The Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Health, has been strengthening measures to ensure an outbreak in Nigeria is controlled and contained quickly. The multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group, led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has since activated its national Emergency Operations Centre and will work closely with Lagos State Health authorities to respond to this case and implement firm control measures. “I wish to assure all Nigerians that have we have been beefing up our preparedness capabilities since the first confirmation of cases in China, and we will use all the resources made available by the government to respond to this case. “We have already started working to identify all the contacts of the patient, since he entered Nigeria. Please be reminded that most people who become infected may experience only mild illness and recover easily, but it can be more severe in others, particularly the elderly and persons with other underlying chronic illnesses. All Nigerians should take care of their health and maintain hand and respiratory hygiene to protect themselves and others, including their own families, following the precautions below: 1. Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser. 2. Maintain at least 1 & half metres (5 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. 3. Persons with persistent cough or sneezing should stay home or keep a social distance, but not mix in crowd. 4. Make sure you and people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene, meaning cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or into your sleeve at the bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. 5. Stay home if you feel unwell with symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. Please call NCDC toll free number which is available day and night, for guidance- 0800-970000-10. Do not engage in self-medication 6. Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19 through official channels on TV and Radio, including the Lagos State Ministry of Health, NCDC and Federal Ministry of Health. Citizens must not abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that causes fear and panic. The Federal Ministry of Health, through Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, will continue to provide updates and will initiate all measures required to prevent the spread of any outbreak in Nigeria,” announced Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Hon. Minister of Health. As at the time of filing this article, over 9,000 cases have been confirmed in Nigeria, over 3,000 cases have been discharged and about 300 deaths have been recorded in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory, having carried out 48,544 tests. AKWA IBOM COVID-19 INDEX CASES -Dr Otobong Asuquo, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, after recovering from the disease at Ibom Specialty Hospital. As at April 1, 2020, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed 5 cases of the disease in Akwa Ibom State, and Dr Otobong Asuquo, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, was one of the cases. Dr Asuquo, in his detailed account after recovering from the disease at Ibom Specialist Hospital in Uyo, said he received a call immediately from the state COVID-19 team to get set that an ambulance would be coming to pick him. Different thoughts went through his mind: his dear wife, children, and when he saw how others in different parts of the world were passing away, he thought his end was near! At the isolation centre, Dr Asuquo said he enjoyed his stay because of the privacy, the modern facilities, and equipment at the hospital. “You don't know what is happening and who is in the next room. Constant water and light, it's like having the U.S. in Akwa Ibom,” he said in a video chat. He added that he was surprised to know that all the rooms there are equipped with Television sets (with DSTV) and that there's free WIFI for browsing the Internet, which made him stay updated and worked on his personal project. Although he was silent on the treatment he received that led to his recovery in less than two weeks, he was thankful to the state government for a job well done. “I want to give kudos to the Akwa Ibom State Government because I know without them, this wouldn't have been possible and also for the [COVID-19] team.” Akwa Ibom State so far has 35 active cases of the disease, with 2 deaths and 14 recoveries of which Dr Asuquo is one of them.
“Your Excellency, why are you embarking on the building of a permanent structure as isolation centre as against using available empty space in the state or building a large tent as other states are doing. I am saying this because time is not on our side plus the cost, as we are in a crisis situation, why not put up a temporary thing”?
Those were the concerns raised by a news correspondent on Monday 27th April 2020, during a press briefing hosted by Governor Udom Emmanuel in the banquet hall of the government house Uyo.
But the Governor, who seems to be a good student of Tony Blair’s school of leadership, in his response said NO, citing the stormy weather in the south and the need to be futuristic in investing scarce resources as his reasons for embarking on the isolation centre building.
As if he were a prophet, less than 5days after the press conference, a temporary structure put up by a particular state government (name withheld) as isolation centre was destroyed completely by storm, leaving the state in disarray.
Back to Tony Blair, a former British Prime Minister in one of his brief quotes said “The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.” Governor Udom Emmanuel by choosing to build a permanent world-class edifice to serve as 300-bed isolation centre has said NO to mediocrity, he is saying NO to the compromising of Akwa Ibom’s excellent standards which the state is known for, and he is saying NO to visionless leadership that does not look beyond the immediate.
As promised by the state government that the isolation centre could be completed in record time of less than a month, in just four weeks, a medical centre that has now become a new wonder in medical tourism in the Nigerian space has sprung up in Ituk Mbang.
The Governor in his wisdom went to an already existing general hospital called Ituk Mbang General Hospital and built a world-class 300 bed isolation centre that has become a centre of excellence.
Needless to emphasize that the Governor in doing so is taking advantage of the crisis at hand to strengthen the capacity and capability of the health sector in the state in line with the postulation of renowned author Martha Beck who said that “Any deep crisis is an opportunity to make life extraordinary in some way.”
Of course, the quality and quantity of visitors trooping into Akwa Ibom state to take a glimpse at the isolation centre is a testimony to the fact that something extraordinary has happened in the state amidst the covid19 crisis.
The breathtaking facility has a 300-bed space, structured into four wards, with 75 beds in each, 20 en-suites Doctors’ Quarters, 26 Intercom lines in each ward and 4 Disinfection rooms for Doctors and Nurses.
Speaking further, he said that COVID19 is an unknown, unforeseen pandemic that no one knows where it will do to the world, Nigeria nor Akwa Ibom state, adding that with the rainy season setting in some weeks from now, building a temporary structure would have spelt doom for the state as such structure might collapse and constitute a loss for Akwa Ibom taxpayers, whereas, with the isolation centre at Ituk Mbang, the state is already positioned to fight future pandemics or other emergencies in the health sector.
He also lauded the setting up of the post COVID-19 economic recovery team by the Akwa Ibom State Government, describing the move as timely and relevant to the economic future of the post COVID-19 Akwa Ibom State.
The World Health Organization and Deputy DG of Incident Management Centre for COVID19 were some of the early birds to visit the centre
Dr Agwai said the WHO is very satisfied with the proactive steps implemented by Governor Emmanuel to combat the pandemic and pledged the full support of the organization for the enabling structures, put in place by the state, to achieve success in the COVID-19 fight.
On his part, the Deputy Chairman, of the Incident Management Committee, Dr Godfrey Akro, described the Governor as a man with a sense of direction and mission, who has left an enduring legacy to boost the Health Sector. Describing the Isolation Centre as ‘Nigeria’s Miracle’, Dr Akro said, not many people initially believed the governor took a rational step in embarking on the project, but the amazing achievement and completion of the sprawling complex, in so short a time, has silenced critics.
If Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States was correct when he said that “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets people to do the greatest things.” Then Hon. Ephraim Inyangeyen, the state commissioner for works deserves some part on the back for making himself available to be used by Governor Udom Emmanuel to do great things such as this.
Mr. Okon Okon, the Chairman of the Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service collaborated Regal Reagan when he visited the isolation centre. Apart from pouring encomiums on the Governor for his ingenuity, he commended the works commissioner for his dedication to duty and commitment to the completion of the centre in record time, adding that the dream of having such project wouldn’t be fulfilled without the availability of a ready workman like the commissioner of the work.