…. First positive Covid-19 case confirmed in Anambra State
…. ANSG imposes more stringent lockdown to combat the crisis
…. More private individuals and entities donate relief packages
By Ndu Chris Nwannah, ATM Guest Writer, and Chudi Okoye
The Anambra State Government has imposed another 14-day social distancing restriction on its citizens in a bid to further strengthen the fight against the spread the coronavirus pandemic. The measure was announced by the Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano, in a statement released on March 11, 2020. The new restriction came in the wake of the first confirmed coronavirus case in Anambra state and following what appears to be growing incidence of the disease in Nigeria as a whole.
On March 11, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported 13 new cases of coronavirus, with three new fatalities and 12 new discharged cases. With this, the number of fatalities rose 43% from seven to 10, while the number of discharged cases grew 21% from 58 to 70.
The lone case so far in Anambra State was reported on March 10. The index case in the state, allegedly a native of Adazi-Enu in Anaocha Local Government Area, was said to have arrived in the area from Lagos.
There had been some confusion over the details of the confirmed case in Anambra. Governor Willie Obiano was sketchy when he announced the case.
“Ndi Anambra,” he lamented, “I regret to announce that despite our proactive measures to insulate our dear state from this pandemic, we recorded the first case of coronavirus in the state yesterday.”
Quest For Nest And Test
Prior to the governor’s statement, social media had been awash with variations on the index case’s itinerary, the details of his symptoms and the test. He was said to have initially received treatment at Regina Caeli Hospital, Awka before being transferred to Joe Nwiloh Heart Centre at St. Joseph’s Hospital Adazi, where his sample was collected. The treating hospital, St Joseph’s, released a statement providing details of what transpired.
According to the hospital’s administrator, Jerome N. Okafor (Fr.), the patient was admitted at Dr. Joe Nwiloh Heart Center for heart complications on Tuesday April 7, 2020. The administrator said an initial examination revealed that the patient was discharging blood, with coughing and shivering. The attending medical officer had suspected the patient might be showing symptoms of Covid-19 and he duly informed the cardiologist on duty who admitted the patient.
The cardiologist, according to the hospital’s account, “did not think that the symptoms indicated were strong enough to suggest the viral infection.” However, the heart specialist asked his staff to inform the NCDC and request that its technicians come to collect samples from the patient for testing. Apparently, NCDC technicians never showed up, according to Mr. Okafor, despite repeated calls by the hospital. In the end, the hospital authorities decided to approach the Chief Medical Director (CMD) at the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital, Awka, located 21 miles north east of the centre. They requested that the CMD send his staff to collect the patient’s sample and also to transfer him to a designated government isolation centre. Eventually, the sample was collected but, according to Mr. Okafor, the patient was never relocated to an isolation centre. The officers from the teaching hospital reportedly took away the sample, promising that the test result would be ready within forty-eight hours of sample collection.
St. Joseph’s Hospital claimed that it had not been informed about the test result collected from its patient as at the time it released its public statement, four days after the arrival of the patient at the hospital. Instead, the hospital said, without receiving any official confirmation, it heard in the media the patient had a positive Covid-19 case. The result was announced in the media, it seemed, without feedback to the admitting hospital.
“One wonders what the motive behind this is,” the hospital complained. “It is certainly not [in] the interest of the common people that the hospital serves nor is it that of the patient. The staff of the Centre has been very professional in its approach to the issue.”
The hospital said as it had not heard back regarding the result of the test from its patient, it “continued to treat the patient for the symptom of heart disease which he presented, while maintaining all the NCDC guidelines…” The hospital then claimed that the patient got better and was discharged, “because he insisted on going back to his home.”
Contrary to social media claim that the patient absconded, the hospital said due process was followed in discharging the patient.
“The patient did not run away from the hospital. He paid his medical bills. The Centre discharged him because the major reason why he was suspected of the virus was that he was not forthcoming with information about his travel history.”
Bracing for Contact Tracing
Contrary to the hospital statement, Governor Willie Obiano, in his update, sounded as if the state government had a handle on the patient’s itinerary.
“The index case came in from Lagos,” the governor declared. “He has been placed in one of our Protective Care Centers. At the same time, we have commenced aggressive contact tracing to ensure that everyone he came in contact with is brought into the net for a professional handling that will save lives.”
▲ Gov. Willie Obiano
Governor Obiano had earlier, on March 30, imposed a two-week restriction on activities in the area, which was not a total lockdown. Schools, offices, religious establishments, markets and sundry economic activities were barred from operating in the area for two weeks. However, food and drugs markets as well as workers on essential duty were allowed to ply their trades.
