‘This COVID-19 threatens to wash our universe away’
As at 6:50 pm yesterday, 577,547 Coronavirus cases had been recorded globally with 26, 447 deaths recorded while 130,665 cases had recovered. Also, of the 420,435 currently infected patients, 398,761 of them were mild condition, while 21,674 were in serious or critical condition. Similarly, of the 157,112 cases, which had an outcome; 130,665 had recovered and discharged with 26,447 deaths.
With 65 confirmed cases in eight states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, as at yesterday and the disclosure by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed that the Federal Government was in search of 4,370 persons who may have had to contact with coronavirus patients, there is no doubt that Nigerians have a tough task in their hands to contain the spread of the virus.
Mohammed, who spoke at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, and who is also a member of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, said the nation was on the verge of entering a new phase of the virus, which is community spread.
“Some Nigerians who flew into the country from overseas filled wrong addresses and phone numbers in their forms, making it difficult to trace them when the need arises,” Mohammed said.
He urged those who have had contact with suspected cases to immediately report to the authorities, stressing that failure to do so could make Nigeria record exponential cases in the days ahead.
As alarming as the information were, the state governments have been revving up measures aimed at containing the pandemic in addition to efforts being made by the Federal Government.
For instance in Abia State, even though there is no reported case of COVID-19 in the state, the government has imposed preventive measures proactively. Apart from urging residents to abide by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) prescriptions on how to avoid the pandemic, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu last Saturday announced the closure of the state’s tertiary institutions and released N10 million each to the institutions to introduce online tutorials/teaching during the vacation period.
Ikpeazu also last Wednesday approved the implementation of additional measures proposed by the Abia State Inter-Ministerial Committee on Coronavirus headed by the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Joe Osuji.
Under the measures, tricycles (keke) operators in the state were ordered to carry a maximum of two passengers who must sit at the back with only the rider in front while mini buses are to carry only five passengers. Buses that carry up to 14 passengers were also ordered to carry a maximum of five passengers with only the driver sitting in front.
Meanwhile, three isolation centres in the state located at Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia; General Hospital Amachara and Abia State University Teaching Hospital, Aba, had been activated while the fourth one to serve Abia North zone was being set up.
Benue State has also not recorded a case of the pandemic but is proactively working to safeguard residents. The state government has through its State Emergency Response Committee on COVID-19 embarked on effective tracking of suspected cases of the pandemic.
Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Anthony Ijohor, during the week reeled out the resolutions of government at the end of the State Executive Council and the Emergency Response Committee presided over by Governor Samuel Ortom.
He announced a ban on visits to the Government House for the next two weeks. Ijohor said the State Independent Electoral Commission had been directed to postpone indefinitely the local government election earlier scheduled to hold today.
He further announced the creation of isolation centres in Zones A and C to add up to the one in Zone B district of the state.
The state government also ordered civil servants from level 1-12 to work from home as part of measures to decongest government offices.
In Imo State, Governor Hope Uzodinma on March 20 formally inaugurated a committee charged with the responsibility of preventing the dreaded pandemic from spreading to the state.
The nine-man committee is headed by a former Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Professor of Pharmacognosy, Maurice Iwu.
Uzodinma said that even though the state had not recorded any case of the dreaded virus, the initiative was to ensure that residents were safe. He also directed the Ministry of Health to activate the emergency response measures with the procurement of protective equipment, enhanced border surveillance, community enlightenment and distribution of sanitisers.
The committee has since embarked on massive sensitisation of the people on the need to adhere strictly to hygienic and sanitary rules like regular washing of hands, social distance, applying hand sanitizer, wearing a facemask and coughing into the elbow, among others.
Iwu disclosed that the state has provided isolation centres and was making efforts to build infectious diseases specialist hospitals that would help to manage the virus or other such diseases in the state in the future.
Meanwhile, there are fears that the virus could find its way into the state after about 2,000 people, last Monday, converged on the Ahiajoku International Convention Centre, Owerri, to witness the swearing-in of 22 Commissioners and 89 Special Advisers and Senior Special Advisers.
