- State on red alert
- Government brazes up for a possible pandemic
- Ignorance, defiance greets expert directives
The emergence of Coronavirus has indeed altered live as we know it across the globe. Many nations are affected and thousands of death is being recorded on daily basis.
The first confirmed case of the pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 in Nigeria was announced on 27 February 2020, when an Italian citizen in Lagos tested positive for the virus, caused by SARS-CoV-2.
On 9 March 2020, a second case of the virus was reported in Ewekoro, Ogun State, a Nigerian citizen who had contact with the Italian citizen
On 28 January 2020, the Federal government of Nigeria assured citizens of the country of its readiness to strengthen surveillance at five international airports in the country to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The government announced the airports as Enugu, Lagos, Rivers, Kano and the FCT.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control also announced same day that they had already set up coronavirus group and was ready to activate its incident system if any case emerged in Nigeria
On 31 January 2020, following the developments of COVID-19 outbreak in mainland China and other countries worldwide, the federal government of Nigeria set up a Coronavirus Preparedness Group to mitigate the impact of the virus if it eventually spreads to the country.
On the same day, the World Health Organization listed Nigeria among other 13 African countries identified as high-risk for the spread of the virus.
Since then many states including Enugu State have taken drastic measures to prevent a possible pandemic.
According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.
Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face.
The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).
At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. However, there are many ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments. WHO will continue to provide updated information as soon as clinical findings become available.
The COVID-19 virus affects different people in different ways. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease and most infected people will develop mild to moderate symptoms and recover without requiring special treatment. People who have underlying medical conditions and those over 60 years old have a higher risk of developing severe disease and death.
According to WHO, Common symptoms include: fever, tiredness, dry cough. Other symptoms include: shortness of breath, aches and pains, sore throat, and very few people will report diarrhea, nausea or a runny nose.
People with mild symptoms who are otherwise healthy should self-isolate and contact their medical provider or a COVID-19 information line for advice on testing and referral.
People with fever, cough or difficulty breathing should call their doctor and seek medical attention.
Enugu State Government/ Catholic Diocese of Enugu steps up prevention effort
However, following the development, Enugu so far has not recorded any major incident. The only one so far was of a London returnee lady who later tested negative but unfortunately died out of another cause. Since then, the Enugu State government has intensified efforts.
In a chat with The Choice Flame Newspaper, the permanent Secretary, Ministry of health, Enugu State, Dr. Ifeanyi Agujiobi reinstated the state government’s readiness to handle a possible infection in the state. He revealed that Enugu has a testing center and with the over 330 Million Naira released by the state government so far, a lot more is being done to ensure that the state is ready and not caught off guard.
His statement is coming at the heels of the directive by the state government for citizens of the state to stay safe and help stop a possible spread.
In a broadcast by Governor Ifeanyai Ugwuanyi, the state government directed an immediate closure of schools while directing civil servants to stop work as a matter of urgency.
The state governor also banned every form of gathering that will attract large crowds while directing security operatives across the state to ensure strict adherence to the measure.
The Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga in a similar move released Pastoral guidelines on new measures to ensure social distancing and safety for the faithful and people of the state at large.
Interestingly, even with the ban on overloading of passengers by public transport operators in the state, it has been observed that many of the operators of public transport in the state are flouting this rule.
This, as observed has been caused by the prevailing ignorance amongst many people as well as the misinformation flying around.
Experts in the State react
This is World War III- Prof. Neri Picardo
Reacting to the major concerns over a possible pandemic in Enugu state, Prof. Neri Picardo a Consultant physician working in Niger Foundation Hospital described the virus as a great risk of which we are not really ready to handle.
Prof. Neri said;
“We are facing a great risk. I am saying this because this novel virus COVID-19 is not like anything we have faced in the past. It is being referred to as World War III.
COVID-19 is very virulent. It spreads from person to person mainly through respiratory droplets – coughing, sneezing, nose blowing. droplets can land on persons nearby on face, hand or inhaled to lungs.
“Over here, we tend to gather in crowds close to each other (School, Banks, buses, markets, hospitals, etc) and this facilitates the transmission from person to person, so we are truly at great risk. The recommended distance (Social Distancing) is two meters. We also lack testing facilities so we don’t know who is infected. In fact, we are all at risk.
“The Government is trying but it must do more. We have the experience of other countries and we should emulate what they are doing to contain the spread of COVID – 19 and avoid it being a pandemic in our country. But then, we should not leave everything to the government. We are all involved.
“We are at present, not fully prepared to handle an outbreak of this Coronavirus; we also do not have testing facilities in Enugu. Many people are carrying the virus and are asymptomatic. Delay in detection will cause spread. For those who present with symptoms, there is delay in obtaining the result (2 to 3 days) as the test are done in only five centers in the country. We are not prepared as regards to having adequate isolation centers and trained personnel for suspected calls and for management of confirmed cases.