The erstwhile measures did not appear to have been successfully implemented. There were allegations that security personnel collected payola to permit private and passenger commuters, and other classes of people who were not on the essential services list, to move in and out of the state. The possibility that the index case travelled to Anambra in his condition suggested that the closure of boundaries with the neighbouring states of Enugu, Delta, Imo and Abia had not been effective.
In his broadcast to the people of Anambra State on Saturday, April 11, Governor Obiano said this time individuals and groups would not be allowed to move across the area. He urged citizens to stay indoors and ordered security agents to arrest violators of the COVID-19 restrictions.
The governor expressed delight over the cooperation he said he had received from market, religious and community leaders in trying to contain the coronavirus. He regretted the emergence of the index case in the state, stressing that the patient had been taken to a protective centre, while tracing of contacts had commenced.
“First, I have to thank you all for complying with the directive on the Covid-19 pandemic in Anambra State. I must thank the traders in all the 63 major markets in Anambra State for heeding the directive on the closure of our markets. I also thank the traditional rulers, leaders of the church, the PGs and other community leaders who have assisted the government in ensuring that people comply with the directives from the state. However, as it has turned out, the fight has just started.”
Governor Obiano tried to calm frayed nerves as alarm spread across Anambra communities with news that coronavirus had made landfall in the state.
“Ndi Anambra, I urge you not to panic over this. It did not take us by surprise. We are adequately prepared to handle the situation. We have trained enough manpower on how to handle Covid-19 cases and our Protective Care Centers are among the best in the country at the moment. On the strength of this, I urge you to stand strong in prayer and faith. We shall flatten the curve on this case to prevent further spread of the virus.”
Affliction Brings New Restriction
The governor said that “following the recording of the first case of coronavirus in Anambra State, it has become extremely necessary to tighten the measures we had taken earlier on the pandemic.” He then announced a number of restrictions that his administration was imposing, some a restatement of earlier measures:
“The restriction on movement is hereby extended by two weeks. This time, we are placing a comprehensive lockdown on Anambra State. We shall not tolerate any movement across the state by individuals and groups. Only people on essential services are permitted to move around in the delivery of those services to the people. Ndi Anambra are advised to stay indoors to avoid getting contaminated by this virus. The security agencies will enforce the restriction on movement this time and they have my authorization to make arrests where necessary to keep our dear state safe.
“All boundaries with neighbouring states remain closed. There will be no vehicular or human traffic across all the boundaries of Anambra State. Only vehicles delivering essential services are permitted after a comprehensive check and authorization by security operatives at the boundaries.
“Frequent washing of hands with soap for at least 20 seconds as well as the regular use of hand sanitizers are strongly recommended. In fact, everyone is expected to carry a hand sanitizer with him or her at any given time.
“Everyone is expected to stay indoors with their families and loved ones. However, anyone who wishes to step outdoors for any reason at all must wear a face mask. Anyone who violates this directive stands a chance of arrest and prosecution.”
Governor Obiano further urged citizens to make use of public health numbers if they suspect any disease.
“Ndi Anambra are advised to contact the Anambra State Public Health Emergency Operation Center immediately (PHEOC) once they feel unwell. The PHEOC numbers are 08030953771, 08145434416, 08117567363, 08058967320.”
Obiano restated his earlier claim that the hospital facilities set up by the government were ready and functional, while yet others were being readied.
“Our 250-bed Preventive Care Center at the NYSC Orientation Camp in Mbaukwu/Umuawulu and the 16-bed Preventive Care Centre at the General Hospital Onitsha are all up and running at the moment. The two Surge Centers at Ekwulobia General Hospital and Umueri General Hospital that Fidelity Bank and Access Bank offered to equip are almost ready too. So, we are prepared to give ourselves a fighting chance against this pandemic.”
More Donors Do the Honours
The governor said he was happy that more corporate organizations and individuals were showing up to support the fight against the pandemic with funds, medical equipment, reliefs and stimulus packages.
“Ndi Anambra, it gives me great joy to see that this pandemic has brought out our well known communal spirit. I am impressed with the way our socially responsible brothers and sisters have responded to the economic hardship imposed by [the] coronavirus on us all by handing out relief materials and money to their neighbours. That is one of the ways we can ensure strict compliance with the principles of social distancing and overcome this plague. I must thank everyone who has shown compassion to his/her neighbour during this period. That is the spirit of the season. It is also the spirit of Easter!
