The fear of the emergence of the dreaded coronavirus pandemic is the beginning of wisdom. The emergence of the pestilence in Nigeria which occurred on February 20, 2020, sent jitters down the spines of the entire citizenry. A 44-year-old Italian national who was a consultant to Lafarge Cement arrived the country through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, and was driven to Ewekoro Plant. He was a suspected carrier of the deadly disease. Within a jiffy, the Italian, on the directive of Ogun State government, was transferred to the patient to the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH), Lagos, where he was tested and confirmed positive of the disease. With the proactiveness of his administration and in a bid to stave off the pandemic from escalating, the governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun swiftly set up a high-level technical committee chaired by the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker. It has the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Ekundayo Ayinde, Director of Public Health, Dr. Festus Soyinka, Head, State Epidemiology, other directors in the ministry, in collaboration with the officials of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and other critical stakeholders, as members.
Aside the Italian’s case, five others, including a 62-year-old Male Sagamu resident who just returned to the country on March 17, 2020, and a 30-year-old female (both Ogun East) tested positive and were immediately transferred to the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, Isolation centre, where they have been undergoing further observation. In addition, there were two new cases, one from Obafemi-Owode Local Government (Ogun Central) and another from Yewa-South Local Government (Ogun West), bringing to such the number from the index cases identified last February. Out of the six cases, three have been discharged while one other is responding to treatment and is on the verge of being discharged. The government is leaving no stone unturned to nip the incidence in the bud. It further launched a mobile app, “Ogun COVID-19 Assessment, to determine the risk of the resident’s exposure to the virus.
Given that Ogun is a sane clime where the leadership is saddled with the responsibility of providing qualitative governance through the provision of good living conditions for the citizenry, at the formative stage of the outbreak, the government 0introduced various measures aimed at curtailing and the spread. Seeing the welfare of the people as a priority in decision-making, the governor, in collaboration with his three principal staff officials, (Mrs) Noimot Salako-Oyedele (Depury-Governor), Mr Tokunbo Talabi (Secretary to the State Government) and Alhaji Shuaib Salisu (Chief of Staff), had earlier evaluated the level of preparedness of the state and mapped out strategies on the next approaches to curtailing the spread of the pandemic to its barest minimum. Also, the principal officers considered the provision of relief packages and other economic stimulus for the citizenry.
Meanwhile, in a bid to cushion effects of the two-week lockdown, the state government made provisions for the immediate disbursement of various food items such as 5kg of rice, 5kg of beans, 5kg of gari, salt, seasoning cubed, vegetable oil sachets and tomato puree sachets, neatly packed for distribution of no fewer than 100,000 households across the state, in the first instance. Originally, the intended target is 500,000 households. Whilst the first instance may not capture all, it is expected that a significant number of the residents will be covered in subsequent distributions. To ensure that the items got to the target beneficiaries, the government set up a broad-based committee at each of the local government level, comprising of critical stakeholders such as community development councils/associations, League of Imams and Alfas, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), market women and men’s associations, political office holders and top civil servants from local governments, among others, but with a caveat to political jobbers who may want to hijack the process to steer clear of the distribution arrangements. The essence is to ensure fair, equitable and inclusive distribution of the relief materials in an efficient and effective manner.
However, the distribution of the stimulus package (made up of staple food and essential hygiene items) to individuals at their various homes in a bag per family has become expedient to stave off misconceptions on social media networks about the distribution process. Governor Abiodun warned government officials against the diversion of the relief materials and threatened to sanction any official caught in the act. Apart from reducing the threshold of people who may gather in one place at a time from 50 to 20, the government directed further that all heads of state ministries and agencies and local governments were to draw up rosters that would ensure that 20 only per cent of staff across all cadres work daily, thus ensuring that most staff come to work once in a week. The government ensured the closure of all public primary and secondary schools in the state; restriction on government offices; ensuring that banks, telecommunications and other service providers that offer services in hubs and/or bays had not more than 20 clients at a time. The leadership of all gated markets, shops and malls were to have a maximum of 20 persons; and the same measures trickled down worship centres, and public transport.
The government directed all transition chairmen across the 20 local governments in the state to identify suitable facilities such as event/social centres, school halls, community halls and others in their respective domains that could be easily prepared and developed as COVID-19 treatment facilities in the unlikely event of a surge in the coronavirus cases in the state. Similarly, on Sunday, March 30, Abiodun met with security chiefs. The meeting dwelt extensively on the measures taken to ensure better enforcement of the laid-down directives, especially as they relate to border closure. Furthermore, the meeting touched on social distancing, compliance with, and enforcement of, the directives which according to the government would be reviewed periodically as developments unfold.
