There is anxiety in Hadejia Local Government Area of Jigawa State, following the mysterious death of over 100 persons. The victims were suspected to have died from complications related to COVID-19.
News of the deaths in Jigawa came as chairman of Kano State chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, Dr. Sunusi Muhammad Bala, said yesterday that the body has lost one doctor to the raging coronavirus pandemic, while 32 others tested positive in the state.
This is even as Kaduna State government said yesterday it is currently treating 72 COVID-19 patients in the state, including 67 Almajirai recently returned to the state from Kano.
Special Adviser to Hadejia Local Government Council Chairman on Media, Sani Kakabori, who disclosed this in an interview on Channels Television, said an average of 10 persons, mainly above the age of 50, died daily in the last 10 days.
He said the state government has established a five-man committee to investigate causes of the deaths and recommend appropriate actions.
The state chairman of COVID-19 task force, who is also the Commissioner for Health, Dr Abba Zakari, who also confirmed the deaths, said the five-man committee is being chaired by Dr. Mahmud Abdulwahab.
Other members of the committee, according to him, include Shehu Mohammad, Yusuf Hakimi, Shehu Sule, and a representative of the World Health Organization, WHO.
Abba Zakari pointed out that the committee was expected to submit its report within three days.
Chairman of the Kano State chapter of the association, Dr. Sunusi Muhammad Bala, who disclosed this in an interview with newsmen, said his members have resolved that they would not risk their lives if Personal Protection Equipment, PPEs, were not provided for them.
The doctors were infected while on duty and attending to patients with symptoms of coronavirus.
The NMA chair said it is still compiling the list of doctors affected but noted that at the moment, 32 were infected, while one had died.
He said: “We have 32 doctors positive and one doctor is dead in Kano. We are still compiling the data but as at now, we have 32 within the last two weeks.
“Yes, we have developed a feedback mechanism system where we access each facility, what we have and we report to the relevant authorities to provide. But what we all agreed is that doctors should not risk their lives if they don’t have PPE.
At press time, yesterday, the number of confirmed positive cases in the state had risen to 365, with eight deaths.
Meanwhile, chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said yesterday that the greatest challenge of the Task Force in tackling the outbreaks of the disease in Kano State is lack of adequate manpower to expedite contact tracing of suspected carriers.
Mustapha gave the revelation while addressing members of the House of Representatives who had summoned him and his team to brief them on the situation in Kano State.
The PTF chair, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, said the state was fast becoming the epicentre of COVID-19 in the northern part of the country.
He said: “Kano is fast emerging as the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in the North, which necessitated Mr. President’s specific directives in his broadcast of Monday, April 27, 2020.
“The PTF has been working closely with the Kano State government and key stakeholders to identify the issues and seek immediate solutions. We have deployed a technical team of 41 staff from NCDC, supported by 17 staff from WHO to provide technical assistance to the State Emergency Operations Centre (SEOC).
“A team of clinicians and public health experts under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Health is also in Kano to provide training on case management and strengthen the capacity of the state to handle emergencies.
“A key weakness of the Kano COVID-19 response is lack of adequate manpower for surveillance and contact tracing.”
Mustapha, however, gave a detailed list of actions so far taken to curtail the spread of the epidemic.
These, according to him, include securing additional logistics, partnering with the state government to establish more testing centers, among others.
“The PTF has mobilized resources from across the health sector including multilaterals, bilaterals, MDAs and the private sector to push through an accelerated expansion of the rapid response teams (RRTs) from 21 to 50. This required the provision of 30 additional vehicles from INEC and 15 ambulances from the PTF and private sector. A further 10 hilux vehicles and 10 ambulances have also been pledged by the private sector.
“Working with partners, we are establishing at least one sample collection centre and two facilitators per LGA. In addition to a seven-day motorised campaign across major urban areas in Kano, we have mobilised about 3,300 informants through the WHO/polio programme for house-to-house search and reporting of suspected cases.
“The Federal Government will in due course announce significant additional material and technical resources to complement the state government’s efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic in Kano.
“Based on our assessment, the following specific additional measures have been taken in Kano:
— Lockdown of Kano for two weeks;
— Sent a team of experts to review the response structure and assess the situation;
— Been working closely with the political and professional authorities.
“There was also the deployment of equipment to the medical facilities; training of the Kano state teams of health workers; deployment of some service ambulances from the FRSC; and the Armed Forces Hospital in Kano is also being retooled to provide additional infrastructure,’’ he said.
The PTF chair added that the Task Force has “deployed 100 out of planned 200 trucks of assorted grains for relief, improved testing capacity by 400 per day; handed over a new Diagnosis Lab by 54Gene, supported by Dangote Foundation on Sunday May 3, 2020.”
As part of the effort in strengthening the Kano State Response Structure, Mustapha said: “The EOC structure and processes have been improved through reorganization; collaboration with Kano state is on going; Prevention of spread to neighboring states is a priority; medical personnel from states around Kano are currently being trained as part of the national response strategy
“Mr. Speaker, honourable members, these activities carried out by the PTF are applicable nationwide but more emphasis has been placed on the epicentres where community spread has commenced with a threat to family transmission on the increase.
