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Soaring above COVID-19 challenges

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CORONAVIRUS pandemic unlike in most states of Nigeria remains largely contained in Anambra State. Nobody envisaged the pandemic coming, more so, impacting the socio-economic, as well as spiritual activities. The human casualties of COVID-19 may not be as high as the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 nor the Third Plague pandemic that killed tens of millions of people but none compares to COVID-19 spread of infection in a short space.

  The pandemic remains the talking point this year and would make more discourse in decades to come. What started as an endemic disease soon turned pandemic within a month, sweeping across the nations of the earth. In the absence of a vaccine or cure, the best measure was to contain its spread.

  In Nigeria, Anambra State stands out as one of the states that effectively managed the crisis. While some states had laidback approach to it, Gov. Obiano saw it as a threat beyond human health.                            

  Gov. Willie Obiano has often described health as paramount in life. To him, it stands as the premise on which other benefits of life are derived. He attests that it promotes longevity in individuals and robust socio-economic dividend that it offers to the society.

  Since the first reported index case in Nigeria in February, 2020, the Willie Obiano led administration took a proactive stand in combating the spread of the virus. The result was the low cases of infected people and number of recorded death figures in Anambra State. As part of measures to tackle the pandemic, Anambra State was the first to start a campaign apart from Lagos State, for non-federal government supported test centres.

  Anambra State recorded her first COVID-19 index case on 10th April. Rather than call its Isolation Centres, where COVID-19 patients are treated, Governor Obiano branded such centres as Protective Centres. The reason for the change of name was to remove fear or stigma that the name isolation carries. As much as it is a health facility, Gov. Obiano doesn’t want anybody to feel isolated while undergoing treatment.

  To ensure effective treatment and management of coronavirus patients, Anambra State Government operates state of the art equipped protective centres at NYSC Camp, Umuawulu, General Hospital, Onitsha, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, (NAUTH), Nnewi, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Awka, General Hospital Umueri and Ekwulobia General Hospital. Before now, Ekwulobia General Hospital, General Hospital Umueri and Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Awka, served as surge centres. These centres were used to absorb patients who may not be accommodated in the hospitals with Protective Centres based on existing facilities.

  Before the outbreak of the pandemic, Gov. Obiano had on his birthday on August 8, 2019, unveiled an oxygen plant as if he knew that COVID-19 would come. Oxygen is the biggest thing in demand in the treatment of COVID-19 or its management and in related ailments such as severe pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis, among others. Yet it’s seldom available to most patients whose lives are at risk. Where it is available, it is often unaffordable to the poorest and most disadvantaged. The coronavirus is a respiratory disease, and it can cause lung inflammation (pneumonia), which makes breathing difficulty for patients. That’s why ventilators are needed to help treat some patients with the infection. The ventilator is about oxygen; it pumps oxygen into the lungs and removes carbon dioxide through a tube.

  The Anambra State multi million naira medical oxygen plant sits within the premises of the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Amaku, Awka, and is capable of producing 200 standard oxygen cylinders daily. The plant, the current biggest in the South East, was built primarily to meet local demands from medical installations in Anambra State that were always in need of it to save life.

  While unveiling the gas plant Gov. Obiano who revealed that the oxygen plant was a regenerative investment beside being well poised to yield commercial benefits to the state in the drive to vastly accelerate the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) said the plant had the capacity to serve, not just the hospitals in Anambra State, but also beyond. He then directed that all 500 primary health centres in the state should be given two oxygen cylinders free.

  During the unveiling, Dr. Onyekachukwu Ibezim, Managing Director, Anambra State Oxygen Production Plant assured on the quality of the oxygen, saying that it would be made available to all health facilities that require them in the state.

  Dr Ibezim stated that the plant is automated and its cylinders are most modern with its expiry date boldly inscribed on them in the production line. “It is in a bid to ensure that emergency situations and many challenging health conditions of ndi Anambra are met that informed the building of the plant. You find out that the oxygen is not usually available in many health facilities in third world countries and that is why Gov. Willie Obiano thought it wise to ensure that this scarce commodity is available to save lives in medical centres in Anambra and environs,” he explained.

  It sounds not unusual that Anambra State is having low COVID-19 figures. Outside of the epicentres of Lagos, Ogun and FCT Abuja, Anambra was the first state to mandate her citizens to compulsorily wear face masks as well as observe other personal hygiene protocols as stipulated by the World Health Organization(WHO) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control(NCDC) for the prevention and containment of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  Gov. Obiano further charged traditional rulers, presidents-general, community leaders and security agencies to enforce the order on compulsory wearing of face masks across the state so as to sustain the coronavirus-free status of Anambra. The governor is also upfront with information addressing people, often advising ndi Anambra to pay more attention to the COVID-19 protocol as that is still the best defense mechanism against the pandemic. The state government took the mandatory outlined medical safety guidelines seriously as indicated in the 15th June, 2020, shutdown of the Eke Awka Market for two weeks.

  “This is as a result of non-compliance by the market traders and customers with COVID-19 protocols, including wearing of protective face masks, provision of running water and soap for washing of hands, keeping of physical distancing,” said Gov. Obiano. 

  Gov. Obiano further warned would be defaulters; “The government is also putting other market leaders and local government councils in the state on notice that a similar curfew action will be taken, and markets in the local government closed down if it is observed that such markets do not observe COVID-19 protocols.”

  As the COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll on the people, the state government set a COVID-19 Fund Committee that would be used to generate relief materials for distribution and called on wealthy individuals and corporate organisations in the state to donate to the fund as well as encouraged other individuals to extend their milk of human kindness to the vulnerable ones in the society.

  The state government worked out a palliative structure that will affect as many as possible within the resources that are available to the state. The first set to benefit from the state government palliatives distribution was the elderly, who are the most vulnerable to the pandemic. The state government extended the gesture to youths and less privileged and offered levy waivers to commercial tricycle operators and other commercial transporters in the state.

  Also as part of measures to cushion the effect of the coronavirus pandemic in Anambra State and encourage private and business owners as well boost the state’s economy; the state government recently announced a 10 per cent refund of paid 2019 tax to all traders and business owners in the state.

  Gov. Obiano is a trailblazer in palliatives measures and proactive as he demonstrates in the fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic in the state by providing palliatives for both the elderly and youths in all the communities of the state, among others.

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