The corn has come to roast. The hunters have become the hunted in Delta state.
The deadly virus has gone after members of the ‘COVID-19 Quick Response Team’ in the state and infecting residents of the state in geometric progression.
This is so because residents of the state took the disease for granted. They cried foul when the land borders. Air and Sea ports at Koko, Warri and Asaba were locked-down by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to curtail its spread.
They could not imagine their schools, marketplaces, churches, relaxation centres, hotels and movement restricted. They were not happy that they could not go to work, visit friends, or be as free as before.
For some business owners, commercial drivers, captain of industries, oil tycoons and banking moguls, it was a scam. They believe it was merely played up by the Federal and State governments to loot the treasury and misappropriate Tax-Payers-Money.
When the disease infected a fruit seller from the North in Agbor, Ika South local government area of the state and seven others during the April lockdown, it seemed like a dream.
Amidst this logjam, the National Association of Delta State Students (NADESSTU) who threw its weight behind the fight against the disease by the state government called for the removal of his Higher Education Commissioner, Prof. Patrick Muoboghare in the state over alleged high-handedness and insensitivity to the welfare of students.
The National President of the association, Comrade O. Saturday, supported the Senate President, Comrade Odogwu Hyascent, and three others, who acted for the body. They banned the Commissioner from going close to any tertiary institutions in the state until his appointment is terminated by the Governor and called for re-opening of schools which were shutdown against the spread of the pandemic, few days after said the vote of no confidence passed on the Commissioner had been reversed for a common front to be forged with the ministry.
He said they decided to embrace peace after Governor Okowa, through his Senior Special Assistant on Students’ Affairs, Engr. Jerry Ehiwario, Sepecial Asistant on Students’ Affairs, Comrade Osedume Francis, reviewed the struggle and appealed for ceasefire against further confrontation and urged students of the state’s origin to halt all media attacks, debates and reactions on the social media against the Commissioner.
As this was abating, a 53-year-old patient, Mr Michael Mordi, who allegedly tested positive to the disease at the Central Hospital at Agbor in Ika axis of the state allegedly ran away from the isolation centre while his family members doubted the result.
Although the Commissioner for Health, Dr Mordi Ononye, supported by his counterpart in Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, said the victim was “discharged in a controversial circumstance.” The South-South Focus learnt that seven hefty men in his family stormed the hospital and forcefully removed him without wearing any protective kit.
The tension it generated was being doused, when Ononye said a two-month-old baby and a nursing mother were among over 500 confirmed cases in the state.
The worst however came when those charged with the responsibility of curtailing the spread and managing carriers became the hunted.
The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr Chiedu Ebie and Aniagwu, tested positive to the dreaded disease in the course of active service to humanity. They were at the frontline in the fight against spread of the disease as leaders of the state’s Technical Committee on COVID-19 Emergency Response Team that was inaugurated by the Governor.
Aniagwu tested positive five days after he hinted journalists during the post executive council meeting briefing that he suddenly lost his sense of taste and had submitted himself for test.
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Delta state chapter read a riot act to its members on April 17, 2020, in Asaba, the state capital.
“Do not near any patients suffering from Coronavirus in the state if you are not properly kitted with appropriate Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) by the state government. We also urged the state government to speed up the commendable social stimulus plan and the planned distribution of face-masks to the general public and put measures in place to contain the spread and prevent a second surge of the COVID-19 after the lockdown period”
The association maintained that unless HAMZAT Suit, N95 Face-masks, gloves, face shield/goggles and aprons as routine are provided by the state government, members should not respond to any emergency outbreak.
The Chairman of the association in the state, Dr Ekeneam Omo, told journalists that the state government must expedite action to acquire the capacity for testing indigenes of the virus to ensure prompt diagnosis and management of any case.
