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Uncertainty after Kano celebrates sallah with low COVID-19 preventive measures

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When the government took the painful decision to impose movement restriction about four months ago, it became obvious the deadly COVID-19 pandemic was real. A significant percentage of the populace then considered the sit-at-home order given to halt the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in Kano a viable measure.

While many states imposed cautions to avert possible mishap on Friday’s Eid-el-Kabir, Governor Umar Ganduje declared a free field day for residents to observe the Sallah congregational prayers in the state.

Meanwhile states such as Kwara, Niger, and Jigawa cancelled the celebrations to protect the gains recorded in the fight against the virus so far.

Although Ganduje allowed residents to observe Eid Kabir congregation prayers under directive for strict compliance to COVID-19 protocols, there were violations of such guidelines at several prayer grounds.

Even with volunteers stationed at the entries of eid grounds to ensure compliance, thousands of worships seen across places visited ignored the use of face mask.

Social distancing was never adhered to.

For instance, at Shiekh Jafar Adam Eid ground in Sabon Wargandu, Kofar Mata Central Eid ground, Bayero University prayer place and a host of others, little or no compliance to COVID-19 protocols was observed.

The ugly development may spell unpleasant consequences and rush the modest achievement recorded so far by the state COVID-19 task force.

Although there was a deliberate cancellation of traditional colourful Darbar across the five emirate council’s as preventive measures, six fresh cases were confirmed on sallah.

The figure may seem insignificant, the state total confirmed cases still stood at 1,597, active cases 286 and discharged 1,258, overall statistics much higher when compared to figures accumulated before the lockdown was lifted.

Yet, the governor had insisted the global pandemic will not prevent his administration from pursuing the developmental projects in the state. Ganduje spoke while inspecting the N4billion Dangi multi-layer flyover recently.

Before the cancellation of the curfew, the state government had articulated several reasons why the lockdown would not unduly prolong. One justification put on the table was the stable declining of positive cases of COVID-19, especially in June and July.

Governor Ganduje hardly remained modest during one of his recent media briefing on COVID-19 update at the government, when he declared that Kano is winning the war against COVID-19. The governor was quick to reel out statistics showing a few active cases far below the number of samples tested negative.

“We can tell confidently that we are winning the war against COVID-19 in Kano, but that does not mean we would relax our protocols and guidelines on COVID-19. We would sustain efforts to make sure testing continues. But because we can’t afford to remain under lockdown forever, we have to reopen to allow people to return to their businesses. The economy is largely affected with serious impact on almost every aspect of human life.
“On June 25, we tested 154 samples, we have zero positive and discharged 25 patients from isolation. On 27 June, same month, we recorded 492 samples, 4 positives 17 discharged. Next day, the 28th of June, we had 330 samples. 5 came out positive while 31 recovered and discharged.

“Similarly, on June 29, 449 samples collected, 11 positives and 38 discharged. On June 30, 357 samples collected, 5 positives and 27 discharged and unfortunately, one person died that day. Again, on the 1st of July, we had 1,428 samples tested out of 41 positive and 27 discharged.

Also, between July 7th and 13th July 2020, we collected 3,474 samples. Out of this we only record 46 positive cases, which invariably gave us 1.3 per cent. With this record before us, we can confidently say Kano is winning the fight.” Ganduje said.

Despite Ganduje’s perceived song of victory, medical experts believed it was premature to reopen the city for businesses celebrating the exit of COVID-19 when the virus has metamorphosed into community transition.
Kano confirmed its index case of COVID-19 on Saturday 11th April 2020, about five weeks after Lagos recorded the first case in Nigeria.

The 75-year-old index case, an indigene of Kano and former diplomat, tested positive for COVID-19 soon after he returned from his journey. Although the retired civil servant had no record of visits abroad, it was believed he contracted the virus during his round of visit to Lagos, Abuja and Kaduna states.

The index case had attended marriage ceremonies, congregational prayers and other events where he would have spread the virus before he noticed symptoms of COVID-19 which incidentally prompted him to voluntarily report for a test and sooner confirmed positive. The index case however recovered and was discharged from Kwanar Dawaki isolation centre four weeks later. Expectedly, Kano had continued counting more active cases a few days after the first case discovered. The number suddenly increased to 507 on May 8th, ranking next to Lagos with 1,667 confirmed cases as at then.

