The Edo State Government has taken serious steps to ward off the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state, with the Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, holding extended meetings with traditional rulers, religious leaders and grassroots politicians at the weekend to harmonise strategies aimed at safeguarding the public.
The governor said Edo State was adopting the strategy of consulting these leaders because of their strong connection with the grassroots and people across all spectra of the society as well as their effectiveness in passing information and eliciting effective action to stem falsehood and panic among the people.
He said some of the actions taken include extensive consultation with traditional, religious and political leaders for intensified sensitization; setting up of isolation centres across the three senatorial districts of the state and updating of health workers’ training to deal with the peculiarities of COVID-19. Others are the reactivation of the state’s contact tracing mechanism earlier used to contain other infectious diseases such as Lassa Fever, and a strong emphasis on rigorous screening at ports of entry into the state.
Members of the Edo State Traditional Council were led to the Government House by his Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II. Others are Vice Chairman of the Council and Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru Momoh and the 2nd Vice Chairman of the council and Enogie of Opoji, His Royal Highness Aidenojie Ehidiamen.
Present at the meeting with religious leaders were Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Edo State Chapter, Oriname Oyenude; President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Felix Omobude; ECWA/TEKAN Chairman, Rev. Lucky Osagbokhoe; President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Benin, Augustine Akubeze; Chief Imam of the Benin Central Mosque, Alhaji Fatai Enabulele and Chairman OAIC, Apostle General Irekpono Omoike, among others.
According to him, “We have invaluable experience in managing infectious diseases in Edo State, especially with the management of periodic Lassa Fever outbreaks. As a result, the state government has, for the purpose of containing an outbreak of COVID-19 in the state, reactivated its isolation centres in the three senatorial districts in the state, including those at the Stella Obasanjo Hospital; Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH) and General Hospital, Auchi.
“The state’s contact tracing network has also been re-activated to ensure that epidemiologists are on the standby to attend to any case that may arise. The state is also updating the training of health workers at the local and state governments levels, to ensure that they are well-prepared to manage cases, without endangering themselves.
“There is rigorous temperature testing system established across the state in collaboration with medical and paramedical organisations. This is in recognition of the fact that the state is a major transportation hub with constant inflow of people. Temperature tests are conducted on passengers at the Benin Airport and motor parks across the state. The strategy is such that those whose final destination is Edo State and others commuting through the state are subjected to temperature tests.”
On the availability of testing centres to confirm suspected cases of the virus, he said, “We have a major advantage with the ISTH located in the state, which has a laboratory certified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for testing for the coronavirus.
“Moreover, our preparations for the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival (NSF) gave the state a head start in preparation for management of public health emergencies, as necessary equipment and gadgets are in place to address any suspected case of the COVID-19.”
He noted, however, that citizens and residents should avoid large gatherings and that if it becomes necessary to shut down worship centres, the decision would be made in the interest of public safety.
“As part of the meetings with religious leaders in the state, we have partnered with relevant health agencies, including WHO, Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and the State Ministry of Health, to train church workers on how to manage large crowds, conduct screenings and temperature tests, among other necessary measures. Teams would be sent to church premises and other worship places to ensure social distancing is observed,” he added.
He said that the State Executive Council (EXCO) has been broken into sub-committees to brainstorm and proffer short, medium and long term measures needed to strengthen the state’s response mechanism in the face of the adverse effect of COVID-19 outbreak on the socio-economic wellbeing of the state.
“To this end, an emergency EXCO session would be convened on Monday to harmonise the multi-sectorial response plan and present the necessary actions to Edo people.”