Confronting COVID-19 – The Nation

AS the world comes to grips with the reality of COVID-19, the highly-infectious viral disease that has done so much to disrupt the normal functioning of global society, the Lagos State Government must be commended for the competence with which it has handled the emergence of the first coronavirus case in Nigeria.

The index case was an Italian businessman who first came down with the illness in Ogun State.

He was quickly transferred to Lagos while the medical authorities set about tracing the dozens of individuals with whom he had been in contact during his flight to Nigeria and his stay in the country.

As cases elsewhere have demonstrated, decisive action is crucial to ensuring that confirmed cases of COVID-19 are not permitted to spread to the general population.

Lagos has shown its clear understanding of this strategy by moving with a prompt determination that is reminiscent of its globally-acclaimed response to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in July 2014.

The Italian businessman entered Nigeria on February 25, fell ill a day later, and was immediately transferred to the Lagos State Biosecurity Centre for isolation and testing. COVID-19 infection was confirmed by the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). A public announcement was made on February 27. The patient is currently being treated at the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.

Working in close cooperation with the multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group set up in January by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Lagos has activated the State Emergency Operations Centre which will coordinate the state’s responses to COVID-19.

The information, education and enlightenment campaign launched long before the disease was detected in Nigeria has been strengthened, with all schools in the state being directed to provide water and sanitisers for pupils and students.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has demonstrated leadership by giving regular updates on developments connected to the disease and inspections of the personal protection equipment being used in the fight against COVID-19. His wife, Dr. (Mrs.) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, has visited major markets in the state to stress the maintenance of personal sanitary habits and other preventive measures.

The state’s commissioner for health, Professor Akin Abayomi, has consistently sought to explain what Lagos is doing to ensure that the disease is properly contained while refuting rumours and myths about the disease and its cure.

It is truly heartwarming to see government officials displaying the calm, competence and coordination that are vital to winning the fight against a dreadful disease.

The clear demonstration of comprehensive preparation and effective collaboration can only reassure the citizenry that adequate measures have been taken to ensure that the disruption wrought by COVID-19 is reduced to the barest minimum.

Where it has been necessary to alert the public of challenges in responding to the disease, there has been no attempt at cover-ups of any kind.

The state government was commendably quick to state that it was facing difficulties in contacting all of the 158 passengers who had been on the same flight to Lagos with the index case, and went on to outline the strategies it had adopted in resolving the problem.

If the battle against COVID-19 is to be won, it will require the full cooperation of the citizenry. They must pay attention to the information provided about the disease, especially the symptoms, so that they can alert the authorities about suspected cases.

The maintenance of personal sanitation must become second nature to all citizens; they would also do well to refrain from the temptation to use unconventional antidotes and cures.

Lagos was crucial to Nigeria’s victory over Ebola; it is to be sincerely hoped that the ‘State of Excellence’ will be similarly pivotal to the nation’s eventual triumph over COVID-19. But Lagos State cannot do it alone.

This is why we must also commend the partners-in-progress that have so far collaborated with the state government in dealing with the Italian case. They must not rest on their oars.

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