THE absence of a clear and effective response strategy towards containing the coronavirus pandemic by the Bauchi State government is responsible for the increasing rate of infection in the State, a press statement by the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has revealed.

The press statement, dated 10th May, 2020 and signed by Isah Garba Azare, CITAD’s Acting Programmes Coordinator, made available to National Record, identified a number of shortcomings in the state’s covid-19 response strategy which combined to create conditions for the spread of the novel coronavirus in the state.

While noting that though the committee established by the state government to coordinate the fight against COVID-19 has been working round the clock especially in the area of stakeholders’ engagement and other technical approaches; the activities of the committee are however too centralised in the state capital at the expense of other parts of the state.

“This capital-centred mind-set of the government can be seen from the fact that of the three isolation centres, only the two in the state capital (ATBU and Bayara) are functional. The one that is in FMC Azare is yet to take off as its designated building is the newly constructed eye clinic section of the hospital which has not even been handed over to the government by the contractors,” CITAD noted in the statement.

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It stated that the hospitals in the state are also poorly equipped to meet the challenges of the pandemic thereby limiting the capacity of the medical personnel to perform their duties without unduly exposing them to risks.

According to the statement, Jamaare which is one of the major local governments in the state with a General Hospital located in the local government headquarters “has only 4 hand sanitizers and a packet of face masks for the use of the health workers.”

The statement revealed that even in hospitals at the state capital, shortage of the required preventive materials were clearly noticeable making it impossible for both health personnel and patients or others to adhere to the rigid protocols demanded to check the spread of the infection.

“We noticed empty cans of sanitizers at the entrance of some of the hospitals which shows that they were there only for decoration. More worrisome is the fact that hospitals outside the state capital do not have PPEs for health workers.

“In Azare, the second major town in the state, which has a federal hospital [Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Azare] and a general hospital, people in the town are bitterly complaining of the lack of preparedness of the hospitals to confront the challenges despite the fact that there are reported positive cases among the staff of the Federal Medical Centre, Azare, which has now thrown fear in the minds of the people in the area on their safety in attending the hospitals,” CITAD stated.

Adding to the fear, the statement noted, are reports that within one week, over a hundred people may have died in Azare and 16 Jamaare following hospitalisation at the FMC Azare. “People suspect not only a high level of infection among the hospital staff but that the whole environment of the hospital might have been contaminated. Again, this is not far-fetched as reports have put the number of staff who tested positive to COVID-19 in the FMC at nine, two doctors and seven nurses. This is in addition to the 12 medical doctors who have contracted the virus as announced by the State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Aliyu Maigoro,” said the statement.

CITAD also noted that the lack of strict observance of health advisories on hygiene and social distance as well as restrictions on movement are fundamental factors responsible for the spike in the rate of infection in the state.

The statement noted thus: “Although the security agencies are seen everywhere within the state capital and they work to ensure motorists use face mask, this effort is not extended to the other parts of the state, thus, limiting the impact of the initiative and exposing the majority of the state to danger.

“The government ban on inter-state movement is mere pronouncement without serious mechanisms to enforce it. As such, vehicles are seen loading in all the government recognized motor parks in Bauchi, Azare, Jamaare, Ningi to neighbouring states. Given the proximity to Kano and the high commercial and trade links between the Northern Bauchi State and Kano and the fact that the area is also the commercial gateway to the northeast, government should have been more circumspect on policing and enforcing the ban on inter-state travel.

“As it is, there is fear that this is providing a transmission chain for the fast spread of the virus in the state. Again, this is demonstrated by the facts. Only yesterday, the state recorded 44 confirmed cases, the largest number following Lagos, even larger than Kano. The day before that, the state was third following Lagos and Kano on the table of confirmed cases.”

Part of the reason for non-compliance to movement of people, CITAD said may be due to the absence of a workable palliative scheme even though a committee for that purpose is in place headed by the Emir of Bauchi. “Although the government has set up a huge body on palliatives headed by the Emir of Bauchi, it has no plan for palliatives. This is why the committee is yet to hit the ground working.

“One of the reasons why the government does not want to enforce total lockdown is that it has no plan for palliatives. This was made clear by the State Deputy Governor as early as two months ago, when the Governor was still in isolation. Yet in a twist of irony, the government that claims it has no money, has according to the State Commissioner of Agriculture, set aside N300 million for the procurement of agricultural inputs for farmers. Government has not shown concern for the health of the farmers but is planning to award contract in their names. The current partial lockdown in the state is a farce. Government should take measures to enforce total lockdown given the increasing spread of the virus which has transited to community infection.”

While appealing to all stakeholders in the state, particularly business leaders, community and religious leaders, academics, civil society and faith-based organisations to join forces and pool their resources together to support the efforts aimed at curtailing the COVID 19 pandemic in the state, CITAD called on the state government to, among other things, set up an independent committee to, in collaboration with the NCDC, investigate reports of recent deaths in some parts of the state as had been instituted recently in Kano State; ensure that the state’s Taskforce on Covid-19 provide the requisite protective kits and materials for the safety of healthcare personnel, set up multiple test centres for easier and faster testing and rigidly enforce the prohibition of interstate movement by partnering with the transport unions in the state.

CITAD also called on the government to without further delay enforce total lockdown in the state while also ensuring the emplacement of a workable palliative scheme, in addition to working with the state’s Council of Ulama to ensure that burial protocols as advised by both the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and the NCDC are observed.

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