By FIDELIS EGUGBO
The social media has provided a means for people to express themselves freely without much hindrance. The fact that the laws on restricting its usage in Nigeria is loose has also given room for some people to make wild and unsubstantiated claims and move on without considering the damages caused by their false posts.
Coronavirus disease, otherwise known as Covid-19, is changing the world order and the fact that most people have access to information via smartphones, further buttresses the reality that the world has shrank even beyond the ‘global village’ mantra. The Covid-19 is a highly transmittable and pathogenic viral infection characterised by severe acute respiratory syndrome, which emerged from Wuhan, China, and is spreading around the world with unprecedented consequences.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, “since 31 December 2019 and as of 4 May 2020, 3 467 321 cases of COVID-19 (in accordance with the applied case definitions and testing strategies in the affected countries) have been reported, including 246 979 deaths.
“Cases have been reported from Africa: 44 437 cases; the five countries reporting most cases are South Africa (6 783), Egypt (6 465), Morocco (4 903), Algeria (4 474) and Nigeria (2 558). Asia: 553 544 cases; the five countries reporting most cases are Turkey (126 045), Iran (97 424), China (83 964), India (42 533) and Saudi Arabia (27 011). America: 1 475 942 cases; the five countries reporting most cases are United States (1 158 041), Brazil (101 147), Canada (59 474), Peru (45 928) and Ecuador (29 538). Europe: 1 384 499 cases; the five countries reporting most cases are Spain (217 466), Italy (210 717), United Kingdom (186 599), Germany (163 175) and Russia (134 687). Oceania: 8 203 cases; the five countries reporting most cases are Australia (6 801), New Zealand (1 137), Guam (149), French Polynesia (58) and Fiji (18). And 696 cases reported from an international conveyance in Japan.
Deaths have been reported too from Africa: 1 799 deaths; the five countries reporting most deaths are Algeria (463), Egypt (429), Morocco (174), South Africa (131) and Nigeria (87). Asia: 19 547 deaths; the five countries reporting most deaths are Iran (6 203), China (4 637), Turkey (3 397), India (1 373) and Indonesia (845). America: 85 260 deaths; the five countries reporting most deaths are United States (67 682), Brazil (7 025), Canada (3 682), Mexico (2 154) and Ecuador (1 564).
Europe: 140 244 deaths; the five countries reporting most deaths are Italy (28 884), United Kingdom (28 446), Spain (25 264), France (24 895) and Belgium (7 844). Oceania: 122 deaths; the four countries reporting deaths are Australia (95), New Zealand (20), Guam (5) and Northern Mariana Islands (2). And 7 deaths reported from an international conveyance in Japan.”
Out of the more than 2,500 confirmed cases in Nigeria, 17 cases were confirmed in Delta with 2 recoveries and 2 deaths.
Like a harmattan fire, Covid-19 is spreading in Nigeria and it is no longer about what to do for it not to enter the country; it is about what we have to do as individuals for us not to get it, and for those who are already infected not to further spread it while they are being managed by professional healthcare givers. Yes! It is not a death sentence as the various symptoms can be treated, which could lead to full recovery despite the fact that there is no single vaccine yet recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the treatment.
In Delta State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa took proactive and daring steps to ensure that the people are safe from the virus. The airports in the state were shut and land borders were also closed all in the bid to safeguard the lives of the people.
Governor Okowa was fully aware of the fact that he was elected to provide leadership; and, in a state broadcast on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, the governor, as someone who listens to the voice of the people, relaxed the total lockdown of the state.
Relaxing the lockdown was strictly to ensure a rekindling of economic activities in the state albeit with certain conditions. “To mitigate the harsh economic effects of the lockdown, the State Government distributed food items to all 270 wards in the State, coordinated by a cross-section of leaders at the local government area/ward levels. We are currently also expecting some food items from the Federal Government and Ca-Covid for onward distribution to the poor and vulnerable. At this juncture, I wish to thank all those who donated generously to our COVID-19 Relief fund”, he observed.
The governor further said, “As we gradually relax the restriction of movement, I must caution that it is not yet Uhuru; life as we have known it is still a long way off. We must, therefore, brace ourselves up to adjust to the new normal in all our personal, official and business dealings going forward. As an administration, we remain irrevocably committed to doing everything necessary to protect the lives and property of citizens in the state, in addition to providing a safe and secure environment for them to pursue their dreams of success and happiness.
