COVID 19: We are prepared to protect our people

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BEING A STATE BROADCAST BY THE GOVERNOR OF ABIA STATE, DR. OKEZIE VICTOR IKPEAZU ON THE CORONA VIRUS ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1, 2020

MY GOOD PEOPLE OF ABIA STATE

I consider it a duty to bring you this broadcast to update you on steps we have taken so far to deal with the Coronavirus Pandemic and measures we have put in place for containment and dealing with future eventualities.

As you all know, the corona virus pandemic is well within our shores in Nigeria and we have experienced over 100 cases nationwide and sadly, two deaths so far. This imposes on us, a necessity to take urgent and stringent steps to safeguard the lives of our people in Abia State and prevent the pandemic from ravaging our people.

Let me quickly reassure you that as of date, we do not yet have a single case of Coronavirus in Abia State. However, it is an age-long truism that prevention is better than cure so we are taking steps to prevent our people from ever contracting this disease.

It is also important for me to remind us that Coronavirus has a very high recovery rate and indeed, 8 of those who contracted it in Lagos have tested negative and have been discharged from the hospital. It is not a death sentence and contracting it does not mean the end. But every life in Abia State matters to me as your Governor and it is my duty to ensure that if I can avoid it, not one person contracts the virus in Abia State.

Let me at this juncture commend the efforts of the Federal Government so far in dealing with the situation and express my confidence in the capabilities of the managers of the pandemic at the Federal level to effectively contain it.

As your Governor, I thought it imperative that I update you on 4 areas of concern which are the strategies we are employing to ensure we do not record the disease in Abia State; things we are doing to prepare in the unfortunate event that we record cases in Abia State; steps the Abia State Government is taking to ensure the sustenance of the lives and livelihood of our people within this period and lastly, details of how to assist and the assistance we have received so far.

PREVENTIVE STRATEGY

Our strategy in Abia State is 2-pronged. We are emphasizing complete prevention of the disease in Abia State and in the unlikely event that the virus gets to Abia State, management of its spread and impact.

To this effect, we are poised to do everything possible to shut out this virus from our shores and we need everyone’s cooperation to succeed. We must all come together to shut it out at the same time. If you shut it out and your neighbor engages in harmful practices, it may still get in so it is important that we are all collectively vigilant.

1. We continue to urge Abians to remain calm, observe stringent personal hygienic practices and wash their hands as often as possible with soap and running water as this has been proven to be one of the most potent methods of preventing the spread of the disease.

2. As of midnight yesterday, March 31, 2020, a full lockdown of the state came into effect in line with the notice that had been earlier given to that effect. This also entails the closing of all land borders in Abia State for an initial period of 2 weeks subject to weekly reviews as we monitor the situation. Security operatives have been deployed to enforce this directive and ensure full compliance. This is to ensure that carriers of the disease from other states do not bring it into Abia State.

3. May I also reiterate the directive against non-essential movements within Abia State during this period. This automatically means that all forms of events including burials, weddings and other social gatherings are to be put off. I am not unmindful of the disruptions to lives and livelihoods that these measures will entail but I want to remind us that health and life is paramount and every other consideration has to take second place.

4. We are also intensifying the enforcement of our earlier restriction of all religious gatherings. I am personally appealing to religious Leaders in the state to abide by this directive in the best interest of their members and the people of Abia State. I commend all the Church Leaders who have so far complied with the directive by issuing circulars to that effect and urge all those who are yet to comply to do so to avoid a situation where they have to be forcefully shut down indefinitely by security agencies for endangering the lives of Abians. Even the Bible urges religious leaders to respect the directives of those in authority.

5. Essential services critical to daily livelihood that are exempted from these restrictions according to prevailing global and national standards are Hospitals and Medical Establishments, Pharmacies and Medical Supply Outlets, Government and Private Security and Paramilitary Agencies, Accredited Journalists, all Food Production, Processing and Retail outlets, Petroleum and Cooking Gas retail outlets and their vehicles, Supermarkets and consumer goods shops, Banks, Utility Companies as well as statutory Government officials in the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches. These categories of people are expected to have their identification tags at all times and their establishments are to continue to observe the highest standard of hygiene.

