Noah Ebije, Kaduna
When the Kaduna State government thought of repatriating over 3,000 almajiri to their states of origin, little did it know it was heralding a policy step that would eventually boomerang.
At that time, the government’s intention was clear. It believed that the policy would help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as returning the children home, rather than allow them to roam the streets without any care, would be good for all.
On March 26, 2020, therefore, at least three buses belonging to state government left the state with evacuated people, many of them almajiri, as well as the blind, crippled and other vulnerable people. They were returned to their respective home states after years of sojourn in other states.
In the days and weeks to come, however, other states decided to adopt the method from Kaduna State. They, in turn, ‘deported’ almajiri of Kaduna origin, in clear retaliation.
Since the exercise began, Kaduna State government has known little sleep, as some of the returnees, especially those from Kano State, came back with the dreaded disease, COVID-19.
Commissioner for health, Dr. Amina Mohammed Baloni, stated that five of the almajiri from Kano tested positive. She explained that these additional cases had raised the number of confirmed cases to nine: “The contacts of the new cases are being traced so that they can be monitored and tested, if they meet the case definition. The new patients have been moved to the Infectious Diseases Control Centre, the state’s premier isolation centre.
“Our medical professionals are treating them with the same high standards and we wish all our nine active cases speedy recovery.
“The public is reminded of the importance of hand-washing, personal hygiene, social distancing and avoidance of large gatherings in helping to protect us all from COVID-19. It is important to stay home, stay safe and save lives.”
Just as the residents were getting attuned to the nightmare, the government again confirmed more cases of COVID-19 among other almajiri returnees from Kano.
Government said, following additional tests conducted on the almajiri from Kano, it was able to confirm 16 new COVID-19 cases: “These new cases are almajiri, who came from Kano. Their test results returned positive from a sample of 40 persons whose test results were released. These latest cases have raised the number of active COVID-19 cases in Kaduna State from nine to 25.
“The high number of positive results from persons with travel history from outside the state confirmed the fears of the Kaduna State Government about the danger of infection from neighbouring states and the role of interstate travel in facilitating the spread of COVID-19 across state lines.
“As part of the implementation of the preventive measures, our health officials are monitoring suspected COVID-19 cases, who are believed to have sneaked into the state despite the ban on interstate travel.
“The Ministry of Health wishes to reiterate the appeal of the State Standing Committee on COVID-19 to the security agencies to accelerate the blocking of entry points into the state.
“Effective enforcement of the prohibition of entry into Kaduna State as outlined in the Quarantine Orders is clearly a key success factor in efforts to avert the nightmare scenario of community transmission.
“We wish to draw the attention of the public to the provisions of the Quarantine Orders and the penalties for any wilful contravention. We appeal to the public to be vigilant and to kindly report returnees from states with high infection rates by contacting officials of the Ministry of Health.
“We also encourage such persons to contact the ministry officials so that they can be monitored. Failure to do so may make such persons liable to the processes prescribed for violators in the Quarantine Orders.”