Sequel to the confirmation of the index case of COVID-19 in Nigeria in February, 2020, no doubt, the pandemic is becoming overwhelming in the country as states strive to meet up with its attendant challenges. ADEWALE MOMOH writes on the situation in Ondo State with the continued increase of confirmed cases
In Ondo State, the pandemic which stated slowly had in recent weeks been rising in an astronomical rate with more than 300 confirmed cases and more than 15 deaths. With the available statics as to the seriousness of the issue, most residents of the state are yet to comply with the required guidelines on ways of contracting the virus as reeled out by the relevant agencies. Among the residents, the use of facemask and the regular watching or sanitizing of hands were being practiced for the sake of formality as against the form of protection attached to such.
The unhealthy practice had become common phenomenal with huge concerns amongst stakeholders in the state amidst the daily reported cases of the deadly virus. In Akure, the Ondo State capital, the government directives on ways of curbing the disease has been totally ignored with the residents back to their daily routine in full swing. At the Oja-Oba market in Akure, most of the stalls and shops now operate on a daily basis as against the directive of government that Tuesdays and Thursdays as the approved market days with only the sales of foodstuffs allowed. Also, over the weekend, most bars and clubs within Akure metropolis were opened to customers with the social distancing rule totally ignored.
For some residents, the disregard to the COVID-19 protocol heightened after the lifting of ban on religious activities in the state by the state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. Meanwhile, the view of the residents of Ondo State towards the pandemic took a new twist last week when Governor Akeredolu tested positive to the deadly virus. According to the governor while briefing the state on his status, he said that he is asymptomatic and that he had begun self-isolating. Akeredolu disclosed that he took the COVID-19 test after he had malaria with advice to those treating malaria to also take the test. “Earlier today, I got confirmation of a positive result for COVID-19. I am asymptomatic and not displaying any symptoms.
“I am currently self-isolating and supervised home management will be administered by the wonderful team at our Infectious Disease Hospital. I ask that we all stay safe and be well,” Akeredolu stated. Also, the wife of the governor, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu alongside some of her aides had also been confirmed to have been infected with the virus. The COVID-19 status of the governor’s wife was disclosed by a top government official who said “the samples of the First Lady which was collected some days ago and one of the security aides of the governor returned positive this morning.” He however, said the First Lady has embarked on self isolation but said “we are still awaiting the results of some media aides of the governors and some commissioners who interact with the state governor regularly.”
He said similar test will be conducted on the members of the House of Assembly and the traditional rulers who endorsed the second term ambition of Akeredolu recently in Akure. However, the fight against the virus in the state was dealt with a deadly blow following the death of the state’s Commissioner for Health, Dr. Wahab Adegbenro. Late Dr. Adegbenro gave up the ghost at about 1:30 pm on Thursday at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owo after testing positive to the ravaging COVID- 19. His death came three days after Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu went into self-isolation after testing positive for deadly disease. According to sources, Adegbenro had been battling underlying illness. One of the source revealed that Dr. Adegbenro was rushed to FMC, Owo when his condition was said to have become critical where he was diagnosed for the deadly virus.
“The Commissioner died at the Federal Medical Centre in Owo and this has just thrown the entire cabinet into chaos. He died of COVID-19 because he had contracted the virus earlier and was taking drugs at his own comfort being a medical doctor,” the source said. Meanwhile, the Ondo State Government has described Dr. Adegbero as a General who died in the battle front. According to the Ondo State Government, Dr. Adegbenro died while healing others.
The state government also declared Friday work free day in the state as well as seven days mourning where flags will be flown at half mast in honour of the deceased. While describing the late Adegbenro who was the Chairman, Ondo State Inter-ministerial Committee Against COVID-19 as an embodiment of selflessness and inexorable professionalism, the state government via a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information, Donald Ojogo said the Health Commissions served humanity with attendant kindness. “With a deep sense of sadness, the Ondo State wishes to announce the demise of the Honourable Commissioner for Health, Dr Wahab Adegbenro.
“Dr Adegbenro was in the forefront of the State’s battles against the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did he signpost commitment and diligence; he, indeed, was immeasurable in his inspiration clearly defining himself as an embodiment of selflessness, hard work and inexorable professionalism. “This is one death too heavy to bear.
The excruciating pains the timing has unsparingly, wrought on us in Ondo State are no less potent. To say the least, Dr Adegbenro was our General, and died healing others. Having served humanity with the attendant kindness, he played his part honourably. Meanwhile, medical workers in state have expressed their concern over the commitment of the state government in the fight against the pandemic. According to the nurses at the Mother and Child Hospital in Akure, the Ondo State capital who partially grounded activities at the hospital on last week Tuesday stressed that the spike in the cases of COVID-19 among health workers without efforts by government to carry out contact tracing of infected persons is worrisome. The nurses who were chanted solidarity songs displayed placards with various inscription such as “Nurses life matter,” “Don’t you think I am worth being protected?” Over 10 nurses and five doctors with other health workers had contracted the deadly COVID-19 in the state in the last one week.
According to the State Chairman of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Comrade Kehinde Nomiye and Mrs Tayo Imorua who is also a Union leader, said the protest was sparked by failure of the state government and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to carry out contact tracing of an infected doctor and nurse at the mother and child hospital.
They stated that with the development, nurses and patients at the hospital are now at risk of the deadly disease. Also, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, resident doctors at the University of Medical Sciences Teaching Hospital (UNIMETH) have been eased off the hospital’s residency programme. The purported sacking of doctors was contained via a memo announcing the suspension of the institution’s residency training programme from August 1st, 2020. According to the memo dated June 23, 2020, the resident doctors directly employed by the hospital were advised to seek continuation of their programme in other institutions where there are ongoing training program.
The sacking of the resident doctors might not be unconnected to the last week’s strike action embarked upon by the doctors. The Chairman, Media Committee of the resident doctors, Dr. Olagbe Taiwo Paul had listed the demands of his colleagues to include provision of PPE and other safety measures to save their members from COVID-19, payment of outstanding arrears from September 2019 to May 2020, as well as payment of 50 percent COVID-19 allowance amongst others.
The letter announcing suspension of the residency programme which was signed by the Director of Administration of UNIMETH, Adeeyo Babatunde, stated that it was to allow the hospital focused on service delivery in order to combat COVID-19 outbreak without distraction of agitation from the Resident Doctors. The letter, however, indicated that some resident doctors might be considered for re-admission when the programme recommenced.