Ebonyi State has also not recorded any case of coronavirus but the state government has built isolation centres in major cities and border areas across the state to quarantine any suspected case.
During a visit to one of the isolation centres by The Guardian, it was observed that they were equipped with all the necessary equipment needed to assist quarantined patients.
The government has also closed schools even as it has banned wedding ceremonies, burial ceremonies, night clubs, sporting activities and gathering of more than 50 persons other than in the essential service centres such as markets, rice mills, religious centres, banks and hotels.
Other measures taken by the state government include recalling all retired health officers both at the state and local council levels to beef up the state health sector.
In Ondo State, there was a serious panic when rumours started flying that Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, could have contracted COVID-19 due to his recent trip to Abuja where he interacted with some top government functionaries that tested positive for the virus.
The panic got to its climax last Tuesday evening when there was another widespread rumour that the state recorded a confirmed case at Alagbaka area, whereas it was a simulation exercise at the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH). A suspected case was detected last week but tested negative thereafter.
The simulation exercise was part of the efforts being made by the state government to forestall the outbreak of the virus and its eventual spread in the state.
As part of the preventive measures, Akeredolu has banned all social and religious gatherings, shut schools, closed all markets and cancelled all official trips for 14 days.
The government has upgraded the existing Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) in the state and intensified sensitisation campaigns across the 18 local government areas of the state.
In Cross River State, the government and the Nigerian Navy asserted that they were prepared to combat Coronavirus in case of any outbreak.
Speaking with The Guardian on phone, the Commissioner for Health, Dr Betta Edu said: “Cross River State is prepared and we have done a lot of work sensitising our people across the board like the schools, churches, mosques, the villages, market places and others.
“We have an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) that is handling the task-force for the Coronavirus which is really working hard to ensure that everything is in place while the state and its borders are safe. Anybody coming in through our airport and other borders is screened and anyone with high temperature, we keep them aside and get further information and isolate them.”
She added: “Beyond that, we have distributed over 5,300 personal protection equipment that is used by health workers across the state. We are encouraging hand washing, use of sanitisers and avoiding public gatherings, avoiding public spitting, avoiding close contact with people who are sick and incase of any suspected case you should immediately report to the nearest facility.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Navy said it was maintaining strict surveillance in all waterways in its formations nationwide over the Coronavirus pandemic as directed by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas.
The Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral David Adeniran, who said this while briefing newsmen in Calabar on Thursday, said, “in terms of entry, we have information on any ship that is coming into Nigeria and we keep track of that vessel. We have facilities through the Falcon Eye and Rmarc, with which we track movement for the past 30 days of any ship or vessel and then we know which water you have been through and from there we monitor and direct accordingly.”
Enugu State was among the league of state governments that took the ravaging disease for granted. In fact, it took the case of a 70-year-old woman, suspected to have acquired the disease but who later tested negative, for the state to begin an effort.
The woman was said to have returned from the United Kingdom where she had gone to see her children after spending five months there. She developed suspicious signs leading to her being quarantined in a facility that allegedly was inhuman.
The alarm raised by the development had caused the initial release of N20 million by the state government for upgrade of facilities at the Colliery Hospital, Isolation Centre, being managed by the Enugu State University Teaching Hospital (Parklane).
The woman, however, died before the result of her test could be released and this caused an uproar as the family alleged that she died as a result of stigmatisation and negligence. They derided the state government over the poor state of facilities at the centre, which became Centre for Control of Infectious Diseases during the Ebola epidemic in 2013.
Since that sad incident, the state government has scaled up efforts to control the spread of the virus. Although no case has been reported in the state at the moment, the government has relocated the Isolation Centre to the State Teaching Hospital and announced the release of N330 million for strengthening preparedness and response.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who disclosed this, added that of the amount, N150 million was dedicated to the purchase of additional ambulances and incident vehicles, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), upgrade of State Infectious Diseases Isolation Centre; training of Health Workers on advocacy and public enlightenment.
