Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State on Tuesday flagged off the Drive-Through/Walk-Through testing for COVID-19 for the conduct of mass testing for the virus in the state in order to determine whether stiffer measures would be introduced to upgrade the partial lockdown of the state to a total lockdown.
The state has imposed a dusk to dawn curfew, banned religious gatherings and interstate travel, closed schools, night clubs and markets for a period of time, except fruit and food markets, among other measures to curb the transmission of the virus in the state.
The flag-off ceremony of the testing process took place at Lekan Salami Sports Complex, Adamasingba, Ibadan. The Drive-Through/Walk-Through testing centre will be at the open space in the complex when the stadium is accessed from the gate opposite Ibadan Recreation Club.
Makinde explained that the ceremony was a culmination of weeks of planning and hard work, and that “even before the index case was recorded in the state, on the 21st of March, we had started putting things in place to ensure that we will be able to prevent, contain, and control the spread of COVID-19 in Oyo State.
“As I have said in the past, we are walking in uncharted territory, and no one can claim to know it all when it comes to the best way to handle this pandemic. We can only listen to the experts and apply common sense, especially in Africa, and indeed Nigeria, the challenges we face are multipronged. Aside from not having health infrastructure that can handle a full-scale pandemic, we also have a largely informal economy.
“Caught between a rock and a hard place, we must find and apply solutions that are a product of scientific and logical thought. These solutions must also take our local circumstances into cognizance. Experts have opined that the best place to start in solving our peculiar problems is by ramping up our testing capabilities. For this reason, a few weeks ago, the Oyo State Government, in collaboration with the University College Hospital, Ibadan, set up a diagnostic centre to test for COVID-19 right here in Ibadan.
“Indeed, with social distancing through lockdowns proving to be the most effective way of checking community spread, and the fact that people can have COVID-19 and be asymptomatic, large-scale testing will help us determine where and when targeted lockdowns are necessary.
“In recent times, the Oyo State Government has come under intense criticism for not implementing a total lockdown in the state, and for not forcing people to shut down their businesses. We have seen the result of more extensive lockdowns in neighbouring states. Yet, we are not celebrating a win, because this is not a competition.
“Today, we are implementing one of the actions that is fundamental in deciding what our next steps will be. In the next few days after we increase testing, we will see for ourselves whether a complete lockdown is necessary. Our aspiration is to test up to 10,000 people within the shortest possible time. We are starting with the first 2,000 from today. I have been told we can complete this round in two weeks.”
Makinde commended the “Citizen for Citizen Initiative led by Mrs Ibukun Awosika, which donated the 2,000 test kits we will use for the tests. We also thank LifeBank Nigeria, which is collaborating with us to conduct the tests.
“To our health workers in Oyo State, we thank you. We know you are putting your lives at risk for us. Your labours shall not be in vain. Our administration will continue to prioritise your welfare. We have 610 Personal Protective Equipment for your use, and we have ordered 400 more. We are also prioritising your testing. You will be among the first to be tested in the drive-through and walk-through testing that begins shortly.
“There may seem to be reasons to disbelieve that Coronavirus is real. Some people have said that the government is just using it to steal money. Some people have even used me as an example, saying ‘our governor had it but was not sick.’ But let me say this, Coronavirus is real. I may have been lucky not to have shown any symptoms, my immune system may have fought it, but the next person may not be as lucky. We do not know who that next person may be.
“Luck is not a strategy for beating COVID-19. We have to follow logic and science. This is why we must maintain social distancing. You must stand at least three feet apart from other people. You must wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer. You must co-operate with us when we give you guidelines to follow. After this testing, when we see the results, there may be more guidelines.”