COVID-19: Governors Set to Mobilise Help for Troubled States

  • Fayemi: We’re going to train, incentivise, deploy volunteer health work force
  • NCDC reports 239 new cases, total now 4151 with 745 discharged, 128 deaths
  • PPSN president explains why infection is spreading through community transmission
  • NMA condemns standoff against NCDC in Kogi, Cross River
  • Sanwo-Olu laments poor compliance, threatens another lockdown


Our Correspondents

As the scourge of Covid-19 pandemic continues to bite harder in many states across the country, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has concluded plans to mobilise assistance to states with difficulties to navigate challenges thrown up by the global health pandemic.
The Chairman of NGF and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who confirmed the development to THISDAY, when contacted, however added that all was set by the governors to train, incentivize and deploy willing health workers to states that are currently overwhelmed by the demands of the pandemic.

That was as Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, threatened on Saturday to re-introduce a total lockdown of the state, saying residents have flouted all the safety protocols advised by experts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. And the Parasitology and Public Health Society of Nigeria (PPSN) expressed concerns about the climbing numbers of infected persons in the last few days. National President of PPSN, Professor Chinyere Ukaga, said poor adherence to safety measures was responsible for community transmission of the coronavirus in the country.

Meanwhile the NCDC in its release yesterday stated that it had recorded 239 new cases, bringing the total figure to 4,151. Of this figure 745 has been discharged, while 128 people have died of the disease. Yesterday figure Lagos recorded 97 new cases, followed by Bauchi with 44, Kano 29, Katsina 19, Borno 17, FCT 7, Kwara 6, Oyo 5, Kaduna 3, Sokoto 3, Adamawa 2, Kebbi 2, Plateau 2, Ogun 2 and Ekiti 1.
In a related development, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) decried what it called antagonistic attitudes of Kogi and Cross River states towards the advisory by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). NMA said the law establishing NCDC empowered it to lead national response in disease outbreaks and public health emergencies.

Speaking on the resolve of the governors to move into states with obvious challenges, Fayemi said the decision had become necessary to stop the COVID-19 pandemic from spreading further. He warned that if states with milder challenges failed to rise up to the needs of those currently being overwhelmed, it was a matter of time before the virus exploded and spread to other parts of the country.

Fayemi said the decision to step into some states was informed by the developments in the North-west and the North-east.
He stated, “It has become imperative to move into states with challenges and assist with the battle against COVID-19. The situations in the North-east and North-west demand that we come together to arrest the developments, because if we do not do it, we might be in trouble soon – all of us.

“So, we are putting together a volunteer health workforce of people, who are willing to assist in the fight against COVID-19. We will train them, incentivise them, and provide the requisite supplies that would guarantee their safety, while helping to save humanity.
“It is voluntary and it is for those health workers, who can also make some money in this period because they would be handsomely rewarded. We just have to respond quickly to this challenge and tame this monster called COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, Sanwo-Olu lamented that residents of the state had continued to flout guidelines laid down for the gradual easing of lockdown. He warned that the government might be compelled to take tougher actions, which could include a review of the gradual relaxation announced a week ago.

The governor described as unacceptable the compliance level with the COVID-19 protocols, including the physical and social distancing directives, wearing of facemasks, maximum 60 per cent carriage capacity in public transportation, all of which were meant to check the spread of the coronavirus in the state.

Sanwo-Olu, who gave an update on the COVID-19 pandemic management in the state, also directed the police to immediately begin confiscation of commercial motorcycles (Okada) whose owners were flouting the earlier ban.

The governor, 10 of whose personal aides recently tested positive for the virus, said, “In terms of the non-compliance, the list is regrettably much longer. On the first day of this new phase of an eased lockdown, the compliance level for commercial transport sector operations was regrettably very low.

“Yellow buses, especially, failed to comply with the capacity restrictions outlined in our framework. While compliance has improved in subsequent days, it is still not encouraging.”

He ordered security agencies to turn back vehicles violating the restriction imposed on inter-state movements of persons.

The governor said many commercial motorcycle operators were openly and indiscriminately defying the suspension on their operation. He said the ban on Inter-state travel, except for essential goods and services, was also consistently flouted. In many cases, he alleged, people decided to make the final leg of the journey into the state on foot, to beat the restrictions.

According to him, “This week has been unprecedented in terms of the numbers of newly confirmed cases in Lagos State. As at Friday May 8, 2020, we had 1,683 confirmed cases. Of that number, 448 have been treated and discharged, while we have, sadly, lost 33 persons.

“In the six days since my last address to you, while we have seen a 32 per cent increase in the number of fatalities in Lagos State, and a 62 per cent increase in the number of confirmed cases, we have also seen a remarkable 100 per cent increase in the number of persons who have fully recovered.

“This trend of recoveries is very encouraging, and we believe it will continue at this rate. It gives us some of the much-needed confidence to face the difficult days and weeks ahead.”

On community transmission, Ukaga said it had been on the increase due to poor hygiene. She advocated the need for more enlightenment and education of rural dwellers on the strict observance of personal hygiene.

