AS THE Covid-19 pandemic spreads across the globe, many countries are stepping up measures to contain the level of the disease. Nigeria on Monday, recorded her first death and currently have 51confirmed cases.
According to Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, the victim was the 67-year-old Suleiman Achimugu, former managing director of Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC). He died at 2 am on Monday.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said Achimugu had underlying medical issues and had been undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and only returned to the country recently. The NCDC stated that Achimugu had started exhibiting the symptoms of the virus last Tuesday, and the case was reported to the NCDC who took his blood sample for a test.
He tested positive and was evacuated to Specialist Hospital, Gwagwalada, FCT, where he died while receiving treatment.
In his briefing on Monday, Dr Ehanire said that besides the first death recorded in the country, Nigeria had 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19, across six states in the country – Lagos, FCT, Oyo, Ekiti, Ogun and Edo. The first two cases, which include an Italian who was the first case of coronavirus diagnosed in the country, have recovered and been discharged from the hospital. But as at press time, the figure has risen to 51.
According to World Health Organisation, the number of COVID-19 cases has reached 468,644 recording 21,191 deaths, with 114,218 victims recovering from the virus. The active cases stand at 333,235, with 318,502 people in mild condition, while 14,733 are in serious or critical conditions. China, where the pandemic broke out, has 81,285 cases with total deaths of 3,287. This is surpassed by Italy’s deaths of 7,503 with a total case of 74,386. Spain and Iran follow with total deaths of 3,647 and 2,077.
The commonest way for spread of COVID-19 has been said to be contacts between affected person and others who are not yet affected. The high contagious nature of the virus makes respiratory droplets from an infected person potential channel for its transmission.
To compound the rate of its spread, objects touched by victim(s) may constitute serious threat to an uninfected person, implying that regular washing of hands is imperative in controlling the spread.
EXPERTS advice not just washing of hands but use of alcoholic based solutions in the process. This, they say is the most effective measure as well as staying at safe distance from crowded places.
Scientists have been unrelenting in trying to discover effective drugs for the arrest of the scourge. This is yielding results despite challenges. Latest research shows that Hydroxychloroquine may be effective in fighting the dreaded COVID-19 disease, especially, at the mild and moderate levels.
However, conclusions on this require more clinical analyses than the frenzy triggered by the United States President, Donald Trump’s pronouncement during a news conference that, “hydrochloridequinine may be a game changer.”
This caution is corroborated by a University of Colorado, United States’ Pharmacology Professor, David Kroll, with a terse note, “that is just irresponsible for a leader of a country to say something like that. The data are not there.’
He however admitted that the drug could make sense given that it could be used against a variety of viruses due to its disruptive tendency on enzymes virus might need for reproduction. Kroll warns that its usage without proper examination of other combinations may likely cause anhythrias or cardiac issue.
Another treatments experimented so far include; Remdesivir, which is said to have ability to revive patients back to full life in 24 hours according to American Science research; antiviral drugs such as Favipiravir or Avigan has been reported by China media to be effective in the treatment also.
Back home in Nigeria, Researchers are on their gears with the University of Nigeria, Nsukka Professor of Pharmacology and former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Maurice Iwu’s Institute leading the line on discovery of possible cure for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The scholar’s research institute has revealed that it had made a breakthrough with a chemical compound that could effectively fight Coronavirus. Much as there are as much optimism and skeptism on the validity of the claims, the skyline shows brightness given that a Nigerian centre has made such bold move. The chemical compound is presently being tested in the United States of America.
In a press briefing by Dr. Ehanire, the country’s updated efforts at tracking further spread was released. Nigeria’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 led to activation of National Coronavirus Emergency Operation Centre (NCEOC) charged with nationwide sensitisation on personal hygiene and cough etiquette.
The centre was boosted with skilled manpower, equipped with five testing laboratories, for contact tracing and treatment of cases to help in shortening response or detection time. They are complemented with external quality assessment and proficiency testing for all laboratories with COVID-19-testing ability.