The situation was already alarming in April 2020 when ravaging pandemic triggered mass deaths of prominent figures in the state. At least 600 persons were reported dead in one week, a tragic moment that placed Kano on the hot spot in Nigeria. It was so bad that, precisely on 25th April, Kano lost 13 finest personalities among many unsung heroes who died in less than 24 hours. Among them Professor Ibrahim Ayagi, Dr Musa Umar Gwarzo, former Attorney General of Kano and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Aliyu Umar, former Grand Khadi of Kano state Dahiru Rabiu, former editor of Triumph newspapers, Musa Tijani, former SUBEB chairman, Adamu Isyaku and Professor Aliyu Umar of Bayero university. Other prominent figures who lost their loved ones are National Coordinator of Presidential Task Force Committee on COVID-19 Dr Sani Aliyu, Vice-Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Uba Adamu and Director Department of State Service (DSS), Yusuf Magaji Bichi whose fathers died during the height of COVID-19 pandemic in Kano.

The mysterious deaths sparked fresh controversy on whether the mass mortality was COVID-19 related. The Kano state government had gone all out debunking the reports even before it took the pains to constitute an investigation committee to examine the reality on the ground.

Against this backdrop, the minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, a month later came out with other findings which declared that 60 per cent of mortalities recorded during the mass death in Kano were COVID-19 related. The Minister’s declaration emanated from the findings of Dr Sani Gwarzo led a ministerial team deployed to Kano at the peak of the crisis to interrupt the mysterious death as well as finding the core cause of the tragedy.

In a counter-reaction, the Kano state government considered the Federal government report unacceptable, insisting the findings lacked valid credibility. Moved to set the record straight however, the state government commissioned an independent technical team led by the renowned professor of Public Health with Bayero University, Kano, Muktar Gadanya to conduct a verbal autopsy. The report submitted thereafter established only 255 persons out of 1,774 verbal autopsies conducted about 15 per cent traced to COVID-19.

Before Ganduje finally eased the lockdown, the Federal government had imposed a two weeks lockdown beginning from April 27, 2020. At the expiration of the initial, the curfew was subsequently extended by an additional two weeks. This time, it was a total lockdown. Religious centres, schools and market places remained under lock and key. Governor Ganduje reenacted another round of lockdown in early June when the presidential curfew was lifted. That stayed for four weeks.

Although, those who welcome the total easing of the lockdown claimed the decision was necessarily compelling especially for economic survival. Chairman, Kano Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (KACCIMA), Alhaji Dalhatu Abubakar who spoke with The Guardian lamented over 80 per cent loss of capital investment and liability during the lockdown. Reacting to the fear of more cases of COVID-19 as the market now let loss, Dalhatu urged the government to rather intensify effort on strict compliance to safety protocols.

“ It was a huge loss and nobody will want it to happen again. We have seen so many business investments, especially the small scale businesses that cannot pick up again because the capitals have already gone. Not less than 80 per cent of capital investment across the board is down. For us, the lift of lockdown is welcome and much appreciated because several homes who have not been able to feed will now return to fetch for themselves again. We like to use this opportunity to remind the federal government that the N50bn palliative promised to boost business should be released in good time. Well, whether the virus will come back, we know it is still around but instead of closing down the economy again, why not make it compulsory everybody must use face masks and maintain social distancing”. Dalhatu noted.

The easing of the city is more deadly now that people hardly observe social distancing, especially at public places like markets, motor parks and social events. A medical practitioner who wants his name not mentioned accused the state government of placing more preference on economic gains than the health wealth of the citizenry.

“Kano cannot isolate itself amidst the pandemic riddle country. It is too early to start celebrating when we have not flattened the curve, when we are not testing enough, when people disregard social distancing, no use of face masks in public places. Honestly, if you ask me, I will say there is danger ahead, but we pray it will not get worse. What we know is the government was more willing to please the business and economic condition at the expense of health care of citizens. The economy is down, there is no IGR, the government can’t pay salaries and so life must continue. Now, people should be very careful this time they should maintain the use of face masks and observe social distancing.”

Reacting to the government’s claim on testing capacity, “but are we doing general testing, what we are having is a suspect sampling. With the population of Kano, we hardly test 1,000 daily compared to Lagos with less population testing above 2,000 daily.”

A consultant in Haematology and Blood Transfusion at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Dr Ibrahim Musa also viewed the government policy as a hasty resolution that may impede tremendous gains recorded in the last three months.

“Yes, the government may be correct with the claim of declining cases of COVID-19 because they are in control of collecting samples and assigning to any lab of their choice. Besides that, I can also say clinically the increases of pneumonia that we witnessed during the early stage of COVID-19 is now low. But the thing is, how many samples have we collected? In a population of about 13 million, we have not even tested 50,000 you can’t call for victory. We have to be careful because people are still observing self-medication in our society.

”Now, if you look at our culture here, people are used to mobility. Many people patronize all these dispensaries and chemists around with symptoms of COVID-19 while they are still spreading in their community. And worsen still, because of stigma; people will not come to the hospital for tests. Another contributing factor is our housing scheme which is virtually a cluster point of the epidemic, meaning that if one person is down with COVID-19, especially parents that mostly keep their children with daycare, several people including children will be affected,” Dr Musa warned.


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