COVID-19 lockdown: The Kwara example

As at the time of filing this report, Kwara state had not recorded any Corona Virus victim because the state government was on top of the situation. Writes UMAR BAYO ABDULWAHAB.

 Kwara state government last week announced a ban on house-to-house distribution of palliatives following the partial lockdown of the state as part of measures put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19 virus.

Prior to the announcement by the state deputy governor, Kayode Alabi who doubles as state chairman, Technical Committee on COVID-19, some individuals, philanthropist, politicians and  groups have embarked on the distribution of palliatives including food items, sanitisers, gloves and facial mask to the people.

However, the state government said such acts  even though a good gesture, was unacceptable and could lead to the transmission of the virus even as it repeatedly declared that no case of the pandemic has been detected in the state.

The government pronouncement is coming amidst complaints by members of the public that their continued stay at home as directed by the government without any palliatives could have serious implications on them.

The government had earlier declared a partial lockdown in the state restricting all form of commercial transportation and shutting down of market with exception of those who sell food stuffs.

 Also private and public schools were earlier shut down by the government while civil servants were advised to work from home.

So, for more than one week now, residents of Ilorin have remained indoor except for those on essential services even as some pocket of violations have been recorded especially by commercial motorcycle operators.

This restriction, no doubt, has effectively contained the spread of the COVID-19 to the state with its attendants consequence of hunger.

Consequently, last week ban of house-to-house distribution of palliatives has began to generate reactions from some members of the public who viewed the measure as too harsh especially when the state government is yet to distribute its own palliatives.

Gov’t allays fear

Briefing journalists on the situation report in the state and measures being put in place by the state government, chairman of the technical committee on COVID-19 said the government’s palliative measures are ready for deployment and would be handled by a committee chaired by the Emir of Shonga, Dr Haliru Yahaya, who was to brief the media on modalities.

He said allowing house-to- house distribution to go on could be dangerous.

“While thanking everyone who has donated materials and money for this cause, including those who are privately reaching out to the public, the government notes a dangerous trend in the way some palliatives are being shared. Pictures have surfaced online showing people moving from house to house to share things for whatever mileage. This is very dangerous as it could lead to unintended community transmission of Coronavirus.

​“Following informed opinion of the medical advisory committee of the technical committee on COVID-19, the government hereby bans such house-to-house distribution of materials at this time. Donors or their privies can drop such materials at collection points in each ward while beneficiaries go there and pick under strict compliance with COVID-19 prevention protocols. Further information would be given in this regard by His Royal Highness in his briefing.​

However, he clarified that,

“Donors who may want to be identified with the gestures may wish to brand such materials or food stuffs in their names, political or social affiliations. Once again, the government commends everyone who has reached out to the poor at this time. However, such must be done without provoking a crisis we are trying to prevent in Kwara state.

Shutting down borders

As a further measure, the state government also announced the immediate closure of its local and external borders amidst efforts to block entries of vehicles from outside and prevent the outbreak of COVID-19 in the state.

The government however said the closure excludes all categories of movement sanctioned in the broadcast of President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that the partial shutdowns within the state remain in force until further notice.​

“The government hereby announces the shutting down of all our land borders to ban movement to the state from elsewhere. The only exemptions to this rule are those stated in the address of Mr President. Specifically, these are vehicles carrying agricultural produce, medical equipments and officials on essential duties related to COVID-19 campaign,” Alabi told reporters.

“All previous restrictions and exemptions locally remain in force. A specific warning here goes to commercial motorcycles (Okada) who have been violating the shutdown orders. Any violators caught would face the full consequences of the law.”

Alabi also said the state government would begin fumigation of markets and other specific locations after which specific markets would be designated for people to purchase essentials like food and medicines.​

He commended corporate bodies and individuals for their donations to the government. Specifically, he commended Senator Sadiq Umar, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), Unifoam, and Rajrab Pharmaceuticals for their contributions to the state’s counter-COVID-19 efforts.

Designated markets

Announcing further measure, the deputy governor said government would begin  of markets while some designated one would be announced.

“The government has approved the fumigation of our markets and other specific places. 200 fumigating machines have been purchased for this purpose. This should begin latest April 2, 2020 to de-contaminate these places. Thereafter, specific markets in the state would be designated and announced for people to purchase food stuffs and other essentials. Public transportation (Soludero buses) would be made available with strict adherence to social distancing and other preventive protocols, he said.

Thumb up for philanthropists

For all those who have contributed to cushioning the effect of the partial lockdown, the deputy governor used the occasion to appreciate them.

He said, “The government expresses its appreciation to all those who have made various donations to the administration while also calling on more corporate bodies and private individuals to support this effort. Specifically, the government commends Senator Sadiq Umar (Kwara North) who donated N5m for this collective effort; the legal luminary, Mr Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) who donated N10m for the COVID-19 campaign; Unifoam for the donation of 175 mattresses; Access Bank for the donation of 100-bed isolation tent; International Tobacco Company for giving us 10,000 bottles of hand sanitisers and 7,400 face masks; Rajrab Pharmaceuticals for giving us 68 cartons of hand sanitisers and Kwara State Polytechnic for donating 200 bottles of hand sanitisers.

How prepared is Kwara?

While acknowledging the donations, Alabi said, “These donations would complement the 15million litres of sanitisers, 40,000 litres of anti-virus solution, and 200 infrared thermometres already purchased by Kwara State Government, among several other things. Similarly, 121 oxygen cylinders have been filled and deployed to Sobi Specialist Hospital while 500-KVA transformer has just been installed to provide constant electricity there. We woulf continue to make public all donations made to us for the sake of accountability and transparency.

“In addition to the facilities on ground, the government is evacuating the Sobi Specialist Hospital and dedicate it entirely as COVID-19 response centre, among other steps. The various wards at the facility with about 20 patients are being moved to nearby government hospitals with all services intact.”

Kwara free of COVID-19

Reiterating its earlier position, the deputy governor again used the opportunity to declare that the state does not have any confirmed case of COVID-19 as at last Tuesday afternoon.

“Finally, we wish to state that Kwara state does not have any confirmed case of COVID-19 as at this minute. We will continue to be on the alert and we urge the public to be as specific as possible when offering intelligence to our medical team,”​ he said.

As it were, findings from the public revealed that many residents of the state are gradually being frustrated and anxiously looking up to government for palliatives. Banning individual from rendering such assistance with quick intervention from government may defeat the purpose for which the stay at home measure is intended to achieve.

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