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Authorities fret as COVID-19 spreads

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There is palpable anxiety as the authorities battle the spread of the Coronavirus across communities in the Federal Capital Territory. GBENGA OMOKHUNU reports.

The daily discovery of high number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the suburbs of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja has become a source of worry to residents as they struggle to stay safe.

The development has heightened tension among residents across the six area councils in the FCT, namely; Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Abaji, Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kuje and Kwali. Since the first three COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the FCT on March 20, 2020, government and major stakeholders have been battling to curb the spread. Community transmission, following daily tests, has also shown that the pandemic has gotten deep into the suburbs.

A resident of Mabushi, Joy Omolola, who spoke with our correspondent, expressed worry over the spread of the pandemic. She said many residents still disobey the safety rules. Another resident in Kuje, Mr. Albert Ibrahim, said: “We should behave ourselves and do things the right way. Compared to what has been happening in other lands, we are very lucky and should not take God for granted. With Mabushi and Gishiri now on the NCDC radar, who knows what will become of the other suburbs and even the metropolitan Abuja. ”

The development necessitated an emergency meeting of stakeholders, including religious, traditional and political leaders involved in the fight against the dreaded pandemic in the capital territory.

FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Bello expressed sadness at the attitude of council chairmen and royal fathers in handling the spread at the grassroots level.

The minister urged the royal fathers and Area Council Chairmen in the FCT to take on the responsibility of educating and sensitising residents at the grassroots level on the need to adhere to established protocols.

The meeting also had in attendance, the Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID -19, Dr Sani Aliyu, FCT Minister of State,  Dr Ramatu Aliyu, amongst other participants. While pledging the commitment of the FCT Administration to the fight against the virus, the minister said defeating it required a collective responsibility by all and urged all stakeholders to also play their part by supporting the efforts of the administration.

FCT Minister of State Dr Ramatu Aliyu warned against stigmatisation of COVID-19 patients, who she said, did not deliberately seek to be infected. Aliyu also called for the collective efforts of all stakeholders in the fight against the pandemic. She advised residents to disregard misinformation that government was involved in the spread of the virus, adding that they should instead focus on curbing its spread through obedience to extant guidelines of wearing face masks, maintaining personal hygiene and observing social distancing. Aliyu also said it would take collective efforts by all to contain community transmission.

Dr. Ihekweazu commended the FCT Administration for the construction of the road leading to the National Reference  Laboratory at Gaduwa, which he said has increased the efficiency of the facility. Ihekweazu also commended the leadership of the FCT Administration for being proactive in its approach to battling the pandemic and also charged the traditional rulers on sensitising the people at the grassroots level. He noted that the rate at which the pandemic is spreading at the grassroots level is alarming.

The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, also said that the best way to fight the pandemic is through attitudinal change on the part of the people. This, he said, is where the traditional and religious leaders come in through community engagement.

According to him, the major challenge is how to stay alive while the pandemic lasts. State Epidemiologist, Dr. Doris John, gave an overview of the spread while also stressing the rising level of community transmission. John also stated that poor adherence to preventive measures has increased the spread of the virus while late presentation of cases has led to increased number of fatalities. She disclosed that the major challenges faced by health workers in the fight against the pandemic are stigmatisation, denial, myth and misconception.

She also said many confirmed cases refused to be evacuated to treatment centres while there is low involvement of key stakeholders at the community levels. Infections among frontline health workers are also increasing with the number of imported cases into the FCT also on the rise. Other challenges include inadequate logistics (vehicle), low case-contact ratio, poor adherence to non-pharmaceutical preventive measures and inadequate funds to implement incidence Action Plan.

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