There is no confirmed case of COVID-19 in Imo State, but many have praised the state governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, for making preparations for the proverbial rainy day.
His administration has activated the hitherto moribund health platforms and put substantial measures in place in case of any eventualities.
Shortly after the outbreak of coronavirus disease in Wuhan, China, the governor made a broadcast where he urged Imo people not to panic but to adhere to all precautionary measures released by the World Health Organisation (WHO). He urged residents to avoid crowded locations and observe social distancing and personal hygiene. He advised that any suspected case should be reported to the nearest health facility.
Robust emergency response measures were also put in place, including enhanced border surveillance, community awareness, health workers’ sensitisation, as well as procurement of personal protective equipment and hand sanitizers.
Environmental task force
The governor also set up an environmental task force to rid the state of all forms of filth.
The task force, headed by the state Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Iyke Njoku, comprises the Commissioner for Works, Ralph Nwosu, Deputy Chief of Staff, Emeka Agbo, and Special Adviser to the Governor on Special Duties, Chinasa Nwaneri. Other members are Senior Special Assistant to the Governor, Ifeanyi Oru, Chinedu Mbakwe Obi and Macdonald Ebere, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Environment and general manager of ENTRACO.
COVID-19 special committee
Recently, the governor inaugurated a nine-man COVID-19 committee, comprising tested professionals in the field of medicine and related disciplines, with a mandate to monitor developments around the world on the outbreak of the novel disease.
Professor Maurice Iwu, who has been at the forefront of research for a coronavirus cure, is chairman. And the team has since shown that it is well equipped to handle any eventualities in the state.
Complete lockdown of Imo
The governor also ordered the closure of all markets in the state indefinitely and prohibited all forms of public gatherings to forestall an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus disease in the state.
He said all forms of marriage and funeral ceremonies, religious worship in churches and mosques, including crusades and open evangelism, were prohibited. He directed that all borders into the state should be blocked and those coming into the state must obtain clearance from health officials attached to the checkpoints before they are allowed into the state.
Uzodinma also ordered security personnel to major streets in Imo to ensure strict compliance with the directives. A directive was given to civil and public servants in the state, except those on approved essential duties, to suspend work immediately.
Chief press secretary/media adviser to the governor, Oguwike Nwachuku, said many health officials were trained and deployed to rural communities to educate them on the novel coronavirus. The health officials also distributed protective materials and hand sanitizers to the rural communities.
Governor Uzodinma has also unveiled the Imo Initiative Programme (IIP), an initiative to tackle contagious diseases aside from COVID-19.
At the recent unveiling of one of the COVID-19 isolation centres and security patrol vehicles in Owerri, the state capital, Uzodinma noted that: “We must never lose sight of the fact that other threats to our collective safety and peaceful existence abound.”
He cited such threats as crime, other contagious diseases and disasters.
He expressed happiness that, even with the rising number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, Imo State has not recorded any case. He urged the people to remain vigilant, creative and disciplined.
The governor said that the six isolation centres in Okigwe General Hospital, Aboh Mbaise General Hospital, Orlu General Hospital, Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, General Hospital Umuguma and the Ultra-Modern Well-Being Centre, Owerri, were well equipped to handle COVID-19 cases.
Apart from the six isolation centres unveiled simultaneously by the governor, an operational ready test and treatment centre for coronavirus has also been set up in Owerri metropolis, with a molecular laboratory to test for COVID-19, Ebola and other viruses.
Experts from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) are on hand to conduct tests on anyone with symptoms of the COVID-19 and to administer treatment where necessary. The governor also set up task forces at the local government and ward levels with 28 state-of-the-art ambulances provided to fortify the state’s readiness for any emergency.
Another major step taken by Governor Uzodinma to prevent the COVID-19 and other contagious diseases in Imo is the fumigation of all the nooks and crannies of the state.
The pilot fumigation was carried out initially, but a full exercise has started, beginning with Owerri. The fumigation has also taken place in Orlu and Okigwe zones and would be extended to other zones.
Some indigenes of the zone, who spoke on these developments, applauded the governor for the initiatives. They urged residents to cooperate with the government in its efforts to protect the people against the deadly virus.
“These initiatives by the governor are commendable. I was happy when I watched the state being fumigated. The governor is doing a great job in the state and we can see his hand in less than three months since he assumed office. Even when there is no case of coronavirus in Imo, you can see that the governor is battle-ready. He has a very good team who has the interest of Imo people at heart,” said an elated citizen.
Beyond the fight against COVID-19, the governor has launched the Imo Initiative Policy, a comprehensive package to address the health, security and environmental challenges bedevilling the state.
Uzodinma has also established an emergency call numberm, 112, a toll-free line to enable anyone with any information on COVID-19, disaster or criminal activity to contact the relevant authorities for prompt response.
The state government is planning palliatives in the form of food items and condiments through the local councils to alleviate the hardship of the people.
Recently, the Federal Government commended the efforts of Governor Uzodinma in ensuring that the coronavirus disease does not have a hold on the citizens of the state.
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouk, made the commendation when she led a team to Imo State to present some relief materials from the Federal Government to the state government.