By Dr. Stanley Nwatu
The outbreak of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic took the world unawares. Nobody saw it coming, not even the medical experts, religion prophets, prophetesses and herbalists, who have before now laid claim to power of clairvoyance.
The deadly virus is not a respecter of anybody, age, religion and status. It is ravaging the world. Not spared in its speedy spread and deadly effects are the developed countries of the world with the best of medical facilities. In short, Wuhan in China where it originated from has the best of medical facilities and experts. Some have accused the Chinese of conspiracy and have questioned why the pandemic has not spread to the cities of Benjing and Shanghai all in China the way it has spread across the globe. That is by the way for now.
It is no longer news that Corona virus is in Nigeria. It is here with us. What is news now is the increasing number of victims and the concerted efforts being put in place by the governments at various levels, individuals and organisations to tackle the spread of the deadly scourge that has no cure yet.
Some weeks ago, there was social media scaremongering that a 70-year-old woman who returned from London and suspected to be a Corona virus patient was admitted at Enugu State University Teaching Hospital Parklane Enugu.
The rumour, which spread like a wild fire on social media platforms created panic and fear among Enugu residents and people. Enugu State Government and management of ESUT Teaching Hospital rose to the occasion not only by managing the patient’s condition professionally, but ensured that test was conducted on her which result came out negative.
This prompt response and handling of the 70-year-old woman’s case by the Parklane Hospital Enugu was an indicator of the proactiveness, commitment and readiness of Enugu State Government to control and contain the spread of the global deadly virus. Even though after the incident, a London-based lady who claimed to be the woman ‘s daughter covertly took to social media to condemn the efforts of the Enugu State Government and the Parklane Hospital management in the handling of the woman’s case, but failed to disclose that this was the same woman that was allegedly rejected by medical personnel at University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Ituku Ozalla Enugu, upon hearing that the she just returned from London some weeks ago.
It would be recalled that even before the outbreak of the lassa fever which claimed many lives in Enugu’s neighbouring states, Enugu State government has put several measures in place across the state-owned health institutions to ensure prompt handling of the disease in the state. That was why the state was able to swiftly and professionally handled the lassa fever disease, when it tried to rear its ugly head in the state sometimes ago.
As the spread of the deadly Covid-19 takes its toll on Nigerians in the last few weeks, Enugu State government has upped her proactive and bold steps in ensuring that the virus didn’t take the state unawares. Apart from the Enugu State Government executive council’s approval for immediate release of N330 million Naira for proactive, preventive and management measures against the spread of the virus, the state government has ordered the closure of schools, markets, ban of all social gatherings, provides dedicated phone numbers to report suspected cases and other activities that will help ameliorate the spread of the pandemic.
Not done yet, the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has approved the immediate provision of Group Life/Group Personal Accident Assurance Policy for all medical doctors in the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) Teaching Hospital, Parklane, Enugu.
The Enugu State Medical Diagnostics Centre now one of the State’s Isolation Centres For Covid-19 Treatment being supervised by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State.
In a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Simon Uchenna Ortuanya, the assurance package is also extended to all doctors in the State Ministry of Health and all other health workers.
Other beneficiaries, according to the statement, include fire fighters, staff of Enugu State Emergency Management Agency and all those involved in other essential services.
Prof. Ortuanya added that Gov. Ugwuanyi is hopeful this goodwill will inspire higher commitment and productivity amongst the beneficiaries.
In a related development, the governor has directed the Presidents General of all Town Unions in the state to mobilize volunteers and town criers in their respective autonomous communities to enlighten residents of their communities on adherence to the protocol for prevention of COVID-19 transmission with effect from Thursday, March 26, 2020.
The Presidents General were further directed to interface with the Enugu State Multi-sectoral Rapid Response Team, through the Permanent Secretary, State Ministry of Health, for collection of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials on Corona Virus disease, for use by the Volunteers and Town Criers.
According to Prof. Ortuanya, the state government has also made provisions for logistic support to the Presidents General, the various Town Criers for this assignment.
It is good to know that already complementing the state government’s efforts through sensitisation, enlightenment and awareness campaign against and about the pandemic, its symptoms and preventive measures at the healthcentres, homes, churches, communities, markets, villages and others at the grassroots level are the 17 local government chairmen, 260 councillors, supervisory councillors, local government health personnel, community leaders and others.
They have been distributing buckets, soaps, hand gloves, facial masks and some food items to the people with the emphasis that Corona virus is real and prevention is better than cure.
Even though Enugu has recorded only two confirmed cases of Corona virus, Enugu State government is not relenting in its proactive measures/ moves against the spread of the deadly pandemic.