“In case of an outbreak here, we are going to be overwhelmed (like Italy and Spain and even the US). We do not have the supply of personal protection equipment and machinery like ventilators etc.
“In fact, we need to prepare ourselves much more and not underestimate the seriousness of this disease. We must commend the government in what it is doing so far by creating awareness through modern technology. We have seen fliers all over town, giving a clear picture of the illness and how to prevent it. Orders have been issued for closure of school, public gathering, Church events, wedding, burials etc.
“People have been asked to stay at home, except those on essential services. These measures have to be strictly adhered to and enforced by Law enforcement agents as we have the tendency to be a little undisciplined. Good hygiene like washing of hands with soap and water, sanitizers, avoiding shaking of hands, embracing etc has been broadcasted all over the nation.
Prof. Neri concluded that all hands has to be involved. “Don’t underestimate the seriousness of this COVID-19, follow instructions given by the civil and church authorities. Repost immediately by phone any suspected case, stay at home, only move about if it is absolutely necessary. Keep the elderly isolated as they are most vulnerable, live good hygiene like washing of hands with sanitizers, avoid coughing and sneezing near others, avoid shaking of hands and embracing,” Prof. Neri Advised.
Enugu State should totally Lock-down now – Prof. Margaret Aghaji
In the same vein, Prof. Margaret Aghaji, a Professor of Community Medicine with University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu called for a total shut down of everywhere in Enugu. She wondered why the markets and churches are still open. According to her, the best form of stopping the spread of the disease is to stay away from each other and ensure less contact by shutting down everywhere and compelling people to stay at home.
According to Prof. Margaret, if this becomes a Pandemic, the fragile health system will collapse and everyone will be at the mercy of the disease. Describing the level of quagmire the disease presents, Prof. Said; “The risk are real, the dangers are real, let’s not make any mistake about it. What we are prevailing on is to see whether our weather can help us. “If we have the cold weather here, then, we cannot escape it. So our prayer and hope is that this sunshine and heat now will dampen a lot of transmission, if not, in the next four months you’ll be sorry for what you’ll see in this country. But I believe that the weather will help us. God has a way of helping his people. We are praying that pandemic will not take place. If it takes place, no Jupiter can help us.
“We have no control on it, because it’s so infectious that there’s nothing you can do. It’s very infectious and it comes in stages. So, the danger is real. We, in the medical field, are just praying that this weather will help, if not, we just braze up for the worst. It will just be survival, whosoever survives lives. There’s nothing you can do.
Prof. further reinstated the need for a total shutdown of the system as the situation currently demands for it and it has to be immediate.
“In Enugu, the closing of schools is very commendable, but, then the markets are open. If we are serious as a nation, this is the time to lock down. This is the time for everybody to stay indoors to contain the spread, but we haven’t done that, so that’s a big minus. There is no other option. The only way to stop the epidemic is a total lock down. It’s better to shut down every mass gathering. The Italians are even warning us not to make the mistake they made.
“UNTH has only two ventilators, ESUT Teaching hospital Parklane has one ventilator. And in serious cases each person needs a ventilator, that means for Enugu now, we don’t have up-to 10 ventilators. And remember, it is said that when it enters a place, 20% must have serious cases that will need such machines. So there’s nothing on ground.
“The state isolation center was Colliery hospital, and we used it during Ebola and now the governor has mapped out one building in Parklane for it but that place is not ideal. Perhaps, he wants a State structure, but this is not the time for State and Federal thing unless he will live to regret it. First, the colliery isolation is just there for cases so it’s well placed and located.
“Colliery hospital has more rooms and if well equipped can take about 100 people but the one at Parklane can’t take much. So there’s no point wasting time on that place. I am of the conviction that the Government should use the fund they have to make Colliery Hospital better.
“This is time for everyone who is well to-do to partner with the government, to buy the required medical equipments. This is the time to get ready for all it worth. And even if at the end it didn’t escalate, those instruments are there for the state too.”, Prof. said.
Prof. Margaret further advised against self medication with a particular reference to Chloroquine. According to her, Chloroquine is a very dangerous drug and so many deaths have been recorded.
“At Parklane, two peopled were helped. People should stop taking Chloroquine. People should killing themselves with Chloroquine as preventive measure against Covid-19.
“People doing hand washing business, should desist from that as it makes them more vulnerable. The Government should provide hand washing places and equipment.
“Enugu State Government should also provide water for citizens and try as much as possible in making water available to people. Ugwuanyi should make water available to everybody. Let the taps run because we need it for hygiene”, Prof. Advised.
She however sounded a note of warning, advising that government should not be complacent over the development so that the overwhelming scourge of the virus in Italy will not repeat itself in Nigeria.
She further urged individuals who have perhaps started feeling unwell to isolate themselves.