He said N80 million was for the restocking of the state drug revolving scheme while the remaining N100 million was for unforeseen public health challenges.
In Plateau State, despite the fact that there is no known record of COVID-19, the Governor, Simon Bako Lalong has promised to get eight ventilators for the isolation facilities in the state as part of the emergency preparedness and control measures.
The governor made the disclosure during his inspection of the three isolation facilities in the state, which are located at the Old Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Bingham University Teaching Hospital and Plateau State Specialist Hospital all in Jos.
During his inspection visit to JUTH, he promised to purchase four ventilators for the isolation units as requested by the hospital authorities while Bingham Hospital and Plateau Specialist Hospital would get two each.
Lalong said the state was committed to controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
“We are taking these measures to build the capacity of the hospitals in the event that any suspected case emerges. We want to play our part by safeguarding the lives of our citizens. Therefore, the public should also comply with the directives given by the state by suspending social activities, cultural festivals and anniversaries, closure of all schools and observing social distancing as preventive measures.
The governor disclosed that two additional isolation centres would be established in Pankshin and Shendam General Hospitals.
The Guardian observed that the existing isolation centres were in good conditions.
In Rivers State, the government seems not to be leaving any stone unturned in its efforts to contain the spread of the epidemic. With one confirmed case in the state presently, the state government has initiated aggressive measures to prevent the deadly virus from spreading in the state.
In a statewide broadcast last Thursday evening, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, said the state government had commenced contact tracing of all those who had contact with the index case in the state.
Wike also announced that all markets in the state would be closed from today (March 28) even as he directed that all civil servants from Grade Level 1-10 to remain at home from yesterday until further notice.
Wike said: “It is unfortunate that despite all the preventive measures we put in place, our state has recorded a positive case as confirmed by the NCDC.
“The positive case is a 19-year-old female model from Edo State who resides in Port Harcourt. Her travel history reveals that she travelled to France, Italy and Greece before returning to Port Harcourt on March 16, 2020. On arrival to Port Harcourt, she was asymptomatic and commenced self-isolation in her family house before her samples were collected and sent to the Reference Laboratory, Irruan in Edo State.”
According to him, “The patient is presently being managed at the State Treatment Centre and she is doing excellently well. As it is in a normal established practice, intensive line listing and contact tracing of all those she came in contact with have commenced in full force.
In addition, samples have been collected from high-risk contacts for further evaluation while the decontamination process has also commenced.”
He further urged everyone to remain calm but practice social distancing, adding that the government would continue to review the situation and adjust accordingly.
He warned that anyone who violates the directives would be seen as an enemy of the state and would be made to face appropriate sanctions.
“Security Agencies have also been directed to enforce all the decisions taken by the Security Council,” he warned.
The Guardian observed that the Disease Control Centre at University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) was still at the block level barely two months the project took off.
In Kebbi State, Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu has approved the establishment of a State Task Force for the control of the decease. According to the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Babale Umar Yauri, the Commissioner for Health would serve as the Chairman of the Task Force while the Permanent Secretaries in the Ministries of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Environment, Lands and Housing, Information and Culture are members.
Also on the Task Force are Permanent Secretaries, Special Services Department, Women Affairs and Social Development and Sir Yahaya Memorial Hospital.
Other members are representatives of World Health Organisation (WHO), representatives of State Council of Chiefs; Director, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA); Chief Medical Director, Federal Medical Centre, Birnin Kebbi; Chairman, PHC Forum and Director, Pharmaceutical Services, among others.
The SSG outlined terms of reference of the committee as ensuring and circulating awareness among the people of Kebbi State on physical hygiene and environmental cleanliness, strengthening the State Rapid Response Strategy, enhancing surveillance system in detecting suspected cases and ensuring proper compliance with the standard case definition of COVID-19.