While some State Governments and their media hirelings have been busy showcasing their social media Isolation Centres that are neither here, nor there, Enugu State government, apart from being among the first state to establish a standard Isolation Centre has scored another first with the provision of Group Life/ Group Personal Accident Assurance for all medical doctors in the State Teaching Hospital Parklane, Ministry of Health and all health workers in the state.
What a timely decision and motivation for the medical personnel and health workers who will mostly bear the brunt of pandemic when the chips are down. There is need for other states to emulate Enugu State Government by making provision for Life Assurance for the medical personnel in their states at the critical time of the pandemic palaver. This will motivate the medical and health personnel to put in their best in handling the delicate and deadly situation when the need arises. It will bring out the best in them. Not done yet, the State Government has taken delivery of two brand new additional ambulances and one incident vehicle it purchased to support the state’s response to the covid-19 pandemic.
The State Government had also on March 31, 2020 by 6pm commenced the strict implementation of the closure of boundaries, markets and inter-state transportation, with the exemption of those on medical emergency services, those dealing on food items, water, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and other basic items of daily domestic needs. This was in line with the State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s address to the people on his government’s planned measures to contain the spread of the virus in the state last week.
Also, on April 1, 2020, the Enugu State Government approved the use of the ultra-modern Enugu State Medical Diagnostics Centre as additional Covid-19 Isolation and Treatment Centre.
The State Government announced the activation a fully functional Coronavirus Disease Isolation and Treatment Centre equipped with modern facilities at Enugu State University Teaching Hospital Parklane, Enugu.
These decisions were contained in a statement released by the Secretary to the Enugu State Government, Prof. Simon Ortuanya, shortly after Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi led a combined team of top government officials and heads of security agencies in the state to monitor the level of compliance with government’s order, closing the markets and boundaries as well as inspect some health facilities in the state.
According to the statement, the state government equally activated a brand new hospital at G.R.A Nsukka to serve as Covid-19 Isolation and Treatment Centre for Enugu North Senatorial Zone.
Prof. Otuanya further disclosed that the State Government has taken over and commenced extensive reconstruction of the former Colliery Hospital, Enugu to expand the state capacity for Covid-19 Isolation and Treatment, noting that it is collaborating with the local government chairmen to identify and designate Isolation Centres in their respective LGAs to ensure their preparedness in the event of possible spike in the Covid-19 burden with the state.
With all these proactive measures put in place by the Enugu State Government which is in line with the international best practices, it is baffling to see some residents and indigenes of the state, who have not abide by the simple directive of social distancing, asking on social media platforms, how prepared is Enugu State Government to battle convid-19 in the state? Some of them instead of being supportive of government’s proactive measures to contain the pandemic in the state, have for political reason tried to drag the governor’s name to the mud by alleging that he organised his birthday party in Government House Enugu on March, 20, 2020 at the peak of the Convid-19 palaver.
To buttress their false claims, they have been busy circulating the governor’s surprised birthday cake from some friends at a brief meeting in Government House on that day.
As usual there was no birthday bash for the governor organised by him or people as being falsely peddled by these enemies of the state. It is known over the years that Governor Ugwuanyi has always celebrated his birthday in a low-key manner at the orphanage and elderly homes. That was what he did on that day. Ugwuanyi is not a hedonist or an insensititive leader. He is a leader, who has always cared for humanity.
Meanwhile, for those who have been asking, especially on the social media platforms, how prepared is Enugu State Government to tackle the menace of Covid-19, as we can see from all indications and indices, there is no doubt that the State Government is battle ready.
Not even the recent misrepresentation and misinterpretation of the unruly and mischievous actions of some nurses of ESUT hospital, Parklane Enugu on social media platforms, which the management of the hospital and the leadership of the nurses union have refuted is enough to rubbish the concerted and condemnable efforts of the state government in combating the spread of the virus in the state. But one thing that is very clear is that the state government cannot do it alone. The total co-operation and commitment of Enugu residents, people, churches, organisations and most importantly the medical personnel are highly needed to contain and control the spread of the virus in the state. The people are expected to altruistically complement government’s efforts by simply sticking to the corona virus’ precautionary measures of social distancing, regular hand washing, use of sanitizers often, staying at homes and others.
Enugu people should realised that as February 24, 2020 Italy has five confirmed cases of Corona virus, with no death record. Italian government issued a stay-at-home order, but the people disobeyed.
Today, Italy has recorded over 60,000 confirmed cases and over 5,400 deaths and they are still counting. There is always price for every disobedience. Ndi Enugu obey Enugu State government’s directive on closure of boundaries markets, and others. Mind you that it is only those who are alive that enjoy the luxury of life. Enjoyment will be always be there. Let everyone supports the state government’s efforts in this direction. Politics aside, all hands must be on deck to ensure that Enugu will not become the epicentre of Corona virus scourge.
Dr. Stanley Nwatu, a retired medical expert wrote from Maryland, Enugu.