Addressing journalists in Owerri, the Imo State capital, the PPSN president lamented that most Nigerians were yet to acknowledge the fact that COVID-19 could also be transmitted through surface contact.

She explained, “When droplets from infected persons fall on surfaces, such as table tops, chair arms, door knobs, handset (phone), and others, the virus can remain viable in these droplets for a few days.

“When these surfaces come into contact with human hands, they can be picked up and transferred to either the nose or eyes or mouth when the person rubs his eyes or nose or puts the unwashed hands in the mouth.

“This is the main reason to wash hands frequently and why infected persons are quarantined or confined to an isolated place. This is also the reason why individuals, who have been in close contact with sick persons are sought out and quarantined.”

She called on NCDC to allow PPSN members to join the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic especially, “as we have membership spread across the country.” Ukaga urged members of the society to create special awareness on the need to obey the Nigerian government on social distancing.

She said, “COVID-19 is less deadly than SARS but is far more transmissible than SARS. Wherever you are, help the others to understand the urgent need to avoid any form of gatherings. Some local people still dismiss COVID-19 as a gimmick and blame the government for making things very difficult.

“When countries like Italy, Spain, and America cannot contain the virus with all their medical gadgets and modern technologies, and their people are dying in numbers on a daily basis, what will happen in Nigeria to Nigerians with poor medical facilities?”

In a statement by its president, Dr. Francis Faduyile, and General Secretary, Dr. Olumuyiwa P. Odusote, NMA reiterated that the Act establishing NCDC empowered it to lead the national response in disease outbreaks and public health emergencies. It said the law also mandated the centre to coordinate diverse kinds of feedback, but regretted that the NCDC had been unable to discharge these functions in some states of the federation.

The statement said, “The NMA vehemently decries the stance of the governments of Kogi and Cross River states to NCDC’s advisory. While it would be welcome news for a ‘no-positive-case’ status in any state or FCT, every state must ensure that it is following the testing guideline issued by the NCDC.

“NMA, therefore, appeals to the federal government to direct through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) to investigate the claims of the two state governments in the interest of safeguarding Nigeria’s public health, and to recommend appropriate remedial intervention(s) if necessary to Mr. President.”

On the challenges with testing, specimen collection, transport, inadequate testing kits and testing centres, NMA said its review revealed verifiable difficulties in collecting samples, transporting them in the proper manner, and dearth of test kits by the coordinating authorities. It noted that having attained increased capacity of 50,000 samples per day in 21 laboratories, the inability to ramp up testing nationwide could be blamed on “poor coordination, poor planning, poor forecasting and slow response to developments.”


Sokoto Inaugurates 3,000 Volunteers

Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, yesterday inaugurated over 3,000 volunteer health workers, comprising medical doctors, nurses, medical laboratory scientists, pharmacists and environmental health workers to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Tambuwal charged them to be dedicated and stressed that their jobs demanded courage and competence.

He said the volunteers would be given daily allowances, which he listed as follows: medical consultants, N5, 000; medical doctors, N2, 500; nurses N2, 000; health environmentalists, N1, 500; and ambulance drivers, N1, 000.
Tambuwal said no amount of money could equate the services they were going to render and prayed God to protect them in the course of their service.

He disclosed that the confirmed COVID-19 cases in isolation centres in the state were responding to treatment and urged the chairman of the state COVID-19 taskforce to brief residents on a daily basis on the situation to avoid tension and apprehension.


Osun Records New Case as Assembly Enforces Facemask Use

Another case of the coronavirus was recorded in Osun State, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Rafiu Isamotu, revealed in a statement on Saturday. This brings the number of active cases in the state to three. This came as the House of Assembly compelled the use of facemasks by workers and visitors to the Assembly complex.

The statement noted that the new case sneaked in from Kano State to Iwo area of the state before his neighbours alerted the Osun COVID-19 team.

Isamotu said, “The COVID-19 confirmation test for one suspected case came back positive on Friday out of the 14 samples we sent for testing at the NCDC accredited testing centre, the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, Ede, during the week. The case sneaked into the state from Kano State and the neighbours immediately alerted our COVID-19 team.

“Presently, we have three active cases in the state. The good news is that the new case on arrival self-isolated, although wasn’t showing any symptom of the virus.”

Speaker of Osun House of Assembly, Hon Timothy Owoeye, in a statement yesterday by his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Alabi, held that the use of simple cloth face coverings would slow the spread of coronavirus.

According to the statement, “As we are all aware that the Assembly has resumed fully for legislative activities with very few senior cadre of workers, in spite of the ravaging coronavirus, this was borne out of the need to support government in the fight against the pandemic.
“The lead agenda of the Seventh Assembly is quality legislation that will impact the lives of Osun people. In order to assuage the fear of people contracting the virus while we resumed, it has become imperative that everyone coming to the Assembly must wear facemask. It is going to be, “No facemask, no entry!

“It is the resolution of the Assembly that if everybody wears a facemask, we will be mutually protecting each other. Wearing a face covering is just one additional step that we can take to stop the spread of the virus, but it is not a replacement for other important protective measures, such as washing hands and social distancing.”

