Lockdown order: Denial, unpreparedness characterise A’Ibom  govt’s efforts to fight coronavirus 

AS coronavirus cases in Nigeria continue to rise, Akwa Ibom recently joined the list of states with confirmed cases. But, while other states have implemented various measures to combat the virus, Akwa Ibom has taken only counterproductive steps.

On Thursday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) published an update of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country and among the list was Akwa Ibom, which was reported to have recorded its first five cases.

According to the Director-General of NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, the tests were carried out at the Irrua Specialist Hospital, described as ‘oldest and most experienced test centre’.

But, the Akwa Ibom State Government rejected the results, demanding that new tests be conducted on the five patients as they showed no symptoms.

“Owing to the irregularities observed in the testing and reporting procedure, Health Care Professionals in Akwa Ibom State have called for an immediate re-confirmation test on the five reported cases,” a statement released on Twitter by the state government read in part.

Shortly after rejecting NCDC’s published report and demanding fresh tests be conducted, the state Governor, Udom Emmanuel, during a broadcast in Uyo, the state’s capital, on Thursday, ordered a total 14-day lockdown.

The lockdown ensures restriction of movements and prohibition of events of any kind for an initial period of 14 days.

“There will be no movement of persons, except those on essential duties who must carry a proper means of identification on them at all times.

“All business premises, markets, shops, motor parks and offices except grocery shops and pharmacies must remain closed during this period,” the governor announced.

The step, the governor explained, was to curb the spread of the virus in the state and to enable effective contact tracing.

But while the state government is attempting to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Akwa Ibom, the abrupt closure of business and restriction of movement activates a strain on the survival of residents.

While the governor announced that security officials would be tasked to ensure strict adherence to the lockdown order, there were no plans to provide stimulus packages and palliatives for its over five million inhabitants.

Akwa Ibom is not the first to effect a state-led lockdown order.

In Rivers State, the Governor, Nyesom Wike, ordered a partial lockdown and also announced plans of rolling out palliatives for residents to cushion the effect of the ban on social and economic activities.

In Lagos, the Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has taken steps towards providing stimulus packages for at least 200,000 households as the lockdown period drags on.

With no known plans to provide relief packages for its residents, and no time allocated to prepare for a 14-day lockdown, Akwa Ibom State Government may be exposing its residents to state-wide hunger.

Similarly, steps taken by the government to combat coronavirus are characterised by unpreparedness.



    In an earlier report published on The ICIR, it was found that the Emergency Operations Centre and Infectious Diseases Centre, established in 1928, remains largely ill-equipped and non-functional.

    The report shows that the major centre being prepared for the possible outbreak of coronavirus are ill-equipped with facilities and health workers.

    But the State’s Health Commissioner, Dominic Ukpong,  has refuted this claim in an interview, saying there are three doctors working at the Isolation Centre and there are 15 ventilators in the state.

    He disclosed that 13 of the ventilators are at the Ibom Specialist Hospital in Uyo while two are at the Government House, adding that if need be, the ventilators would be moved to the Isolation Centre.

    Seun Durojaiye is a journalist with International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

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