“Similarly, I must express our profound gratitude to those who have donated money and other material support to boost our efforts at the state level.”
While soliciting for more support, Governor Obiano said the fight against the virus had just assumed a new dimension with the first reported case in the state.
“Ndi Anambra, we are still appealing for donations to boost our capacity to overcome [the] coronavirus. We especially need ventilators and Personal Protection Equipment like gloves, goggles for the eyes, apparels and masks.
“Umu nnem, now that we have the first recorded incident in Anambra State, our fight against [the] coronavirus has just started. All hands must be on deck to stamp the pandemic out of our beloved state. Ndi Anambra, I have no doubt that if we work together, we shall win this race.”
Committed But Omitted
In his statement, Governor Obiano provided an updated list of corporate bodies, groups and individuals that he said had contributed to the state government’s community relief effort. His list, however, omitted some significant private contributions about which it appeared the government had not been notified.
Among such private distributions was the coronavirus relief package rolled out by Chief Austin Ndigwe who is acclaimed by supporters as Eze Uzu III of Awka. Chief Ndigwe, on April 9 laid out an elaborate largesse mimicking the model of the government’s own relief package for elders in Anambra State, specifically those aged 70 years and above. Chief Ndigwe’s relief programme was said to be a measure to lessen the economic impact of the coronavirus lockdown on elder indigenes of Awka town, the capital of Anambra State.
▲ Ndigwe (inset), seen as ‘Eze Uzu III’ by supporters, with the Covid-19 provisions
The programme was staged across different venues targeting the seven quarters and 33 villages of Awka. Data made available to Awka Times indicates a distribution of over 330 bags of rice, tubers of yam and cartons of noodles to beneficiaries across Awka town. Each village got 10 bags of rice and the other items.
Although the largess had been intended for septuagenarians or older, Awka Times gathered that individuals in lower age brackets also turned up for the handouts, probably reflecting the level of privation in this part and elsewhere in the country.
Recent data released by the federal government of Nigeria, which has been presented as a potential resource for Covid-19 relief targeting, showed in particular the desperate condition in the South East, of which Awka and Anambra State generally are a part. The federal data, released on April 10 by the National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO), a federal government and World Bank collaboration, shows the distribution of the poorest and most vulnerable populations across the states of Nigeria. NASSC0 said the “register is available to be mined for COVID-19 response measures targeting the poor and vulnerable.”
▲ NASSCO and population data
Awka Times aggregation of the data by geopolitical zones shows that the South East’s share of the extreme poverty base far outstrips its share of the overall population. This appears to suggest that the index of extreme poverty, if the NASSCO data is to be believed, is acute in the South East.
Such data highlights the significance of humanitarian interventions designed to bolster government effort. This probably explains the enthusiastic community response to Chief Ndigwe’s coronavirus provisions.
One of the leaders of Awka community, the Secretary of Igu Aro Awka, Chief Patrick Nweke applauded the relief package from Chief Austin Ndigwe, challenging other Awka people to emulate the gesture. Also, the Secretary of Ndichie Igweogige, Chief Onwubuatu Albert Okoye, noted that the intervention of Chief Ndigwe was timely. He was happy that many people benefitted from the project.
A retired police officer and member of Ndichie Igweogige, Chief Aforka Ekweli, also poured encomiums on “Eze Uzu III”, describing him as a great philanthropist. Chief Ekweli stressed that more of such packages were welcomed at this critical period of the global pandemic. The new Cabinet Chief of Igweogige Village, Chief Anachuna Nworah said it was important for prominent people to rally round and provide succour to the elders and underprivileged citizens.
It will be recalled other indigenes of Awka have also made significant contributions to the Anambra State government’s relief effort. Earlier on Friday, March 27, Dr. Clem Nwogbo, the managing director of M-P Infrastructure which is building a brand new city on the outskirts of Awka, made a donation of ₦5 million to the Anambra State Covid-19 Task Force. The donation had been received by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu, on behalf of the state.
Individuals from around Anambra State are making contributions, in cash and kind, to fight the growing menace of coronavirus, now seemingly with an inroad in Anambra State.
According to the state government, folks may also donate cash to:
ANAMBRA STATE COVID-19 AID
FIDELITY ACCOUNT NUMBER 5030112159
ANAMBRA STATE COVID- 19 SUPPORT
UBA PLC, ACCOUNT NO: 1022752108