In Plateau, It’s Season of Vigilance Against COVID-19

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Simon Lalong

Seriki Adinoyi writes that the Plateau State government has taken laudable steps to douse palpable fear of the spread of Coronavirus in the state

Though there is no confirmed case of Coronavirus in Plateau State, its government has done tremendously well both to prevent it and in preparedness for any eventual outbreak.

This is because, according to the Governor of the state, Hon. Simon Lalong, prevention is better and cheaper than cure. So, since the index case of the virus in Lagos in February was announced, Plateau state has been on the guard doing all it can to prevent the spread of the disease to its domain.

The state was among the first to isolate and quarantine 43 of its citizens in Wase Local Government Area, in the Southern zone of the state, after some Chinese miners that had travelled in December returned without subjecting themselves for proper scrutiny before uniting with the people of the community.

The state immediately constituted a high-powered delegation made up of representatives of the state Ministry of Health, Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), World Health Organization (WHO), and security agents. After the usual period of 14 days, the people turned out to be free from the infection and were given a clean bill of health, so they were freed to join the people.

When the late Chief of Staff to the President, malls Abba Kyari was diagnosed with the virus, many governors, including Lalong, for fear of contracting the disease following their close interaction with Kyari went for a test. Lalong and his family tested negative to the virus and this was publicly announced in the state to douse apprehension among citizens who were concerned for the governor’s safety.

Though many complained that he delayed in going for the test, the governor said he had to wait for the incubation period to pass so that his result will be accurate.

Reacting to the results, the governor said he and his family decided to take the test in order to help in tackling the rising stigma gradually building up on the disease and making people reluctant of coming out even when they notice any symptom.

He said, “Corona Virus is not a death sentence and if we are not careful, people can die out of fear and stigma. I call on all our citizens particularly those who notice any symptom of the disease including difficulty in breathing, fever, cough, sore throat, headache and general fatigue, or have had contact with any infected person to report to health officials and submit themselves for examination.”

Lalong, in a state-wide broadcast, also outlined measure government was taking to prevent the spread of the virus to the state, and reeled out restriction measure prescribed for citizens to guard themselves against becoming victims.

He also immediately set up a taskforce, comprising of stakeholders in the health and other sectors, which he personally chaired, to monitor and ensure enforcement of the restriction order.

When citizens seemed reluctant at keeping to the restriction order, the Governor on the 27th of March, 2020 directed security agencies to embark on full enforcement of the measures, urging them to arrest and prosecute anyone found violating them.

Among the restriction orders, which are still currently in place, are closure of all markets (except those selling food items, pharmaceuticals and cooking gas), restriction number of in places of worship to 50 persons and less, and strict observance of 2-metre social distancing where up to 50 people congregate, as well as provision of hygiene materials such as water, soap and sanitizers.

The Governor also immediately prohibited street trading, street hawking, and begging, and placed ban on all drinking joints, social centres and night clubs. He also ordered mandatory provision of take-away packs by restaurants to avoid crowding, and cancelled all festivals, burial and wedding ceremonies and anniversary celebrations.

Others are strict adherence to 2-metres social distancing in motor parks and inside all transport vehicles and tricycles, capture of data of inbound and outbound passengers at all motor parks in the state, and 14 days self-isolation for overseas returnees or those who know that they have had contact with any of the confirmed cases in the country.

Earlier, the state government had advised against unnecessary movement and travels, having ordered closure of all schools from primary to tertiary levels.

While appealing to citizens to adhere to the rules, the Governor urged them not to see it as punishment but to consider it as precautionary measure, aimed at safeguarding the possible occurrence of the disease in the state.

Urging religious houses to make it a duty to pray against the spread of the disease, the Governor and his officials, at regular interval briefed the press of development to keep the public abreast of steps being put in place.

As palpable apprehension continued to rise with each confirmed case in other states, especially neighbouring states of Bauchi, Kaduna, and Benue, the Governor went ahead ordered total closure of all borders to prevent entry and exit from the state. He also ordered fumigation of the entire state, especially public places.

To make fumigation exercise effective, the Governor declared a total lockdown of the state for one week, when no one was expected to leave their homes. During this period the company engaged in the fumigation went round the state to disinfect the air and all public places.
Though some faulted the exercise on the grounds that the virus was not yet confirmed in the state, and so there was no need for disinfection, the state said that the fact that no case is confirmed in the state yet does not preclude that there might be unconfirmed cases.

After the one-week lockdown, the Governor extended it by another week on the grounds that the incubation period for the viral infection is 14 days. So he advised that during this period, anyone that notices any questionable symptom should immediately call some emergency numbers he gave out to citizens.

Going further in preparedness, the state established three isolation centres in Jos and some others across the three senatorial zones in the state. In Jos, The Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Bingham University Teaching Hospital (BhUTH), and Plateau Specialist Hospital, Jos.

He also acquired some equipment needed to tackle any case in the event of outbreak in the state. These include ventilators, personal protective wears for health workers, among others.

The Governor also used his influence to pressure the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to establish a testing centre in the state. This became the first and probably the only testing centre in the whole of North central geopolitical zone. For a state that has not recorded any confirmed case to have a testing centre is a plus. The people of Plateau state will not need to travel out to test anyone found with symptoms.

The only area the state may not have done excellently well is in the area of giving palliatives to its citizens who have been locked down for two weeks. Citizens have groaned visibly under the burden of the lockdown, and are still waiting for palliatives. Governor Lalong, however said a committee, headed by the deputy Governor, Professor Sonnie Tyoden has been set up, while assuring the people that modalities will be rolled out soon to get the palliatives to the vulnerable.

However, some individuals in the state with large hearts have gone ahead to take palliatives to the people to alleviate their sufferings. Nut this effort may be limited compared to the number of the needy. Many look forward to an urgent completion of modalities by the state government for distribution of the palliatives in good time.

QUOTE:

When the late Chief of Staff to the President, malls Abba Kyari was diagnosed with the virus, many governors, including Lalong, for fear of contracting the disease following their close interaction with Kyari went for a test. Lalong and his family tested negative to the virus and this was publicly announced in the state to douse apprehension among citizens who were concerned for the governor’s safety