Paul Osuyi, Asaba, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The number of personnel at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 in Delta State has depleted following the sudden death of some taskforce members in the past few weeks.
Investigation revealed that no fewer than 20 persons, mostly ad-hoc personnel in the fight against COVID-19 died after brief illnesses.
An inside source said they may have died as a result of the ravaging global disease, adding that reports of the demise were being kept under wraps to avoid tension.
The source added that the list did not include high profile government officials in the state.
Last Sunday, Secretary to State Government, Chiedu Ebie and Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu tested positive to COVID-19.
The two top officials who hail from Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s Ika constituency, are now in isolation centre for treatment.
Chief Press Secretary to Governor Okowa, Olisa Ifeajika, who confirmed the COVID-19 positive status of his fellow appointees, said the officials were responding positively to treatment.
Meanwhile, the state government has taken steps to curtail further spread of the disease among top officials by shutting down some office complexes.
The affected offices include that of the SSG, off Cabinet Road; the Ministry of Information complex along Summit Road; and the Permanent Secretary (Government House) complex with the Government House, Asaba.
The development, Daily Sun earnt, was to enable officials fumigate the offices.
Prompt testing could have prevented some fatalities –FG
The Federal Government has blamed delayed testing for COVID-19 as being responsible for some of the fatalities recorded so far.
This is even as it stated that the cases in the country has risen from 442 cases in April 16 to 5,621 in May 16 and to 17, 148 cases in June 16, stressing that the citizens have a choice to make in helping to curtail the spread and impacts of the virus.
Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 pandemic and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, said at briefing of the taskforce in Abuja, yesterday.
“As we pursue the Community engagement and Risk Communication Strategy, the PTF has identified lack of information about case definition protocols, location of testing centres, inability to reach call centres, etc as obstacles to getting needed help. The PTF has therefore directed that more awareness be created on the location of test centres and how to get tested especially when you fit the case definition. The call centres are also being re-energized for responsiveness. “Our messaging on risk communication and compliance by the public will also receive very strong attention. We must develop a national wave of awareness creation to drive home our objectives.”
The SGF recalled that, at the beginning of June, the PTF announced a one-month period for the implementation of the second phase of eased lockdown and that the taskforce have continued to monitor developments nationwide in order to take informed decisions at the end of the month.
He said the PTF has also continued to watch developments from other jurisdictions especially those that have similar climatic and demographics with the country.
Challenge those without masks
Dr. Sani Aliyu, National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF), has expressed concerns that states that were hitherto adhering to the protocols of guidelines were now letting down their guards.
It has also expressed concerned about some states denying the existence of the virus, saying they were putting their citizens at risk.
This is even as it has urged Nigerians to challenge those that are in public and are not wearing these masks.
“There’s partial to total non-compliance with face mask and physical distance in protocols by the public as earlier mentioned by the DG NCDC.
“Many Nigerians only use their face mask either to avoid security agents, that is where enforcement exist or where they are told to do so.
“There’s also significant disbelief in the danger and impact of COVID-19, in parts of the southeast where we did a recent survey, 60 per cent did not believe that COVID-19 was an issue at all. We clearly are not taking the pandemic seriously enough.”
No state is COVID-19 free –NCDC
So far, Nigeria has tested 113,575 out of which 12,847 were active cases, with 2.55 percent fatality rate.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has surpassed the 20,000 mark over the weekend, reaching 20,244 between Sunday and and Monday.
But Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Chikwe Ihekweazu, has declared that no state in the country is free from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
He added that the states need to start testing as the agency is working to develop its laboratory capacity to test more.
The NCDC DG said: “No state in Nigeria is COVID-19 free. No country in the world is COVID-19 free.
“That is why we have to keep doing this work we are doing, testing people, finding out if they have it. Even if some of us are lucky and get away with having asymptomatic infections, we have to test more.
“We can only talk about a state being disease free when we have an effective tool to fight the disease. That will come when we have a vaccine. Until then, there is no easy way to say this. We have to keep pushing for these preventive measures. We have to develop our laboratory capability to test.
“Either you start testing now or you start testing later. But eventually, we will all test. That’s for sure.”
Cross River is the only state where any case of COVID-19 has not been confirmed in the country.
According to the situation report of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for June 10, the south-south state had only tested nine samples out of its almost four million population, while neighbouring states have recorded cases and are battling community transmission.
In a statement on June 13, the state chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) said there has been an increase of unusual deaths from an acute respiratory disease in the state.
But the state government has repeatedly said the measures it put in place worked in making Cross River free of the disease.