Comr Harris Chuma
The recent outbreak of the Corona virus pandemic has exposed Nigeria to the underbelly of many of Nigeria’s healthcare systems. They are often poorly funded, severely neglected and in some cases virtually nonexistent. The disease’s virulence has the ability to overwhelm health systems that even before Corona lacked basic equipment and facilities, medical staff and supporting infrastructure.
Corona has shaken and awakened decision-makers in a way that malaria, tuberculosis and other epidemic diseases that claim millions of lives in Nigeri each year have failed to do, with the possible exception of HIV/AIDS.
As fate would have it, Anambra state ranked second amongst the ten highest economic growth rates in Nigeria according to reliable source, an economic think tank. As reported by an online news platform The AnambraMirror, “The situation of the health care systems in Anambra is capable of providing profound impact on the citizen’s health beyond Corona, but how prepared is the state to fight the scourge or would it become overwhelmed in the face of the wild spread of the Corona pandemic?” To exacerbate the situation, these health systems, including the general infrastructure, should be trigger ready for the fight.
His Excellency Chief Willie Obiano is obviously determined and ready to fight the deadly virus as adequate measures are readily in place to prevent the devastation that Corona virus brings. Few days ago, the state government gave the directives on the prevention of the spread of Corona Virus (COVID-19).
The directives reads in parts “In recognition of its primary duty to protect the life of all citizens, public gatherings of up to 30 persons meeting at the same time are suspended from Monday, March 23, 2020. This affects social ceremonies, for example, parties, weddings, title taking, burials and funerals as well as meetings”
“Leaders of the markets are advised to buy infra – red thermometers to test people in the markets. Any person with a temperature of above 37.9 degrees Celsius should be referred to a hospital”
“All residents of Anambra state are advised to avoid handshaking, hugging and all other forms of close contact. They are also advised to minimize contact with door handles and hand rails and to travel only when it is absolutely necessary.”
“All residents returning from countries and states with active COVID-19 cases must go into self-isolation for 14-days and contact the Anambra State Public Health Emergency Operation Center immediately (PHEOC) once they feel unwell. During self-isolation, they must take a reading of their temperatures twice daily. All residents are encouraged to carry hand sanitizers around with them always”. All schools both primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions have been directed to embark on compulsory vacation till further notice. One must admit that this is a well thought out policy.
The Corona outbreak should be a wake-up call for Community leaders in Anambra, both traditional rulers and President General PG of all towns in the state. Corona Virus pandemic has exposed the extreme weaknesses of many governments, countries which are affected were found totally unprepared.
The prognosis for the affected countries, which now include Nigeria is even more dire. A very real danger locks by the corner if ndi Anambra flaunts the orders or directives issued by the state government. Without a more effective, all-out effort, Corona virus could become endemic in Nigeria, and ndi Anambra being the most travelled people, in turn, could become victims to the virus’s spread.
Anambra state government should be commended for not taking too long to declare the outbreak a state emergency. Indeed, it was in March that it declared Corona virus an emergency, and by this time the disease has already penetrated Lagos, Abuja and other states the affected areas. Chief Willie Obiano”s led government did not underestimate the unprecedented, unusual outbreak.
To be fair, the media handlers of the state government became proactive and responsive as the situation has not deteriorated, though I have my reservations on the press statement that was not issued through the office of Commissioner for information, but, the Secretary to the State Government did a wonderful and commendable job. The online media Practitioners in the state are, however, reasonable in the way and manner they have joined the rest of the world and quickly too to launch the sensitization and awareness campaign, the ongoing effort, the momentum should be sustained.
But, the media should bear in mind that in many cases these have to do with state pride, and the fear of scaring away tourists and investors should not deter them from vigorously campaigning for the roll back of Corona virus.
In addition to the economic, social and political impact of Corona virus is the stigma attached to it. Politicians around the world have sounded the same warning, worried that Corona virus pandemic is creating a contagion effect on world economies.
The absence of any drugs or vaccines against the scourge of Corona has been the main source of fear among the public. Recently in the news, it was alleged that chloroquine would be useful in treating the disease, as further research intensifies.
The time will come when the decision-makers will take stock of the state of healthcare systems in Nigeria, how the outbreak unravelled and the effectiveness of the global response. Nevertheless, even as the Corona virus is spreading in other parts of the country, especially Lagos, and to a lesser extent Abuja, Now is no time for ndi Anambra to let down our guard. A gap anywhere in the response leaves space for the virus to spread disease, kill people, destroy families and threaten our darling state. We must keep fighting the fire until the last ember is out.