Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi on Tuesday suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to spread to all states of the country.
Fayemi, who is also the Governor of Ekiti State, made the remark in a Skype interview on Politics Today.
Since February 27 when the Nigeria Centre For Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the country, the pandemic has spread to more states, including the Federal Capital Territory Abuja.
The virus has now been recorded in a total of 25 states.
Although several steps have been taken, including lockdowns and restriction of movement as well as gatherings in many states, Governor Fayemi believes the virus will continue to spread.
“From everything we’ve heard from NCDC, which is the specialist body in charge, there is nothing to suggest that it would not spread to all the 36 states,” he said. “So, we are in for a long ride.”
The trend and spread of the virus, which has now infected 665 people in the country and claimed 22 lives including that of the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, has left governors worried.
“We are very concerned. If you look at the number of times we met over the last one month. We’ve had five meetings which focused almost exclusively on COVID-19 and its spread and the concomitant economic effects on the Nigerian citizens,” Governor Fayemi said.
As a result, he said governors are trying to use all their capacity to fight the pandemic.
To complement the actions of the government, he called on Nigerians to play their part and follow directives and protocols.
“I don’t think we have reached the peak yet. So, Nigerians need to take this very seriously. This is not entertainment,” he warned.
‘Zero Testing Capacity’
There have been calls for increased testing as a way to fight the pandemic but there are several parts of the country where testing remains limited.
Governor Fayemi, who acknowledged the calls and need for testing, explained that his state is not able to do that currently.
He said, “The (testing) capacity in Ekiti State is Zero. We don’t have any testing capacity. When we have a suspected case, we send the sample to Ede which is the closest place to us here. We’ve just done so for the almost 70 contacts that the last case we had in Ekiti had been in contact with.”
According to the governor, sometimes, samples from suspected cases are sent to Abuja.
He, however, explained that the Governors Forum was working with the NCDC and with the support of private sector players to convert machines used to test for tuberculosis to COVID-19 testing machines.
In addition to this move, he said the NCDC is trying to ramp up the number of testing centres in the country.
Ultimately, the Governors Forum is trying to ensure that all states have testing capacity.
“For now, it is true that we are not testing enough,” he said. “There have been only about 8,000 tests from the record of the NCDC. If we have only 8,000 tests and we already have over 600, almost 700, of them testing positive, if you extrapolate from that, it is a worrisome number.”
Ekiti State has had four confirmed cases out of which two have recovered. Asked if the state government is reviewing its lockdown order, the governor answered in the negative.
“We haven’t reviewed our lockdown order,” he said. “We have another week to go on our lockdown order. We are actually tightening our border control, which is what was responsible for the entry of the person who tested positive recently in Ekiti State.
“She is Lagos-based. She came into Ekiti in the middle of the night and was delivered of her baby. Thankfully, the baby is safe and she is also recovering from her cardiac arrest.”
The Governor, however, pointed out that it was important to comply with the NCDC guidelines on the pandemic which recommends that people should stay at home and avoid travelling to other places.
“So, if you are in Ekiti, there is no reason why you should rush back to Katsina simply because you are from Katsina,” Governor Fayemi said. “It is best for you to stay in Ado-Ekiti where you are resident so that we can track those who have been infected by this coronavirus.”
Palliatives For The Vulnerable
With a lockdown in effect in Ekiti State, the state government had promised to provide palliatives to help people cope.
Providing an update on this, Governor Fayemi explained that although 20,000 people were targeted for palliatives in the first phase, over 40,000 homes have benefitted.
Asked if what has been done by the state is enough considering it has a population of over three million people, the governor stressed that the support wasn’t meant for all.
“We are only focused on the most vulnerable section of our population. And we’ve tried to reach those persons via a number of vehicles,” he said.
“Our local governments have undertaken the first phase of it. But we’ve not stopped there, we’ve also focused on reaching them through their associations – NURTW, the artisans, the people with disabilities, churches, mosques; we’ve used critical segments – traditional rulers.”