Abdallah el–Kurebe, Sokoto Bureau Chief, NewsDiaryonline tested positive to Coronavirus on May 3, 2020. The following day, he was admitted into the Specialist Hospital, Sokoto, where he spent 12 days in isolation for treatment. He shares his experience in this interview with JOHNSON AYANTUNJI. Excerpts
What happened when you got back home?
On Thursday, May 14th 2020, 11 days after I tested positive for COVID-19, and when contact tracing was supposed to have begun immediately, my door bell rang and my wife announced the arrival of a team from NCDC. When I went out, I saw a team of five young girls. The seeming team leader told me they were at my house for contact tracing. That they needed names of persons I had had contact with. I asked (though I knew I was asking the wrong persons), if that was the right time. I said but the same people have already transmitted the disease to others.
What would you say is responsible for the nonchalant attitude of the care givers?
They seemed to be helpless. To be among patients needed being kitted in PPEs, which were not adequate. They needed to be supplied with what to treat us with; what to provide us before they could do so. I saw helplessness in them. It simply indicated, like at the federal level, the complete rot in our health systems.
Was it that they did not know what to do and when to do it?
As professionals, they knew what to and when to do it. You noticed confidence on their faces when they have what to provide patients. They also had training on treatment of COVID-19.
What went through your mind, especially the first time a patient died?
I felt normal. Actually, my asymptomatic status gave me confidence. I was only there to avoid spread. As a person, I never felt anything though nobody died in my ward.
They began contact tracing after you had been discharged, would this have accounted for the community transmission?
I must say that the NCDC, especially in Sokoto, weren’t doing what they should on contact tracing. Many patients will tell you that they weren’t told to name people with who they had contact. There is no doubt that it accounted for community transmission. You imagine the number of unidentified infected people that were not traced because of professional laxity on the part of NCDC. I believe that it is why we now have higher cases in some states.
With the way things are done, are we likely to defeat the pandemic?
We will defeat it but not with ease. The vaccine for the virus has just been approved by WHO for trial. When would mass production by countries be done for purchase and distribution to isolation centres? On one hand, mis and disinformation is working against efforts by government. Effective communication on the reality of the virus is lacking. This has resulted in some Nigerians, not believing it even exists; some think it is business by governments at federal and states levels. For some, people believe patients are being paid to be isolated. In some states, it’s like there isn’t protocols to follow in order to avoid being infected. With this attitude, defeating the virus will be a huge problem. On the other hand, you will be left thinking how some officials think about the while thing. Throughout the period of total lockdown in some states, markets in many other states operated fully without observing the protocols. Yet on another hand, most of not all of our newsrooms weren’t prepared. Our health reporters needed extra training to function well. We need the training without which we have further been overstretched as journalists.
What would you tell those who say Coronavirus is government’s way to defraud the international community and a way of making money?
If that is true, Nigerian government is not only defrauding the international community but wealthy Nigerians and corporate organisations. But this is a global pandemic, which started as an epidemic in the small portion of Wuhan, China. If almost all countries are suffering from the scourge, why should Nigerian case be fraud? Though anything s possible in Nigeria, I don’t totally believe this myth. This is one of the misinformation. For example, someone told me, “You are now rich”. But when he explained and I responded, gave him details with convincing examples, he couldn’t prove his allegation. He was told and he believed.
Is the government doing enough?
You see, the COVID-19 outbreak took countries by surprise. It met the rotten state of our health systems amidst paucity of funds by most states. Within that limitation, they can’t do enough, they aren’t doing enough. I heard in some states at a point, samples for testing were not being taken because there were no reagents. Even for those states that were hugely funded like Lagos, they can’t be seen to be doing enough. For example, how many tests are being carried out per day? Federal and state governments have not started accounting for contributions by individuals and corporate organizations. You don’t know yet, of what has been donated, how much has been spent. You will hardly get that.