Dr Alex Obiogbolu
1. On the 28th of February 2020, Nigeria was confronted with the arrival of COVID-19 virus on the shores of our country. Hitherto, in the later part of 2019, the virus had ravaged parts of China, and continues to wreck havoc in parts of many nations of the world including the United States of America and United kingdom, and taking so many lives with each passing day.
2. This mortal enemy which is invisible to the eye established its presence in Lagos state turning it into the epicentre of its attack as it made incursions into other parts of Nigeria such as the FCT and Ogun states.
3. Despite the early containment measure taken by the Anambra state government which included partial lockdown within the state and laid out health advisories, on the 10TH of April, a citizen who had arrived earlier from Lagos and was showing certain symptoms was revealed to have tested positive to the virus. Thus, our state, Anambra became a theatre of this increasing global warfare of the COVID-19.
4. I will start by commending the initial efforts taken by the Anambra state government with the extension of the lockdown as a means to halt the advancing menace. Worthy of commendation is the resilience, patriotism and commitment of the health personnel in our state in this fight against a most dangerous enemy.
5. The state government had paralysed activities by placing the state on a lockdown for two weeks which was again extended for another two weeks. In these four weeks, it was rather interesting yet heart warming to note that the supposed suspected contacts of the primary case all tested negative.
Just a few days ago, these restrictions were relaxed ostensibly as we had recorded no new case and possibly to placate angry citizens who were fed up with staying at home with little or no palliatives.
Worthy of note is that four weeks ago when the lockdown was imposed by many states in the federation, the country had only twenty-four confirmed cases and one death at the time.
6. Today, our country has recorded one thousand three hundred and thirty-seven confirmed cases with forty deaths. Following the spiralled increase of confirmed cases was the crushing untold hardship on our people with its attendant economic lockdown.
To remain in this lockdown awaiting cure or vaccines shall definitely wreck irreparable damage on our economy. In this regard the phasing of the lockdown by the Federal and State government is a necessary action.
7. However, the subsequent actions by the Anambra state government have not shown that we understand the strength of this mortal enemy, its transmutations, mode of transmission and lethal capability on the economy and life of any living community. This virus must not be underestimated as it comes like a thief in the night, as we have seen in the last few days in a certain part of the country.
8. In this war, we must be honest to ourselves and accept some plain truths. We cannot take to the bank:
I) The guaranteed assurances of the security agents that our Nigerian territorial borders shall remain nonporous, and that there shall be no movement of persons whatsoever across the states.
Ii) The assurances of the federal or state government of adequate food security to overcome any continued lockdown or continuous interruption of our lives as a result of future outbreaks.
Iii) The guarantees from the citizenry that all shall comply with the standard protocols on the Covid-19 virus that include, social distancing, personal hygiene and prompt reporting of suspected cases.
9. Therefore to lift the restrictions on movement and conduct of business and trade without establishing certain further security protocols and strategic anti-COVID-19 steps will be inadvertently or deliberately putting our State and the lives of our people at risk. It should be very clear to all and sundry that neither my fellow health professionals nor our health system can cope with the advance or resurgence of this virus in our state.
10. Consequently, I am urging that our citizens and the elected government of Anambra state and the security agencies within our state both under the direct control of the federal government & the state government consider seriously the under listed steps and implement same amongst others for the benefit of all of us.
1. Whilst I commend the security agencies, I urge them to ensure that the state borders are effectively monitored and movement of persons controlled in line with the directives of the President and yet in a manner that shall halt the re-emergence of this deadly foe. In particular, they should be alert to persons travelling in groups or carrying personal luggage as this is insightful of the intending relocation of this category of persons.
2. The state government should establish Task forces consisting of trained health personnel who should be posted at all entry points of our state to monitor and ensure that persons being allowed into the state don’t exhibit clinical symptoms that are suggestive of the disease process. They must ensure that the travellers are in compliance with other NCDC protocols of social distancing & use of facial masks.
3. The state government should also quickly provide the three million face masks it promised to make available as this will support the effort immensely. These can be distributed through market leaders, traditional authorities, religious groups as well as mobile monitoring/enforcement task forces on compliance of NCDC protocols which includes the security agents.
11. We must widen our early case detection mechanism so that we are not taken unaware, believing that there are no CONFIRMED cases and yet the virus goes undetected amassing a human mobile army amongst us. We must search for the enemy & deal it a blow at its infancy.
1. Thus, we must establish means to monitor deaths and burials in communities and the mortuaries. I appeal to the community leaders including the traditional rulers and President generals of town unions to establish committees that will monitor and report to the state COVID any deaths that occur within their communities
2. Our state COVID committee must ensure that all hospitals & clinics adhere to a common set of protocols wherein patients who come for consultation & treatment across private & public hospitals with certain acute onset of symptoms are subjected to tests for the virus. Penalties shall help to deter non compliance.
3. The Local Government COVID committees should in liaison with the traditional institutions be able to identify for testing, persons who may have acute onset of these symptoms and don’t reveal themselves to orthodox medicine.
4. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) should as a matter of urgency establish testing laboratories in the state with several test sample collection centers of which at least one should be a mobile collection center. Increased specific testing of the populace provides a better protective umbrella than the present paltry number of 68. There is urgent need to get more testing kits and get mobile sample collection centers.
12. The generality of our citizenry are also urged to continue to pray ceaselessly to our Almighty father as we battle this unseen enemy that has unilaterally declared war upon our people.
13. I continue to heap praises and express gratitude to our colleagues who are the front liners in this battle. Many of whom remain alert & determined on overcoming this challenge to our generation.
14. Furthermore, security personnel should exhibit a higher level of professionalism imbued with compassion in enforcement of compliance with advisories published by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. They must at all times remain themselves in compliance of the advisories published by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control for their own protection. These include regular hand washing, social physical distancing, wearing of face masks whilst in public and no large gatherings of persons.
15. We urge the federal government on its part to continue to enforce strictly, land border arrival protocols as we all try to contain this foe
16. I wish to note that whilst no nation or government can be ever adequately prepared for combating this Covid-19, a government that is adaptive and promptly responsive with the support of its citizenry shall defeat this scourge. Our forebears did so in 1919 and so shall we repeat the feat and live to tell the story.