“In view of the foregoing, it has become necessary to PARTIALLY LIFT THE BAN on movements within the State effective Thursday, 30th April, 2020. This is to enable our people engage in economic/business activities between the hours of 6am and 7pm. Security agencies will be on hand to ensure strict compliance with the time frame.
“Conferences, sporting activities, gathering of people in convention/event centres, sports fields, public/open spaces, as well as recreational and cultural/communal activities remain banned until 31st May 2020.
“While burials and weddings will be allowed, the social distancing rule (6ft apart) must be applied, and the number of guests/persons must not exceed 50.
“Our schools (public and private) remain closed until Sunday, 31st May 2020.
“Entertainment centres, including cinemas, bars and night clubs remain closed until Sunday, 31st May 2020.
restaurants/canteens/beer parlours are to operate on take-away basis while hotels will be allowed to open (with in-room dining) but their restaurants, bars and night clubs remain closed till further notice.
“While transport services (keke, taxis, buses) are allowed to operate, number of passengers shall be as follows: -– 2 persons at the back for keke; one person at the front seat and two persons at the back for a taxi; 10-12 persons for a 16-seater/18-seater bus.
“Our airports remain closed to passenger traffic till further notice.
“All crusades/conventions remain banned till further notice.
“For the public service, only workers on Grade Level 12 and above should resume work effective Thursday, 30 April, 2020. This order does not apply to junior staff on essential/emergency duties.
“Workers with comorbities identified by the ministry of Health or its agencies can work from home. However, workplace protocols should be in place for disease surveillance/prevention, including screening, use of facemasks and social distancing.
“Let me reiterate that security agencies have been advised to ensure strict compliance with the above directives. Violators will be prosecuted, without fear or favour.
“Henceforth, it is mandatory for all residents in the State to make use of facemasks in the public. Anybody leaving his/her home must wear a facemask effective Thursday 30th April, 2020 till further notice. They must be worn in public places including offices, markets, malls, supermarkets, salons, hospitals and health clinics, churches, mosques, as well as all approved gatherings of persons.
“Traders/market women are all required to wear facemasks while carrying out their businesses. The local government chairmen are hereby directed to work out the modalities for the operations of the markets in their domain, especially with regards to social distancing and other sanitation protocols.
“Hair dressing/barbing Salons MUST NEVER BE CROWDED; owners are hereby directed to restrict the number of persons inside to a minimum number that will facilitate appropriate social distancing. As much as possible, workers in these establishments should wear hand gloves.
“The State Government will by tomorrow commence, in the first instance, the distribution of A MILLION CLOTH FACEMASKS to residents in the State, using the Local Government offices as channels. Meanwhile, those who can afford it are also advised to make their own procurements. The benefit of the cloth facemasks is that they can be washed and reused.
“There will be a continuation of the inter-state lockdown for another two weeks. Only essential supplies – food, beverages, medicals, pharmaceuticals, petroleum and agricultural products – are exempted from this order.
“As we engage our new normal, I assure all Deltans and residents that we shall continue to put processes in place to limit the transmission of the virus by ensuring rapid identification of cases and contacts, more testing, isolation/quarantine as necessary, staff training/motivation and provision of logistics/supplies.
“I wish to appeal to us to please stay indoors as much as possible and only go out when it is necessary. You need not travel or visit persons for whatever conversation, business or action you can conclude on the phone or by using other electronic media.
“Please wash your hands regularly with soap and water; use alcohol-based sanitisers as an alternative. And it is very important that you do not touch your mouth, eyes and nose with unwashed hands.
“If you fall sick with fever, cough and/or breathlessness, please do not panic. Call the local government chairman, councillor, executive secretary or Disease Surveillance and Notification Officer in your local government area. You can also call the Emergency Operation Centre on these numbers: 0803 123 0480; 0803 123 0481; 0803 123 0528; 0803 123 0529. Pray always and endeavour to use this time to strengthen your family bonds; together, and with God on our side, we shall overcome.”
The governor during the broadcast, had thanked Deltans for their “understanding and cooperation in this very challenging period in human history.”
In his words, “Except for some minor incidents here and there, our State has been relatively peaceful during the lockdown. It speaks of your trust and confidence in the integrity of the structures and processes we put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic. We are, indeed, very grateful for your support and partnership. The security agencies also deserve our commendation for their sacrifice, patience and professional conduct.
