Until Monday, April 6, when two new cases of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) were announced in Ogun State, the Governor Dapo Abiodun-led administration had plumbed into the depth of its resourcefulness and sense of duty to curtail and contain its spread. The state’s index case, an Italian who has since been discharged from the Infectious Disease Hospital, Lagos, was announced March 9.
Between then and now, the United States of America has experienced a frightening spike in COVID-19 cases with deaths, at the time of writing, pegged at about 11, 000. The cases in Lagos currently stand at 238 with five deaths and 35 patients fully recovered and discharged. Ogun is the closest state to Lagos; proximity that comes with its merits and demerits. Perhaps if the Italian harbinger of COVID-19 had not visited Ogun, the state would have been without a case or its first case would have been delayed judging by the measures quickly put in place by Governor Abiodun.
The moment there was an outbreak in the state, Governor Abiodun reacted by putting the 28 people suspected to have had contacts with the Italian in quarantine at the isolation facility located in the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu. The governor promised then that the centre would be upgraded to a full-fledged bio-security and containment centre to attend to anyone who contacts the virus.
Within a few weeks, the state government constructed purpose-built isolation centres in Ikenne and Sagamu which have 128 beds and 21 beds respectively. The governor recently commissioned the centres as the third centre, located in Iberekodo, Abeokuta, with 100 beds, was being completed.
As part of measures to further flatten the curve, President Muhammadu Buhari announced a 14-day lockdown of Abuja, Lagos and Ogun. “All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period,” the president said in an address to the nation.
However, Governor Abiodun, who understands the peculiarity and challenges of his people, would not be goaded into hastily locking them in. Rather, he sought and got President Buhari’s consent to allow Ogun indigenes time to fetch necessities before observing the stay-at-home order. The Ogun lockdown effectively began four days after the initial date. Before it commenced, the governor had put in place a robust palliative package, which he said would cushion the adverse socio-economic effects of the lockdown directive on his people.
The packages, to be delivered to 500, 000 homes with an average of four persons each, contain staple food, anti-bacteria soap bars, detergents and hand sanitizers, which were produced by the State Ministry of Health to the World Health Organisation’ standard. He emphasised that the distribution exercise is being monitored to ensure that the people remain well-fed and healthy during the lockdown. To this effect, the state government announced that it had finalised plans with all local government transition chairmen on the distribution process.
According to a statement released by the state government, the transition chairmen were expected to “organise sensitisation programmes for people within their LGAs where they will enlighten the people, as the state government has so far done, on the symptoms and preventive measures of the coronavirus. The chairmen will also ensure that everyone is aware of the pattern of distribution so that all households will be reached effectively.”
The governor added, “It is worth emphasising for the umpteenth time that each of the pack of seven food items is meant for a household of the elderly, the poor and the vulnerable and not for any street, group, or Community Development Association to unbundle and start sharing the items in bits and pieces. This will defeat the purpose of the palliative. In the first phase, between 250-300 households are targeted in each ward, and distribution will continue in phases until 1,500 to 2,000 households reach is achieved in each of the 236 wards in the state, approximating to about 2.5 -3 million citizens.”
All these measures were before the two new cases were announced. On April 6, the governor addressed the state again saying, “The fight against coronavirus is a relentless one and the reality of it stares us in the face with increasing figures of the number of positive cases and deaths globally and even on our shores.”
He continued, “Today, I have the unpleasant task of announcing two new positive cases in Ogun State bringing the total to six from the index case identified late February. Though out of the 6 cases, three have been discharged and one is also responding to treatment and on the verge of being discharged, the two new cases may be erroneously considered few but certainly very significant. One of the cases is from Obafemi-Owode Local Government in Ogun Central whilst the other is from Yewa South in Ogun West, thus each of the three senatorial districts in the state has one case at least.
“This is significant, particularly when the two new cases have no recent travel history or close contact with any positive case with travel history. Indeed, one of them is from Mowe, a border town with Lagos State. They have since been moved to one of the isolation centres in the state. It is therefore important for us all to protect ourselves and our community from this invisible but dangerous virus by observing all the guidelines and shed off any carefree attitude that some may have been adopting toward the virus. COVID-19 is real. It is here also in Ogun State.”
As such, the governor said that his administration considered it expedient to unveil new measures to combat the spread of the pandemic which include; “Provision of a special welfare package for our frontline health workers in view of their higher risk of exposure to the deadly virus in the course of providing healthcare to others.
“Identification and enrolment of specific private hospitals in the state as incident centres/first responders in the management of the pandemic. Their staff will be trained in coronavirus case management and provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other items. These private hospitals will complement the over 500 government health facilities, including Primary Healthcare Centres spread across the nooks and crannies of the state.”
The governor further said that all political office holders at the state level from Senior Special Assistants to Special Advisers and Commissioners are now part of the State Task Force that can be contacted by the public for information, feedback and complaints.
“We are concluding plans to take delivery of our molecular laboratory while plans are underway for a mobile testing laboratory. In addition, the government is also establishing a drive-through testing facility all in an effort to test as many as possible so as to truly confirm that numbers of positive cases we have are a true reflection of the situation in our state,” the governor said.
While promising that his administration would stop at nothing to stop COVID-19 in its track in Ogun State, the governor added that they would continue to review the measures and strengthen its preparedness to ‘combat the corona monster on an on-going basis.’