By Kemi Olaitan
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State has kicked off a rapid testing initiative for COVID-19 in the state, saying the outcome of the exercise will help contain the spread of the virus.
The governor, who declared open the COVID-19 Drive-Through/Walk-Through Testing, an initiative that is expected to test 2,000 samples within two weeks, at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasingba, Ibadan, Tuesday said the rapid testing initiative aligned to his administration’s commitment to test at least 10,000 residents within a short time.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, quoted Makinde as saying that the state was scaling up testing in alignment with expert opinions that the best way to contain and control the spread of the coronavirus is by ensuring mass testing.
Makinde appreciated the Citizen for Citizen, a non-governmental organisation headed by the Chairman of First Bank Nigeria, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, which provided the 2,000 testing kits and the LifeBank Nigeria, for partnering with the state on rapid testing for COVID-19.
Speaking on behalf of the NGO, Mrs. Temidayo Olatunbosun said the guidelines of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) would be strictly followed in conducting the COVID-19 tests in Oyo State, urging the residents who have the COVID-19 symptoms to call the emergency operation centre for necessary action.
According to the governor, “Experts have opined that the best place to start in solving our peculiar problems is by ramping up our testing capabilities. For this reason, a few weeks ago, the Oyo State Government, in collaboration with the University College Hospital, Ibadan, set up a diagnostic centre to test for COVID-19 right here in Ibadan.
“Indeed, with social distancing through lockdowns proving to be the most effective way of checking community spread, and the fact that people can have COVID-19 and be asymptomatic, large-scale testing will help us determine where and when targeted lockdowns are necessary.”
He maintained that his administration had begun to put necessary things in place to ensure its capability to prevent, contain and control the spread of COVID-19 even before the index case was recorded in the state.
“The flag-off that we are witnessing here today is a culmination of weeks of planning and hard work. Even before the index case was recorded in the state on the 21st of March, we had started putting things in place to ensure that we will be able to prevent, contain, and control the spread of COVID-19 in Oyo State.
“As I have said in the past, we are walking in uncharted territory, and no one can claim to know it all when it comes to the best way to handle this pandemic. We can only listen to the experts and apply common sense. Especially in Africa, and indeed Nigeria, the challenges we face are multipronged. Aside from not having health infrastructure that can handle a full-scale pandemic, we also have a largely informal economy.
“Caught between a rock and a hard place, we must find and apply solutions that are a product of scientific and logical thought. These solutions must also take our local circumstances into cognizance.
“In recent times, the Oyo State Government has come under intense criticism for not implementing a total lockdown in the state, and for not forcing people to shut down their businesses. We have seen the result of more extensive lockdowns in neighbouring states. Yet, we are not celebrating a win, because this is not a competition.
“Today, we are implementing one of the actions that is fundamental in deciding what our next steps will be. In the next few days after we increase testing, we will see for ourselves whether a complete lockdown is necessary. Our aspiration is to test up to 10,000 people within the shortest possible time. We are starting with the first 2,000 from today. I have been told we can complete this round in two weeks.
“Let me use this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Citizen for Citizen Initiative led by Mrs Ibukun Awosika, which donated the 2,000 test kits we will use for the tests. We also thank LifeBank Nigeria, which is collaborating with us to conduct the tests,” he said.
Makinde, who also used the occasion to appreciate health workers in the state for putting their lives at risk for the people, assured them that his administration would continue to prioritise their welfare and safety.
He stated that 610 personal protective equipment were already on ground for the use of health workers, while the state has also ordered an additional 400, adding that health workers would be the first to be tested in the drive-through/walk-through testing exercise.
The governor further warned residents of the state not to take lightly the government’s warnings and directives on COVID-19, noting that the virus is real.
According to him, “Today is not a day to speak many words. We are here to kick off the testing, and I will let you get right to it. But before I leave you, I want to say, and I will say this in both English and Yoruba to everyone listening. There may seem to be reasons to disbelieve that coronavirus is real. Some people have said that the government is just using it to steal money.
“Some people have even used me as an example, saying ‘our governor had it but was not sick’. But let me say this, coronavirus is real. I may have been lucky not to have shown any symptoms, my immune system may have fought it, but the next person may not be as lucky. We do not know who that next person may be.
“Luck is not a strategy for beating COVID-19. We have to follow logic and science. This is why we must maintain social distancing. You must stand at least three feet apart from other people. You must wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer. You must co-operate with us when we give you guidelines to follow. After this testing, when we see the results, there may be more guidelines. Please, work with us and choose to stay safe. Together, we can beat COVID-19 in Oyo State.”