6. I have directed the intensification of the sensitization campaign we embarked upon in the state using private and government-owned media houses. Furthermore, I have directed that more Igbo versions of their sensitization materials be produced in order to reach more Abians in rural areas. In the same vein, all LGA Transition Committee Chairmen have been directed to enlist town criers to support the sensitization effort.

7. Different Task Forces have been set-up to enforce all of these directives. I wish to urge Abians to comply accordingly to avoid undue hassles and embarrassments. Again, these measures are for the good of the larger population of Abians and we urge full compliance by all affected.

Let me use this opportunity to announce that the period of the lockdown will be used to fumigate our markets and public places, deliver critical supplies of sanitizers, masks and other preventive essentials to those most in need and ensure that this disease is not given room to thrive within our state.

STRATEGIES FOR MANAGEMENT IN THE EVENT OF AN OUTBREAK

8. My dear Abians, while we do not as yet have the virus in Abia State, necessity is laid upon us to prepare to manage it should it get here. Let me therefore assure us that we have prepared isolation centers at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) and Amachara Specialist Hospital in Umuahia. We have also readied a third Isolation center at Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH), Aba and we are working to prepare another one in the Abia North Senatorial Zone of the State. This will come on stream within the week and you will be updated on the location. We are also working with a number of Private Hospitals to ramp up their capacity to render support should the need arise.

9. I am monitoring the distribution of the critical medical supplies procured by the state Ministry of Health for distribution to health institutions and critical locations across the state and I can assure you that the distribution is going on well.

10. I have also been assured that we have the critical drugs required to nurse patients back to health in the event that anyone tests positive to this virus. We are not praying to have any case but in the event of a case, we are ready to combat it.

11. We have mobilized and kept on standby, 6 Ambulances capable of picking Abians showing symptoms from any part of the state and transporting them to the closest isolation centre

12. Our State Tele-Health Response Centre is fully equipped to respond to enquiries as well as coordinate with all health care facilities in the state. First responders in all our 722 Primary Heathcare Centers across all 17 LGAs have been trained on how to prevent, identify, manage, control, report and follow-up any suspected Coronavirus cases in Abia State.

PALLIATIVE MEASURES EMBARKED UPON BY GOVERNMENT

13. Mindful of the fact that this pandemic has disrupted livelihoods of Abians, I have set up a food-security team to work out necessary palliative interventions in case of a prolonged lock-down. This Committee shall source foodstuff and work out distribution modalities to Abians who critically require them. Rest assured that we are prepared for every eventuality.

14. I am glad to note that the Ministry of Finance has complied with my directive on payment of March 2020 salaries to Civil Servants in Abia State. It is my understanding that as of today, all Civil Servants have been paid while pensions have been sent to banks for crediting of beneficiaries after a successful verification exercise.

15. We have also procured 5,000 Facemasks produced by our tailors in Aba which we are distributing free of charge to Health Workers and those carrying out essential services within this period. This is in addition to 5,000 Hand Sanitizers which we have also procured and distributed to the same set of people. We are also procuring and distributing Personal Protective Equipments (PPE), hand gloves and medical footwear for the use of our critical responders.

16. We will take steps to ensure that our aged and vulnerable people are reached with palliative food and emergency assistance using our existing Geriatric Program.

17. Government, in addition to the free distribution of essential medical and other palliative goods, will also take steps to intervene in the markets to ensure price stabilization and reduction in selling price of goods using her relevant Agencies. This is to ensure that those who are unable to get the free items do not buy them at astronomical costs.