Chiefly, as the bastion for the economic survival of the state, the government undertook the review of the measures to take in addressing the downturn caused by the pandemic. As a result of the recent global economic challenges resulting from COVID-19 pandemic and the crash in the prices of crude oil, the governor announced a number of measures to mitigate the imminent reduction in monthly Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) allocations from the Federation Account. Besides, it introduced digital classes for both primary and secondary school students in response to the government’s directives on the ban on high density gathering due to the virus.
The government also distributed hand sanitizers that were produced by the Ministry of Health and Hospital Management for mass distribution across the state.
In the spirit of his magnanimity, the Governor sought for an extension of the total lockdown on Lagos, Ogun and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, as announced by the Presidency in his nationwide broadcast on Sunday, March 29, 2020, for a week (which ought to begin on Monday midnight, March 30, 2020) till 11:00pm on Friday, April 4, 2020, to enable the residents of the state prepare and stock their homes with foodstuffs and other basic needs.
To relax the attendant effects of the declaration of the two-week lockdown, the governor further adjusted the movement time-table as thus: the first three days Saturday, April 4, total lockdown; Sunday, April 5, total lockdown; and Monday, April 6 were to allow for the complete fumigation. And this would afford the officials of both the State Ministry of Health and Environment an opportunity of the lockdown to decontaminate and disinfect the entire state, including motor parks, markets and places of worship.
While beginning from Tuesday, April 7, 2020, till Friday, April 17, 2020, there would be a free movement between 7:00am and 2:00 pm every other day and a total lockdown each other day to lessen the effects of the burdens on the citizens.
However, while taking the bull by the horn in order to stem the tide, the state government believed that effective response team, contact tracing and isolation of those who came in contact with the index case, the virus could have spread widely and faster across the country through various borders linking the Ogun through Southwest states (Lagos, Oyo, Ondo and Osun) and an international border with the Repubic of Benin. Though Ogun state had only four confirmed cases, but its proximity to Lagos the COVID-19 hotspot in the country, means that the citizens of Ogun state are vulnerable to communities spread from there.
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With the committed staff of the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), World Health Organisation (WHO) and other relevant stakeholders, the state government has implemented the following measures: all contacts of the index case (40 in all) were identified, located, listed and quarantined; the state’s Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) was activated immediately to coordinate a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral response through seven key pillars-Coordination, Surveillance and Epidemology, Risk Communication and Social Mobilization, Case Management, Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC), Logistics and Laboratory.
Also, the capacity of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Team, at both the state and local government levels has been strengthened, with an attendant 20 medical officer of Health, Disease Surveillance and Notification Officere (DSNO) and their Assistants, Health Educators, and Environmental Health Officerd that were trained from each of the 20 local governments; to further strengthen the team, 426 health personnel in public, private and para-military health officers were trained on the COVID-19 infection, Prevention and Control (IPC); 11 Medical Laboratory Scientists trained on the COVID-19 sample collection; reinforcement of the borders to eliminate all possible threatened through surveillance network together with Port Health Services staff at the land borders; procurement and distribution of Personal Protective Equipment for health workers and isolation centres; the assessment and evaluation of several options across the state, including the building of 250-bed hospitals in Abeokuta, the state capital. These are the purpose-built 21-bed isolation and treatment centres at Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, 100-bed capacity General Hospital, Iberekodo, Abeokuta and 128-bed capacity in Ikenne. Also, available are a 30-bed facility donated by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and another 40-bed facility former Managing Director (MD), Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Mr Fola Adeola, both in Abeokuta, donated to the state government. In total, 300 bed facilities are currently available for isolation and treatment, among others.
Governor Dapo Abiodun, at one of the regular media briefings , stated that the facilities put in place were not just to cope with any surge in the state, but the attendant likely overflow from the next door neighbour, like Lagos.
“This is a collective fight and this is the time to support each other and work as part of a national effort to confront a common adversary. The state has procured additional vehicles for intensified COVID-19 surveillance. In the light of the attendant risk of community transmission and to enforce social distancing, on the 18th of March, 2020, the government found it expedient to ban high-density gatherings that would bring together 50 or more people. This has since been lowered to 20 persons in the same place, such as social clubs, halls, cinemas, night clubs, restaurants, cafes, and sport arenas. This will be in effect till April 18 in the first instance.
“Arrangements are at an advanced stage to establish our own biomedical laboratory so that we can test suspected cases in the state, without going to Lagos or Abuja”, said the Governor.
- Ogbonnikan is a media aide to the Ogun State governor.
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