The body recommended the purchase and installation of, at least two PCR machines by the state government to be sited in the tertiary healthcare facilities in the state. “In the light of the very high risk involved in the management of COVID-19 patients and other infectious diseases and to ensure commitments of Doctors to the discharge of optimal patients care in the face of this risks, NMA in Delta state is making this demand from the state government,” Ekeneam said.
The body decried meagre sum of N5,000 and demanded an upward review of hazard allowance for all Doctors and HCWs, and make it a percentage of consolidated basic salary.
As if that was not enough, the body demanded the institution of compensation package for all doctors and healthcare provider who die or suffer disability from attending to patients suffering from COVID-19 infection which could be in the form of life and duability insurance.
Also, they demanded for tax-relief on earned allowances for all healthcare workers as a morale boasted to continue to take the risks associated with working in this pandemic period, special allowances for volunteers HCWs at the case management centres throughout the duration of their stay at the centres.
The body had not finished commending Governor Okowa’s effort at preventing the spread through closure of borders, lockdown restrictions and trainings of healthcare workers on best practice when testimonies of survivors in the state rented the air.
Before the SSG and the Commissioner for Information, flanked by his counterpart in Health, Dr. Ononye, got what they did not bargain for, they led survivors, including Chief Austin Eruotor, married with seven children and based in Canada but came into Nigeria on February 5, 2020 and became ill, and Chief Jerry Azinge. Eruotor said he stayed at the Oghara Isolation Centre on Oxygen for five days and spent 36 days to get well, and classified COVID-19 in the group of respiratory illnesses such as common cold, influenza, pneumonia, with symptoms of malaria, fever and high temperature, with COVID-19 Ambassador, to give account of their ordeals and how they survived the virus to address journalists.
Ebie, who is the head of the response team, had at different fora facilitated the treatment of patients of the disease and inaugurated the laboratory at Asaba Specialist Hospital, under the auspices of the management of Irrua Specialist Hospital and Pandora Group to control and scale up diagnostic capacity in the state, Aniagwu, who has worked in close range with him, had consistently been briefing media men on the index cases.
Six days after the Governor raised alarm that the COVID-19 treatment centres in the state was full of patients and advocated strict adherence to prescribed protocols, there was a double-tragedy, his daughter tested positive; a development that heightened fear of residents and forced the entire family of the Governor into self-isolation.
The Governor’s daughter and a journalist were among the 106 newly confirmed cases in the state that day, which immediately skyrocketed the index case of the state to 715, with 21 deaths same day.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Olisa Ifeajika said, consequently, the Governor and his family members will immediately commence on self-isolation for 14 days.
He said, “It is again pertinent to stress that COVID-19 is real, and citizens are advised to be disciplined and comply with the protocols of wearing Face Masks and maintaining physical-distancing while in public places as well as basic hygiene of hand-washing with soap in running water and use of alcohol-based sanitisers as NCDC regulation demands”, Ifeajika emphasized.
Although, Ifeajika reiterated that the state government will continue to intensify efforts at stemming the spread of the disease in the state, two days after the disease hit the Governor’s family, the index case of the state rose above 1,000.
Ifeajika said the infected officials showed mild symptoms of the virus and consequently subjected themselves to test and they had been moved to isolation centre and were stable, and responding well to treatment.
He called on residents of the state to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 protocols as anyone, irrespective of status, colour, height, age and mien could contract the virus.
He said, “the state government, as a matter of top priority, has advised that residents should always obey the COVID-19 protocols, which have been in public domain, so as to curb further spread of the pandemic.
“COVID-19 is not a death sentence; so, when you begin to feel unwell, reach out to approved government hospitals for appropriate tests to be carried out. We can save ourselves and others from this virus if we obey all the protocols of wearing face masks, regular washing of hands in running water, use of alcohol-based sanitisers and maintaining physical-distancing while congregating in any form.
“All our hospitals and isolation centres across the state are on 24 hours alert to receive any case(s) of the Coronavirus or other health challenges,” he stated.