“I wish to state that the PTF is working in collaboration with other structures set up by the President to ensure that there is a well-rounded national response. These include: the Economic Team headed by the Minister of Finance to examine the impact of COVID 19 on the economy; and Economic Sustainability Committee headed by His Excellency, the Vice President.
“The Task Force on free movement of farm produce headed by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“As part of the PTF’s mandate, we are working towards strengthening the country’s public health emergency preparedness through system building and infrastructure development. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragile status of our health system and the near absence of the structures or building blocks necessary for the public health protection of our communities.
“In this regard, we plan to establish state-of-the-art intensive care units and isolation/treatment centres in each of the 36 states plus FCT. We will also upgrade molecular laboratory facilities across the country and ensure that a COVID-19 testing centre is available in every state through the utilization of existing GeneXpert machines.
“This scale-up of infrastructure will also require additional staff training and a review of existing manpower needs for the country. There’s no doubt that a strengthened and well-resourced health system will not only place the country in a better position to deal with future emerging infections such as Lassa fever but will also provide a solid foundation for medical research and development.”
Mustapha also asked Nigerians to prepare to get acclimatized to the emerging new life which will be seemingly occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said: “The post-COVID-19 era is going to be a challenging one. As a country, we need to prepare for what will be major changes to our long-term social interactions, events, personal contacts and economic prospects.
“Just as important is the need to provide a strengthened legislative framework for dealing with future public health emergencies in a changing world. The current Quarantine Act needs to be updated due to the unique nature of emerging infections such as COVID-19, the dramatic impact this has on sectors beyond just health and the urgency required to deal with such pandemic.
“The President exercised his powers under sections 3 and 4 of the Quarantine Act LFN 2004 to restrict movement of persons and goods in Lagos, Ogun and FCT.
“Although this intervention generated heated debate in legal circles, with insinuations that it may be in direct conflict with Section 44(1) of the Constitution and Article 14 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ratification and enforcement) Act, the legal basis of the intervention is not debatable. However, the Act needs to be adaptable to the changing nature of human behaviour and interaction.
“Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned when the combined leadership of the National Assembly was briefed on 9th April, 2020, our nation is at war against a very dangerous, unseen and ubiquitous enemy and all hands must be on deck to successfully prosecute the war.
“In addition to providing the kind of leadership already demonstrated, the National Assembly finds itself in the unique position to do the following, though not exhaustive: develop a legislative framework to prepare Nigeria for any future pandemic; develop a legislative framework for reforming and transforming our healthcare systems; Strengthen the legislative framework for economic growth through domestic manufacturing; deepen the legislative oversight during this pandemic and beyond; Pass legislation that will further ease the ability of the executive to cushion the impact of the economic decline; be part of community mobilization and enlightenment efforts.”
In Kaduna, the state government confirmed treating 72 COVID-19 patients in the state.
A statement by Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s spokesman, Muyiwa Adekeye, said 67 of the patients were Almajirai children who were recently returned from Kano State.
Adekeye explained that seven other cases on admission included persons with travel history outside Kaduna State or their contacts.
He said of the number were two policemen currently undergoing treatment at the State Infectious Disease Control Centre.
The governor’s aide stated that since the index case was reported on March 28, Kaduna has discharged eight patients and recorded one fatality who died before his positive test result was received.
According to him, 81 cases have been recorded in Kaduna State, while active cases are 72.
Adekeye condemned documented instances of police and paramilitary personnel that have been involved in illegal inter-state travel, describing their action as unfortunate.
He, however, appealed to citizens to report any person who they knew had sneaked into the state, noting that such persons are violating the state’s quarantine orders.
Beyond illegal conduct, the governor’s spokesman said such persons were risking the health and lives of the residents and Nigerians in general, by recklessly spreading the virus across state lines.
“Therefore, residents of Kaduna State are encouraged to be uncompromising in exposing and reporting these potential spreaders of disease.
“They should not be allowed to spread sickness and make nonsense of the sacrifices the people of Kaduna State are making in enduring the tough but necessary measures announced to protect them,” he said.
Adekeye urged residents who suspect that they had been exposed to COVID-19 to act responsibly, avoid infecting others, contact health officials and isolate themselves until officials attend to them.
He also asked them to readily volunteer all relevant information on their health, travel history, and contacts.
Meanwhile, Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State, said yesterday that the state has recorded another confirmed case of coronavirus.
According to him, the person is a driver with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, in the state.
The governor, who disclosed this while giving update on the COVID-19 situation in the state, said the driver got infected while transporting test samples for the agency in Abuja.
He said the driver, who resides in Ado in Karu Local Government Area, LGA, of the state, was declared positive yesterday morning.
According to the governor, the patient has been moved to the isolation centre at the Federal Medical Centre, Keffi, for treatment.
He said all COVID-19 patients were currently receiving treatment at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital, Lafia and the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Keffi.
He also said the state had taken delivery of 6,000 personal protective equipment, PPE, 50,000 imported face mask, as well as 50,000, locally produced face mask by the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC.