Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
Kwara State Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq has suggested that more sweeping measures are underway to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state and the country.
Kwara currently has no confirmed case but the state government has set up various preventive and safety mechanisms, including establishing and equipping an isolation centre, to tackle the virus as Nigeria records more confirmed cases in at least four states and the capital city, Abuja.
Abdulrazaq told reporters late Monday that COVID-19 may be treated as a national security issue which requires the support and understanding of every citizen to stamp it out.
“We will be announcing further measures this week in containing the spread of the virus. We also expect the federal government to come up with further measures. This may entail further restrictions on the movement of people in the interest of public health and security. It is a national security situation now which everybody should understand,” Abdulrazaq said, a day after he directed civil servants to work from home and called for social distancing in the state.
“We will take more measures this week to make sure our people sit at home. The civil servants will sit at home, their children will be at home. Please, take care of your kids; don’t roam about. It is also the time to clean your environment and ensure that your community is clean.”
The governor said the newly created isolation centre would be extended in the coming weeks to accommodate around 100 patients at a go while Kwara works with Abuja on the ongoing efforts to establish zonal test centres with the capacity to screen blood samples for COVID-19.
He commended Commissioner for Health Dr Raji Razaq and his team for their efforts to prepare Kwara for any outbreak, adding that the state is also strengthening the capacity of its personnel to deal with the emergency.
“Work is going on to extend this (isolation) centre. We are looking at extending it to accommodate about 100 patients and that should be ready in the next couple of weeks,” he told reporters shortly after inspecting the Kwara State Infectious Disease Centre at Sobi Specialist Hospital, Alagbado, Ilorin.
“At the last National Economic Council meeting in Abuja, state governors proposed that each state should have one (laboratory to test samples of patients for any outbreak of diseases). But there are challenges with the resources. So first of all, let’s look at having zonal centres before state centres. It is not just (about) doing an ordinary blood test. Yes, you can have the equipment but the reagents are not easy to come by. They are very expensive. So, we are waiting for the Federal Ministry of Health to see what they can accommodate. Right now we send blood samples to Lagos. We are hoping that capacity will be built by the federal government so that we can first have zonal centres before we have state centres which will surely come.”
The governor meanwhile assured state civil servants of prompt payment of salaries despite the work-from-home directive and thanked the traditional and religious leaders for their cooperation so far in the campaign to fight the virus.
“At present, we have no cases in Kwara. So far so good. Let us keep on praying (and acting right). I will also like to use this opportunity to thank the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, for calling the (Muslim community) together and suspending Jum’ah prayers in Kwara State. So, we thank His royal highness for being proactive. We also thank the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for taking similar measures. We are all in this together. Everyone should please standby for further directives from the government,” he said.
The Health Commissioner, Dr Raji Razaq, and the state’s Director of Public Health, Dr Oluwatosin Fakayode, had earlier taken the governor on a tour of the newly equipped facility designated to handle infectious diseases in the state.
The Ministry of Health has built the capacity of some officials to handle any case of the coronavirus while simulations and drills would begin immediately for health officials to be on high alert, according to Fakayode.