Conoravirus: Anambra’s Proactive Response – By C. Don Adinuba

March 24, 2020
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The Coronavirus, known as COVID-19, which has been
devastating the world since late last December, has not reached Anambra State,
Nigeria’s safest state. Still, on Monday, March 23, Governor Willie Obiano shut
down schools and directed civil servants not on essential services to work from
home but also set up a 23-person Coronavirus Attack Team to work against the
contagion in the state. To underscore the importance of the team’s work,
Governor Obiano chose to head the team himself. Other members include the
Speaker of the House of Assembly, the Secretary to the State Government, the
Chief of Staff to the Governor, the Commissioner for Health and his counterpart
in the Ministry of Information and Public Enlightenment, the state Commissioner
of Police, heads of the two teaching hospitals in the state and specialists
from relevant fields.

The Anambra State government has once again demonstrated its
belief in the old aphorism that prevention is better than cure. The cost of
preventing the viral outbreak is, in every sense, far cheaper than the cost of
managing the crisis if it erupts. If the contagion could wreck Europe, China,
South Korea and the United States, with all their sophisticated advances in
medicare, it is not difficult to imagine what could be the fate of African
countries if the virus spreads here.  Had
the Italian, American and British leaders, for instance, acted promptly as the
Anambra State government when the contagion was reported in their respective nations,
the situation would have been as cataclysmic as it is in each of these places
today. Italy records on some days over 700 deaths. No wonder open religious
services have been closed all over the country, including the Vatican. In the
United Kingdom, the British prime minister has issued a stay-at-home order to
all. Some countries are on lockdown.

  Anambra State has in
the last few years displayed uncanny leadership, and its latest attempt to
mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus in Nigeria since the nation’s index case
was reported on February 27 is just the latest brave effort to grapple with the
pandemic. The Anambra State administration is the first government in the
country to call citizens’ attention to the grave danger which the contagion
poses. It played this role because it is fully conscious that its people are
the most travelled in the whole country, and they frequently visit China and
other nations hit by the pandemic for business. The government has also taken
other measures like suspending burials of up to 30 persons, parties and title
taking ceremonies till the situation improves.

Ndi Anambra need to cooperate fully with the government in
the campaign against the COVID-19. There are a lot of markets and motor parks
as well as churches in the state which record very large numbers of people. The
Onitsha Main Market is reputed to be the largest open market in West Africa.
Movement in the market is difficult because of the large crowds of people who
buy and sell there daily, including those who come from West and Central Africa.
In other words, the markets and motor garages in Nigeria are potential areas
where the virus can spread fast, since it is contracted mostly through
person-to-person contact and physical surfaces.

There are unfortunately people who are not yet aware of the
virus. This ignorance is more pronounced in rural areas. Worse, there are
people who are aware of the highly infectious disease, but strangely believe
that it cannot get to Nigeria because of the false belief that it cannot
survive in our hot climate. This belief persists despite that the fact that
there are already over 40 COVID-19 patients in Nigeria, including the son of a
former vice president, Atiku Abubakar. More disheartening is the large group of
Nigerians, many of them educated, who believe, for superstitious and other
strange reasons, that they cannot be infected. There are, in addition, those
who believe that the disease can be treated easily with honey, garlic, ginger
and hot water.

Ndi Anambra are enjoined to seek proper treatment from
doctors and other medical staff members trained to manage viral outbreaks like
the Coronavirus. Symptoms of the disease are high fever, vomiting, cough,
sneezing and difficult breathing. Any person showing any of these symptoms
should not indulge in self medication on the assumption that he or she is
afflicted by malaria or any common disease but should rather immediately
contact the state’s Public Health Emergency Operation Centre via telephone
numbers 08030953771 and 08117567363. It has to be noted that a person may be a
carrier without showing any of the symptoms. This is why the government has
been advising persons who have in the last two weeks visited any of the
countries with up to 1000 recorded cases of COVID-19 to isolate themselves for
14 days. The earlier the disease is detected the easier it is to treat. The
government will bear the treatment cost.

There are three hospitals in the state with isolation
centres. They are Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital in Nnewi, Chukwuemeka
Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital in Awka and Onitsha General Hospital.
Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital, Ekwulobia General Hospital in
Aguata Local Government Area and Umueri General Hospital in Anambra East LGA
have surge centres, that is, they can absorb patients who may not be
accommodated in the three hospitals with isolation centres based on existing
facilities.

Traditional rulers, presidents general of town unions,
market groups, transport unions, trade unions, professional groups, the
organized private sector, civil servants as well as religious leaders should be
in the frontlines of the spirited campaign to ensure that our state is spared
COVID-19. It is not the job of the government or medical doctors to fight this
monster alone, but that of every person.

Each of us can contribute meaningfully to the campaign by
washing our hands regularly with water and soap for 20 seconds which must be
poured away if it is in a bowel, by airdrying our hands instead of drying them
with towel or handkerchief because it may be contaminated, by using hand
sanitizers always, by not shaking hands or hugging each other, by keeping away
from people by some six feet, and by regularly cleaning door handles and rail
surfaces with liquids containing up to 60% alcohol. It is reassuring that a lot
of hotels, hospitals, offices and homes have been observing these rules.
Churches, markets, motor parks, transport owners and operators have also joined
in observing these rules.

The Anambra State Government has shown the light, and the
people are happily finding the way. God bless Anambra State, the Light of the
Nation.

C. Don Adinuba is Commissioner for Information & Public
Enlightenment, Anambra State. 

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