Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and representatives of Federal Medical Center (FMC), Abeokuta.

The EOC consists of seven sub- committee, including Risk Communication and Mobilisation, Surveillance, Case Management, Infection Prevention Control (IPC), Central Coordination/Planning and Logistics/ Finance respectively.“Everyone that had any link with the Italian victim of the dreaded virus since he arrived the country has been quarantined. The others, who these primary contacts also had interactions with are equally being monitored.”  
THE Federal Ministry of Health, through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), yesterday, activated a National Emergency Operations Centre, and is leading the national response.

A National Rapid Response Team has been deployed to support Lagos and Ogun states’ governments with contact tracing and the required response activities. Currently, there are four laboratories in NCDC’s molecular laboratory network, with the capacity to test for COVID-19. These laboratories are sufficiently equipped with reagents and supplies for testing.

The NCDC, which is in contact with all states to increase the index of suspicion to ensure cases are detected early, informed that to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19, members of the public must observe all approved preventive measures.Healthcare workers are always advised to observe standard infection prevention and control measures when attending to patients and take a travel history. Nigerians are also advised to avoid self-medication and travelers to China and other affected countries.

NCDC added: “We strongly advise that all non-essential travel to countries with ongoing local transmission should be postponed, until the outbreak is contained. Travellers from Nigeria to China and other affected countries are advised to avoid contact with sick people. “Travellers without symptoms on departure, but who become unwell in transit are advised to self-report to the Port Health Services on arrival. Travellers from countries with ongoing local transmission, but who show no symptoms on arrival should self-isolate at home for 14 days after arrival.”

MEMBERS of the Nigerian Association of Medical Doctors (NARD) have urged politicians in the country not to politicise the COVID-19, while also expressing their readiness to partner with the federal and state governments, as well as ministries of health, NCDC and critical care teams in the various tertiary hospitals to contain a possible outbreak of the disease.

NARD officials, after an emergency meeting, said that concerted effort should be made by relevant agencies to provide necessary training for health workers, and the provision of equipment and facilities to rapidly contain the disease.  A statement signed by NARD President, Dr. Sokomba Aliyu; Secretary General, Dr. Biliqis Muhammed; Publicity and Social Secretary, Dr. Egbogu Stanley said, “even as we prevent hospital outbreaks and community transmission, we must look out for the first cluster and evidence of community transmission. We must avoid all forms of fatal complacency.

“This deserves all the seriousness and must not be politicised,” the NARD’s President added.He further remarked that the association has provided a weblink to the public, which is a one-hour free online training on infection prevention and control for COVID-19

THE Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has advised citizens to quarantine themselves should they observe symptoms of the virus.The NGF also urged citizens to contact the nearest health facility within their states should they suspect symptoms of the virus. The advise was contained in a statement issued by its Chairman and Governor of Ekiti, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.Fayemi said that the governors had taken note of the first case of COVID-19 case reported in Lagos and had initiated monitoring infrastructure to ensure that quick response and attention were given to anyone showing symptoms.

He said: “As a forum of proactive governors, we have initiated monitoring infrastructure in all states to ensure that quick response and attention is given to anyone showing symptoms of the disease.“We encourage the citizens to self-quarantine if they notice symptoms related to the viral disease and contact the nearest health facility within their states.

THREE Chinese nationals that engaged in mining activities, who arrived Jos, Plateau State from Abuja, on Friday, have been quarantined in Wase Local Council of the state.Confirming the incident, yesterday, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Nimkong Larndam said: “They came into Jos from Ethiopia, through Abuja and went straight to their mining site in Wase.“When we got the information, we sent a team, in collaboration with Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) to Wase to isolate and observe them for 14 days while watching out for any symptom.”

The commissioner said that the state government was ready to curtail any outbreak in the state and has also embarked on enlightenment campaigns to sensitise members of the public on the need to report any suspicious case to members of the medical team constituted by the state for that purpose. 

THE Cross River State government has urged residents not to panic, but rather take self-precaution against the Coronavirus.The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Betty Edu, while briefing newsmen on the state’s preparedness to contain the disease should it find its way there. Edu, who was accompanied by Director General Primary Healthcare Agency, Dr. Janet Ekpenyong, and officials of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the state visited the Margaret Ekpo International Airport and other ports of entry to supervise the screening of visitors to the state, assured of government’s preparedness to combat the scourge. KEBBI State government has also organised a one-day training programme to equip health workers in the state.

Addressing newsmen in his office, the permanent secretary and Medical Director of Sahyah General Hospital, Dr. Aminu Bunza said the training, was aimed at enlightening all medical professionals on how to handle the Lassa Fever and Coronavirus if the needs arises. AS part of preparations to curb any eventual outbreak of Coronavirus in Kaduna State, the government has set up an Emergency Operational Centre (EOC), which is to respond quickly in the event of an out break of the disease.

A press statement issued by the state Ministry of Health at the weekend, stated that the committee is chaired by the Health Commissioner, Dr. Amina Mohammed Baloni.

THE Lagos State Government has debunked news making the round that the index case of Corona Virus Disease isolated at the Lagos Mainland Hospital tried to escape.State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi who debunked the news while giving an update on the index case at the Mainland Hospital yesterday said the patient never expressed any desire to leave the facility. “I have spoken to him myself, he is doing very well, he is comfortable; he was comfortable yesterday and he is comfortable today,” Abayomi stated.
The Commissioner noted that the patient was initially kept in a single isolation room for his privacy when he was brought in because part of the facilities at the Mainland Hospital were being renovated. He added that the patient has subsequently been moved to one of the newly renovated wards. Said he, “As of this morning, his condition has improved, he hasn’t developed new symptoms but he still got a mild fever and we will be running test to see what the situation is with the virus in his body and as soon as we get a negative screen, we will keep him for another two or three days and repeat the test to make sure that there are no more virus particles in his saliva and that means that he will not be contagious. Then, we give the OK for him to be released back into the community. This is a specialist facility and there is no level of carelessness going on in this facility.

“The staff here including the staff in the bio-safety level laboratory are well trained and certified biosecurity specialist, so there is no unprofessionalism in this environment,” Abayomi said.On the issue of availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the Commissioner assured that a stock of several hundred kits are available at the mainland hospital, adding that PPEs have also been distributed to all the general hospitals and major primary health care facilities.

“So we are stocked up for now, if we need to buy more, we know exactly where to get it, so we are not worried about PPE supply.
While restating that the State government is prepared to contain and break the circle of transmission of the virus, he explained that the Lagos State Government have been building capacity for any biosecurity threats to Lagos since the Ebola virus incident of 2014.
“We have been preparing since Ebola incident of 2014 and as soon as Lagos was certified Ebola, we have been building capacity. This is evident in the level of sophistication in some of the facilities here at Mainland hospital. We have not been sitting down or relaxing, we don’t want to experience what happened in 2014 again, so we are ready and we will continue to build that capacity year by year,” Abayomi stated.

“WITH the confirmation of a case in Lagos State, a few hours away from Ondo State, it has become imperative for all stakeholders to join hands to prevent the outbreak of the COVID-19 in Ondo State.”The state Commissioner for Information, Dr. Wahab Adegbenro, who stated this in a statement he issued in Akure, noted that the Epidemic Preparedness and Response Committee was working to keep the state safe.While urging residents of the state not to panic over the outbreak the state government assured that it has taken necessary proactive steps and was on top of the situation.