The Task Force also has the responsibility of ensuring collaboration and partnership with National Task Force on COVID-19, monitoring and supervising the activities of all pillars of infectious disease prevention and intensifying screening at all air and land borders as well as reporting to the governor regularly.
In a related development, the Commissioner for Health, Ja’afar Mohammed, said that the state government has put all the machinery on the ground to ensure that people entering the state would be screened.
He stated that an isolation camp had been established to quarantine all suspected cases identified through the state surveillance system.
“Campaign is ongoing in the community alongside active search of possible suspects. Our success depends on the media and individual/collective responsibility,” he said.
Meanwhile, the state government has also directed the immediate closure of all public and private schools in the state.
This is as the Kaduna State Police Command advised residents of the state to resolve cases amicably instead of trooping to their stations as part of measures to curb the spread of the virus.
The Command, in a statement by the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Mohammad Jalige, said the state government has imposed a 24-hour curfew effective from March 26 till further notice, noting that the command was acting in compliance with the directive on the enforcement of curfew/social distancing order.
Jalige said the police would not hesitate to punish anybody found violating the orders given by the state.
Meanwhile, residents of Lagos State have started to feel the impact of the measures being implemented by the state government to contain the spread of the disease.
Mrs. Ajetunmobi Kuburat, a fish seller in Ikotun market, lamented that the measures have instigated hard times for her trade.
She said: “It’s becoming frustrating; buyers complain about other customers touching the fish and dropping it. The act, which doesn’t use to bother them before now puts them off as they now insist I bring out another one that has not been touched by anyone.
“Although it’s obvious that those of us selling foodstuffs and items may not be affected by the lockdown, still the idea that there is a pandemic out there that transmits through contact terrifies me. I worry that someone who has the virus knowingly or unknowingly may come to buy fish from me, and I can contract the virus unknowingly. So, I watch out for updates from the television every morning before going out so I can know how to deal with my customers hygienically. However, the truth is, I am terrified; a lot of us are scared of the eventual outcome of this imported virus.”
Pelumi Adeoye, who was buying foodstuff in the market, displayed so much emotion when she said: “What I feel is beyond fear; it’s hopelessness. I need someone to confidently assure me that everything will get back to what it used to be, that everything will be all right again, that the world will once again be a safe place for humans, that there is hope. I need to know that I can live to get married, have children and tell them the story of how COVID-19 threatened to wash our universe away.”
A market woman in Ilasamaja area of the state, Iyanu Olaitan, on her part lamented the hike in the price of foodstuffs, saying Nigerians always look forward to an opportunity to make huge profits. “A quantity of garri, which we buy for N400 before is now N600. I don’t know what is wrong with we Nigerians; we are always waiting for opportunities to exploit our fellow Nigerians once there is crisis,” she bemoaned.
Meanwhile, commercial drivers in the mainland Lagos are yet to adhere to the state government’s policy of limiting the number of passengers in their vehicle. When asked why his bus was still filled to capacity despite the government’s directive, a driver (name withheld), he said: “That policy is a huge financial shortage that I am not willing to take. I believe I speak the mind of my colleagues. How do I pay the owner of the vehicle at the end of the day’s job with half-loaded passenger per trip? How will I make my own money to put food on the table for my family on a daily basis? I would like to believe that the virus wouldn’t just transmit like that if not, were all doomed.”
The commercial driver further said: “However, if Lagos State government wants us to limit the number of passengers, then they should begin to implement the relief funding allocated to the state; if not, no driver will be willing to lose income like that,” he added.
Another driver echoed a similar view, saying: “If the government wants us to obey their regulation, they should be ready to make provision for us or pay us back the shortfall for carrying fewer passengers.”
The Guardian also observed that most of the bus conductors were reluctant to wear hand gloves and facemask.
To a conductor in Oshodi axis: “It’s only God that can help us; it is the same God that will protect us. It’s not a must for one to wear hand glove or facemask. He who God has destined to die will definitely die.”
No comments yet