NCDC Validates New PCR Testing Centre for Edo

Following efforts by the Edo State Government to boost the state’s capacity to test for COVID-19 and achieve its target of testing 1,000 residents daily, NCDC validated a new Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing centre at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH). The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Patrick Okundia, who disclosed this to journalists in Benin City, noted that sample testing for COVID-19 had commenced at UBTH, while validation and inspection of the third PCR testing centre in Edo State was on-going.

Okundia noted that the state had increased its testing and screening capacity, and urged residents to use the opportunity to ascertain their COVID-19 status.

He stated, “The Edo State Government is committed to wiping out this deadly virus from all communities in Edo, as we have stepped up measures to screen over 500,000 residents and test about 5,000 people within the next few days.

“As part of these measures, the state’s laboratory capacity is being strengthened and training of laboratory personnel is on-going by NCDC, World Health Organisation (WHO), and other partners.

“While sample testing at Irrua specialist Hospital (ISTH) is still on-going, UBTH PCR has been validated and sample testing for COVID-19 has commenced. The validation and inspection of the other new PCR in Edo State is on-going. We are also upgrading our laboratory facilities to cater for differential laboratory testing at Stella Obasanjo Hospital Isolation Centre (SOHIC).”

Stella Obasanjo Hospital Ready for COVID-19

Medical Director, Stella Obasanjo Hospital, Dr. Osagie Ebonwonyi, said the hospital was well equipped to manage coronavirus patients, with ample support from the Edo State Government. Speaking to journalists in Benin City, Ebonwonyi urged residents to comply with government’s directives to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

He stated, “The pandemic is a serious issue, as government is doing everything possible to limit the spread of the disease in the state. A massive renovation is still on-going at the hospital to expand the bed space for isolation of patients. For now, we have 42 beds.
“We have over 36 patients here and they are all responding to treatment. We are happy to say we have not recorded any death in this isolation centre.”

Rivers Inaugurates Three Testing Machines at RSUTH

In its determination to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the state, the Rivers State Government, last Friday, inaugurated three PCR machines at its COVID-19 testing centre at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Port Harcourt. Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, said Shell Petroleum Development Company donated two of the PCR machines to the state government while the third came from Total E and P.

Aaron said, “This evening, we are here to celebrate, because it has been our goal to get a testing centre in Rivers State. Today, I am happy to announce that we can now do COVID-19 tests at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital courtesy of the Rivers State Government ably led by our own Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.

“We also thank our partners, SPDC and Total, who have continued to work with us to fight coronavirus. The NCDC was here to install and activate the PCR machines. Since yesterday, we started running tests and by this evening, we will have results come from our lab. The good thing is that we have three PCR machines that will serve Rivers people. “

Police Intercept 200 Almanjiris in Kwara

Kwara State Police Command, on Saturday, intercepted a lorry loaded with 200 Almanjiris (street urchins) at Olooru in Moro Local Government Area of the state. The Almanjiris were on their way to the state before they were stopped in Olooru, a border area near Niger State.
The police officers manning the area had stopped the articulated vehicle conveying them on the highway, and ordered the driver back to Niger State, where it was coming from.

THISDAY investigations revealed that the affected Almanjiris were originally from Katsina State, and they had tactically evaded the police. They had planned that when they got to a police checkpoint, they would disembark and use the river route with canoe to avoid further roadblocks and reconnect at a point where the road was free.

But their inability to use the river forced them to run into the waiting hands of the security agents in Olooru.
The state police command Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Ajayi Okasanmi, confirmed this incident in a press statement.

Okowa Monitors Inter-state Lockdown

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, on Saturday, personally monitored the level of compliance with the COVID-19 lockdown in the state. This was with respect to movement in and out of the state, particularly, by unauthorised vehicles and persons visiting some boundaries between Delta and the neighbouring states.

Okowa threatened to impound vehicles breaching the directive and prosecute their operators.

He, however, expressed satisfaction with the level of compliance with the order, after the monitoring the exercise at Niger Bridge, which is the boundary between Delta and Anambra states, and at Alifikede, the boundary with Edo on the Benin-Asaba expressway.

The governor told security operatives and members of the state’s taskforce at the boundaries that only vehicles carrying agricultural products and those on essential duties should be allowed into the state, even as he sued for vigilance.

Bauchi Denies 300 Deaths, Says It’s Only 30 People

Bauchi State Government described as untrue reports of mass deaths in Azare in some sections of the media. The government said only 30 people had died in the last one week, and declared that the deaths were not related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deputy Governor Baba Tela, who is also Chairman of the State Rapid Response Taskforce on COVID-19 and Lassa fever, made the denial while giving an update on the pandemic situation. Tela declared, “So far in Azare only one person died of COVID-19 pandemic while receiving treatment at the FMC, Azare.”

On the mysterious deaths, he said it was a seasonal thing in the area, especially, during the hot season when people with underlying illnesses get complications that often led to their deaths.

The deputy governor, however, explained that what was happening in Azare was a spill-over from Kano, considering the proximity of the northern zone of the state to Kano and Jigawa states, where the mysterious deaths were occurring. But he assured the people that medical experts were working round the clock to ascertain the disease and its causes.