“You will recall that on March 29, 2020, we closed all entry points into and out of Delta State as a proactive step to keep the coronavirus pandemic at bay. Three days later, on April 1, 2020, we closed all offices, public spaces and banned public movement/gatherings within the State except for the essential/emergency supplies to enable us to reduce the risk of transmission.
“These proclamations were made in exercise of the powers conferred on me by the Delta State Public Health Law Cap P21 Laws of Delta State 2006, and in particular, section 8 of the Quarantine Act, Cap Q2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, (having regard to the provisions of Sections 2,3 and 4 of the Quarantine Act, Cap Q2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004), as well as the Infections Diseases (Emergency Prevention) Regulation 2020.
“We have every reason to believe that the lockdown has helped to limit the spread of the virus in our State. The period of the lockdown, while enabling us to break the chain of transmission, also gave us the leeway to easily trace, identify, isolate and test contacts of infected persons. As at today, we have a low virus spread in the state and our health system can be said to be in a state of readiness with the health staff fully committed and motivated to discharge their responsibilities in a professional, ethical and safe manner.
“As we begin to ease the lockdown restrictions, the sensible approach is to do it in a gradual, systematic, and orderly manner so that we do not wipe out the gains of the past four weeks. We are very mindful of the fact that each day of the lockdown was tough economically and particularly agonising for those in the informal sector who live on daily income.”
It is a common knowledge among Africans that when a man cooks for a community, the food hardly goes round, but when the community cooks for a man, he can never exhaust it. We must commend Governor Okowa for the proactive measures taken so far to combat the spread of Covid-19.
Like sudden ailment, no one budgeted for the coronavirus in 2020; but the governor has proven by his actions that as a leader he cannot shy away from the responsibilities of protecting his people.
In tackling Covid-19, which is described in some quarters as WW III (World War III), Governor Okowa has proven to be a worthy and capable General. Though in this scenario, he is not leading his people to a conventional war, but to realize that he is defending his people creditably well is for I to take cursory look at the grave statistics from “developed” economies of the world that have been demystified by the virus.
Naturally, most of us, even the guilty ones, would like to apportion blames. When the virus was not in Delta, he took measures to ensure that the borders were closed, but, some of us found our ways and boasted about how we beat security operatives to move to other states. He locked down the state to ensure that movements were restricted; again, some of us kicked against him for inflicting hunger on us as if he initiated Covid-19.
What is not in dispute is that Governor Okowa has creditably played his role as a leader who is not afraid to dare, and as a true democrat who listens to the voice of the people.
The governor has provided isolation centres, testing kits against all odds, for the safety of Deltans. On the last count, he has ensured that a mobile Covid-19 Testing Laboratory is deployed in the Central Hospital, Asaba, the state capital.
The greatest question is, if you cannot appreciate what the governor and government is doing, as an individual who is aware that the Covid-19 emanated from far away China, what are you doing to stop the spread?
A lot of awareness campaign has been carried out about what needs to be done in order not to get the ailment. What are you doing to safeguard your life and those of others, bearing in mind that all that is required in this “war” is personal hygiene, safe distancing and staying at home to break the chain of the virus spread? For the first time in the history of Nigeria, numerous workers are being paid for staying at home.
Those who are engaged in the blame-game would want Governor Okowa to provide food for them and possibly cook the food and spoon-feed them as well; but this is no time for politics or blame games. The poverty index in Nigeria was very high before the advent of coronavirus or Covid-19; all that the governor is concerned about now is how to reduce the number of deaths. How ready are we to partner the government in this battle against Covid-19, or we are desirous of encouraging its spread bearing in mind that no one knows who will be the next victim?
Definitely, after this period, most of us shall look back and thank God for giving Deltans a proactive and intelligent man as Governor in this critical period in our march through the ages.
If you are in Governor Okowa’s position, what would you have done differently to safeguard the lives of the people?
The governor is not a Mr-Know-It-All; he is ready for advice on how to check the spread and move the state forward. So, this is not the time to attack government and its policies. As someone who believes that there are things that need to be done, don’t just make it known through the channels that are easily available; also, suggest ways towards achieving the desired results. As an individual, I am confident that world acclaimed experts, renowned Deltans who have excelled in different fields of life, will look at your suggestions and decisions that will always be in the best interests of Deltans will be implemented.
May God continue to protect all of us from Covid-19 and give us the mindset to work for our collective good through Christ our Lord. Amen.
*FIDELIS EGUGBO, SPECIAL ASSISTANT, MEDIA, TO DELTA STATE GOVERNOR WRITES FROM ASABA