Desmond Mgboh, Kano and Agaju Madugba, Katsina
Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has hinted at plans by President Muhammadu Buhari to take ‘difficult decisions’ geared at reviving the nation’s economy following the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NCDC boss dropped the hint when he visited Governor Aminu Bello Masari at Government House, Katsina.
“Mr. President will be making some difficult decisions on Wednesday (today) for the nation, not only in terms of the lockdown in two states and the FCT, but also across the country, in different ways. Mr. President will join the Nigerian Governors Forum in a tele-conference on Wednesday and there will be some difficult decisions to be made on how to restart part of the economy, especially on what to restart and what not to restart.
“The truth is that Nigeria cannot get back to pre-COVID-19 era as some adjustments have to be made on how we engage with ourselves, how we live and pray together, all these are difficult decisions we have to make until we discover a vaccine for the virus. We have to find a balance between opening up the economy, while also maintaining social distance and other measures to curtail the spread of the virus so that people can survive as we cannot shut down everything forever. He wants Nigerians to understand that the measures being taken are for the benefit of the people and their health and survival,” Ihekweazu said.
He said scientists all over the world were working round the clock to produce a vaccine for coronavirus, noting, however, that it could take several months to come up with the vaccine.
Meanwhile, anxiety has gripped the ancient city of Kano following reports alleging an increase in the number of people dying in the last four days from COVID-19.
Although a report, published first as a social media document, could not be verified by health authorities in the state, the majority of residents, out of fear, are adopting extra measures to stay safe and avoid contracting the virus.
Chief medical director, Abdullahi Wase Specialist Hospital, Kano State, Dr. Mustapha Hikima, in an interview with journalists, however, said there was no cause for alarm over the purported rise in the number of fatalities from COVID-19.
Hikima disclosed that the Kano State Ministry of Health had conducted a survey on the subject from April 13 to 19, with a view to understudying the pattern of deaths recorded in the state. The outcome of the survey indicated that there was no significant increase in the rate of death in the state. He said the survey, covering cemeteries in Dala, Fagge, Gwale, Kano Municipal, Nassarawa and Tarauni, all densely-populated areas, did not show any significant increase in the number of deaths and burials.
He also said, from findings, the recorded deaths in the state were not on account of COVID-19, as alleged or subtly being promoted.
“We don’t have the baseline information but, considering the high population and size of Kano State, the increase we noticed is not significant. We should also take the time of the occurrence of the deaths into consideration. The time happens occasionally. So, it is subjective to judge when a case happens within just three days. To me, this is not a serious problem because it happens sometimes. So, I appeal to people of the state to be calm,” he said.
However, former Chief Medical Director (CMD), Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano, Prof. Saqid Wali, has raised concern over the growing number of COVID-19 positive cases in the state.
The professor, who was the personal physician to four Nigerian past presidents and heads of state, including the late General Sani Abacha told Daily Sun by phone that though he could not verify the report that there was a surge in the number of death, he could confirm that many people were testing positive in the state.
“We heard of this story. I asked the people from NCDC and they moved in and they are testing people and finding them positive. To the extent that people were being tested and they are returning positive, you cannot entirely rule out that report.”
A professor of Haematology-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Usman Yusuf also warned that a disaster is unfolding with the rising death rates, particularly among the elderly.
In an article, he said: “While some may explain this increasing death rates to lack of medical care for the chronically ill due to the lockdown (which in any case is poorly observed and enforced in Kano), we should not forget that these same preexisting medical conditions make the elderly more vulnerable to infection and death by COVID-19.
“Kano, the most populous city in Nigeria will, if urgent measures are not taken now, become the epicenter of COVID-19 pandemic in the African continent.
“I have always believed that based on the epidemiology of the virus, the population dynamics, negative socioeconomic factors, the state of healthcare and infrastructure in the city, Kano alone will have more positive cases than the whole country put together. But, because we were not testing, we did not find. We are now seeing more cases because the test center in Kano has started working just two weeks ago,” he stated.
But Kano State authorities, in a statement by Alwalu Abdu Fagge, health education secretary, risk communication sub-committee of the COVID-19 task force, advised the public to disregard the rumour.