18. Dear Abians, It has been painfully brought to our notice, the fact that our traders and other service providers, have resorted to astronomical increase in the prices of their goods and services and I wish to state that this development is simply unacceptable. Government has mandated its Agencies responsible for Consumer Protection to go round sales outlets and take necessary steps against all traders and service providers who have increased their prices without reason. This is the period we are expected to showcase our humanity and be our brother’s keepers and not an occasion to seek to exploit our hapless and helpless brethren. All those involved in these shameful practices are directed to cease forthwith or an example will be made of them.

19. Let me also call on Abians to cease panic-buying and stockpiling of petrol, kerosene and other petroleum products as they are available in stations which are exempted from the lockdown. Keeping petroleum products in the house exposes occupants to the risk of fire outbreaks and we need everyone to remain safe.

HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE RECEIVED SO FAR

20. In the spirit of transparency and full disclosure, I wish to acknowledge the following individuals and groups who have donated to our COVID 19 Committee.

i. United Bank for Africa who Donated N28.5 Million
ii. National Centre for Disease Control, Abuja donated 2,500 Nose Masks and 20 PPE Packets
iii. Nigerian Breweries Plc Donated 125 Litres of Hand Sanitizers and soft drinks
iv. Abia State University has donated 1,000 Hand Sanitizers
v. Prof. Gregory Ibe who donated 850 Bags of Rice, 3 Ambulances and joint research on Vaccines and curative medicine at the Gregory University

21. Permit me to provide a breakdown of what we are doing with the donations received so far.
i. The N28.5 Million from UBA will be used to set up a Laboratory at Abia State Specialist Hospital, Umuahia for the study and testing of medical samples in Abia State.
ii. The Nose Masks and PPE equipments from NCDC will be handed over to our first responders and medical workers for their safety.
iii. The Hand sanitizers and soft drinks from the Nigerian Breweries will also be handed over to our Officers in Charge at our 722 Health Centres in Abia State
iv. The 1,000 Sanitizers from the Abia State University will be added to the ones procured by the State Government and distributed to the general public through Churches and Community Associations.
v. The 850 Bags of Rice from Prof. Ibe will be distributed as 50 bags to each of the 17 LGAs in Abia State and we are adding them to the existing food in our food bank for distribution to those most in need of them.

22. I wish to at this juncture thank all well-meaning Abians and Corporate Organizations who have made donations to us to help us fight this. I also commend those who have pledged one form of assistance or the other towards the containment of this disease. This is a good time for all of us to band together, devoid of political gimmicks and grandstanding, to confront a common enemy who will not ask our leanings before striking. I also wish to request that all donations towards this effort be channeled through the Government Coordination Committee with Secretariat at the Office of the Secretary to the State Government. This is to ensure proper coordination and to ensure that the people who truly need the materials get it.

My dear Abians, I wish to use this opportunity to pay special tribute to our health workers who have been at the forefront of managing this pandemic. Officials of government, security agencies, our inter-ministerial coordination team and health workers have been working round the clock to ensure that we are safe and I am proud of the work they have done so far.

I wish to once again plead for us to remain calm and exercise collective responsibility at this critical period. Let us eschew every rumour and the spread of unverified stories around this virus. Let us also ensure that we do not speculate or engage in self-help within this period. If you suspect that you have symptoms or you suspect that anyone around you is showing symptoms of the coronavirus, kindly access the closest health facility for proper handling. Let us also avoid self-medication for preventive or curative measures. It is very important that we only take actions prescribed by qualified medical and health practitioners.

I am implicitly confident that we have what it takes to handle this situation. We are God’s Own State and I have no doubt that God will look upon us with mercy and bring this situation to an end in the shortest possible time.

While trusting God to keep us, let us do our part by observing recommended personal hygienic practices and abiding by lawful directives within this period.

Government will continue to monitor the situation, keep everyone updated on relevant information and take steps where necessary, to cushion the effects of the situation on the people of Abia State.

Together, we shall defeat this. We are all united in confronting it and this too shall pass.

May God bless you all and may God continue to bless Abia State.

Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, Ph.D, FNES
Governor, Abia State