Thanks for the inquiries about the reported dramatic increase in the number of Covid-19 infections in the state which some people, relying on the latest figures from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) consider very high. A lot of people have innocently assumed that as many as 20 persons were infected in Anambra state in one day, fearing that the situation in the state is worsening rapidly.

The true situation is far from the impressions some have as a result of the figure. There is no dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 infections in the state. The 20 cases reported by the NCDC yesterday were based on samples taken in over three weeks across the state. Some of the samples were even taken outside Anambra State, but were ascribed to our state because the people tested chose, for different reasons, to identify with the state. Only seven out of about 100 samples tested at Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu Teaching Hospital, Awka, turned out positive. Therefore, the COVID-19 prognosis of our state is still good, one of the very best in the country.

It is important to bear in mind that many of the 20 reported cases came from Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, which most unfortunately lost one of its key officers to reported complications arising out of COVID-19. His contacts in the medical college, teaching hospital, his private hospital, family and community have been traced comprehensively.

The relatively low positive results which Anambra State has been getting, despite the fact that a large number of our people travel extensively to all parts of the world for business and other legitimate pursuits and the fact that we have some of the largest open-air markets in West Africa patronized daily by millions of people from West Africa and beyond, show that many of our people have embraced our relentless message on COVID-19.

It is reassuring that the state has the capacity to manage cases should there be a spike. Apart from having teams of accomplished doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab scientists, ward cleaners and ambulance who play vital roles in the COVID-19 case management value chain. There are 600 beds in different protective care units in our state, otherwise known as isolation centres. The facility at the Onitsha General Hospital, with 58 beds, is the first centre in Nigeria to meet World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

Still, we should not rest on our laurels. The disease, which is highly contagious, is far from over in our state. In fact, we expect a spike in infections soon. With the commissioning of the Mega Laboratory at Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Awka, capable of testing 470 samples for COVID-19 simultaneously, there is likely to be a rise in the number of infections. What is more, with the aggressive community search just initiated by the Governor Willie Obiano administration which saw the government set up a COVID-19 Task Force in each of the 326 wards in the state so as to reach the grassroots in a radical manner, there is likely to be an increase in positive cases.

We, therefore, have a responsibility to continue to guide our people to imbibe the habit of wearing face masks any time they come out in public, and wear them appropriately by covering their nostrils and mouths always, as opposed to the current practice where people wear the face coving on the chin and jaw. We also need to encourage our people to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with running water and soaps and sanitizers. In addition, we have to observe social distancing by keeping away from people by at least six feet.

The Anambra State government has recently started a campaign on ways to boost our immunity as part of the strategy to fight COVID-19. Our system needs plenty of vegetables like bitter leaf (onugbu) and pumpkin (ugu) and fruits like lemons, oranges, avocados, etc, which are available in large quantities throughout the state and beyond in the rainy season and now sell at affordable prices. Our system needs things like Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Zinc for fortification. They are affordable.

It is important to pass on this message to our people in different ways. Preventing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic is far better than managing the cases by experts who have, in spite of all odds, demonstrated inspiring confidence, dedication and competence. History will be kind to them.

Anambra State has in the last few years become exemplary in a lot of ways. The leadership has shown the light, and the people are finding the way. Each of us has to continue to make Anambra remain the safest state in Nigeria.

C. Don Adinuba
Commissioner for Information & Public Enlightenment, & Member, Anambra State Task Force on COVID-19.

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