By Ismaila Uba Misilli
In the ongoing fight against the dreaded novel coronavirus disease, code-named COVID-19, different states in Nigeria, including Gombe State, adopted various measures, albeit in line with the accepted established protocols by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Even before Gombe State recorded its first COVID-19 index case, Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya had swung into action, mandating the establishment of several COVID-19 isolation centres complete with hundreds of bed spaces, sanitary facilities like running water, hand sanitizers, personal protective equipment for the health workers, ventilators, oxygen concentrators as well as a conducive working environment for the health workers to ensure that they were not infected by the index case and contact cases they were likely to treat.
For the records, Gombe has some of best COVID-19 isolation and treatment centres you can find in the region, with facilities for the treatment of mild to severe cases. Gombe is also one of the few states to put machineries in motion for the establishment of its own testing centre, having already procured a PCR machines waiting for accreditation by NCDC.
Undeniably, Gombe State Government was one of the first states, outside the Federal Government, to set up a COVID-19 Task Force under the chairmanship of a renowned immunologist and public health expert, Prof. Idris Mohammed and its terms of reference ranged from ensuring that the preventive measures put in place by the state government were strictly adhered to and to come up with innovative programmes that would further strengthen the containment efforts and battle against the COVID-19 menace.
Also, at a time many states had not fully grasped the extent and severity of the COVID-19 crisis, Governor Inuwa Yahaya had imposed a partial lockdown on the state and restricted the inter-state movement of persons to avoid the transmission of the dreaded virus from the affected states. If other states had adopted the proactive stance of the purposeful Governor Inuwa Yahaya’s administration, I believe the rapid spread of the virus would have been greatly curtailed and the people would have been better for it.
The Gombe State Government had already ramped up the education and mass sensitization of the populace on established safe practices such as frequent hand washing, proper disposal of sanitary products, wearing of face masks and safe social distancing by avoiding congregation of large crowds and keeping a suitable distance from one another to curb community transmission.
Again, Gombe State was one of the first states to restrict social, cultural and religious congregations involving large gatherings, and appropriate sensitization to that effect was embarked upon to avoid rumour-mongering and the propagation of falsehood among the populace. To ensure that every segment of the society was carried along in the buildup to the announcement of the restriction orders, the Governor first had series of engagements with traditional rulers, religious and community leaders, heads of security agencies and local Government officials.
Also, being fully aware of the negative socio-economic impact of the lockdown on the people, particularly their means of livelihood, a compassionate Governor Inuwa Yahaya constituted a multi stakeholders relief and palliative committee under the chairmanship of His Royal Highness, the Emir of Gombe, Alhaji Abubakar Shehu Abubakar III, to ensure holistic distribution of palliatives to all nooks and crannies of the state, particularly to the needy and vulnerable, including the widows, the indigent, the infirm and the physically-challenged as well as family members of those in isolation.
These preventive and palliative measures have a multi-pronged objective to curb the spread of the virus and cushion the effects of any harsh negative impact respectively among the masses as a result of the restrictions and preventive measures. Even representatives of WHO, UNICEF and other international humanitarian bodies hailed the steadfast and result-oriented approach adopted by Governor Inuwa Yahaya to the extent that one country representative described him as ‘the last best hope for the Northeast geopolitical zone’.
It is instructive to note that while some states have recorded multiple deaths, Gombe State, to the glory of Almighty Allah is yet to record any from Covid-19. Governor Inuwa Yahaya has mandated a robust testing regime – some may say aggressive – in which hundreds are being tested whether they have shown symptoms of the virus or not. While some other states only test those that have shown symptoms of the virus, it is different in Gombe State as the government, heeding to the advice of health experts, is testing all and sundry, especially those intercepted or those believed to have had contacts with the confirmed cases.
As Gombe State was trying hard to attend to its first set of index cases of COVID-19, reports of a protest staged by some asymptomatic carriers of the virus at the Kwadon Isolation Centre were on social and some traditional media recently.
Truth is some crucial issues at stake seemed to have been blown out of proportion in the Media, especially the social media, though a number of print media also feasted on the story without properly interrogating to know what exactly the issues at stake were. Thus, attention was diverted from the proactive efforts taken by the Gombe State Government and even the isolation centre’s health officials and managers to decisively tackle the COVID-19 hydra-headed menace.
The Task force has already put things on records as to what the isolated covid-19 asymptomatic cases in Kwadon were agitating for as against what was peddled. The alleged non-provision of drugs by the centre’s health officials and the presence of a woman with a smelly wound as well as the welfare of their immediate families were brought forward by them. It should be noted that all the cases tested positive before they were brought to the centre, but they have not shown symptoms of the disease, so the health officials averred that they could not be administered with drugs unless they showed symptoms to avoid any unhealthy side effects. Their stay at the centre, therefore, is for observation and to prevent them from infecting others in the wider community.
Therefore, the reported protest arose from a misconception of the treatment process on one hand and the whole covid-19 pandemic on the other as they wanted to be given medication, which the health officials deemed unnecessary and even dangerous. Well, the issues have since been resolved, and the ultra modern centre is functioning optimally and cohesively in line with the foresighted Governor Inuwa Yahaya’s well-known mantra of ‘health for all, all year round’.
Clearly, it appeared the media pounced on the story in an attempt to get materials to inform the public about happenings in the society. But as media practitioners, let’s be always cautious, especially at a time like this. Let’s not sensationalise issues. It does no one any good if at this time we spread news that create panic rather than douse tension among the populace. It has since emerged that fake news has become the order of the day during this period. The media shouldn’t be seen to be giving space and time to people whose major occupation is to create chaos in our ongoing battle against COVID-19.
The Kwadon incident, it seemed, also gave some politically docile individuals an opportunity to vent their anger of not being in public domain for some time as they equally cashed in on that to score low political points. As a people, the greatest disservice we can do to ourselves at this time is to politicize the issue of COVID-19. For God’s sake, this is a disease that has no respect for any divide – religion, ethnicity, race, creed, political or any group that one belongs to.
It is therefore, incumbent on all of us to contribute our quota in curtailing the spread of COVID-19 and eliminating it in our society. The earlier we realise that the fight against COVID-19 pandemic is one that we all must work assiduously to win, not just in Gombe State but in the country at large, the better for us as a people.
…to be continued
Misilli is the Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to Gombe State Governor.