Aided by Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa-CDC), NCEOC mounts surveillance at points of entry for COVID-19 in ways similar to United States model.
Nigeria also placed ban on travelers from China, Italy, United States, United Kingdom, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, Netherlands and Switzerland – all countries with high COVID-19 prevalence. Passengers arriving Nigeria from foreign trips undergo secondary screening at airports before self-isolation for 14 days at their homes.
Issuance of visa on- arrival for travelers from these 13 countries was suspended. Government officials were also banned from foreign travels while other Nigerians were urged to cancel or shift non-essential travels, including business and vacation trips.
Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari has directed an immediate shutdown of her office for two weeks and urged staffs who recently returned from United Kingdom to work from home. Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) directed churches to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people, recommending ‘cellular’ and online services.
In Anambra State, apart from activating Public Health Emergency Operations Centres (PHOCs) to work under directions of national coordination centres, with schools closed on Monday, face and nose masks are being distributed to people by local government councils with sanitisers and soaps for regular hand washing under running water provided at vantage points in public places.
There is also a series of enlightenment campaigns in market places to get the people abreast with personal hygiene tips and preventive or precautionary measures that will keep them safe from contracting the virus from those already infected.
Civil servants in the state were equally on Monday, directed to proceed on a 14-day work-from-home with effect from Tuesday, March 24, 2020, while all public gatherings have been suspended till further notice. Events such as traditional marriage ceremonies, community festivals, ofala festivals, masquerade festivals, Igbankwu nwanyi, funeral ceremonies, baby christening, new yam festivals, title-taking ceremonies and any meeting of more than 30 participants.
The governor, who constituted an Action Committee on Covid-19, headed by himself, also directed all public transport operators to submit the manifest of all passengers coming into Anambra State to the appropriate authorities with their names, phone numbers, residential addresses and final destination and directed that “no Keke or tricycle rider should carry more than two passengers at a time.
Drivers of shuttle buses must not carry more than three passengers at a time. Drivers of township and mini buses must not carry more than five passengers at a time”, among others.
Many states in Nigeria have since taken cues from the Anambra example, with Lagos State, for instance, ordering workers to stay at home for two weeks while Ogun State private and public schools were closed down indefinitely from Friday, March 20, in the same way as schools in Benue State would ‘vacate’ from March 27, after similar order from federal government directed all federal tertiary institutions and Unity Schools to shut down beginning from this week.
Though governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States that are scheduled for September and October 2020 are not affected yet, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed bye-elections in Bayelsa Central, Bayelsa West, Imo North, and Plateau South Senatorial Districts indefinitely.
Meanwhile the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will give N100 billion loan to health authorities to boost detection and containment of COVID 19. Nigeria is also benefitting from an African regional network against COVID-19 which Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds by $25 million.
National Light supports all these efforts to combat and contain the spread of the disease and urges all citizens to comply with the social restriction orders from both federal and state governments for the good of all, even as we commend governments for taking such bold steps.
IT’S HOWEVER, disheartening that despite all the advices, warnings and directives from governments, a lot of people still attend weddings, burial ceremonies and other events across country, defying the lockdown measures announced to reduce the spread such as hand-shaking, hugging, among others.
Difficult as enforcement of the restrictions could be amid doubts and a wave of misinformation about the disease across the country, we urge governments and law enforcement agents to do all in their powers to ensure compliance.
THERE is need for governments at all levels to marshal out incentives to motivate health workers to be courageous enough to attend to victims of the virus .
IN AS much as the borders have been closed, there is equally need to find a way of allowing essential health equipment, particularly drugs and chemicals for use in the laboratory and pharmaceutical sectors. It is also worthy of note that without travel restrictions on interstate movements, the virus may not be contained.
WE URGE Nigerians to take the virus serious and even get prepared for the worst case scenario as we all pray and hope that this biological warfare is won as soon as possible.