By; ISMAILA UBA MISILLI
True to type, the Gombe State Governor, Alhaji Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya did not waste time in swinging into action immediately the news of the Covid-19 outbreak started to filter into the country as he has vowed to do all humanly possible to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of the residents of Gombe State notwithstanding the magnitude of the challenge or obstacle at hand.
Indeed ever since the inception of his administration, Governor Inuwa Yahaya has led the way in positively transforming the lives of the people in the social, economic and infrastructural sectors, turning the tide against years of monumental graft, infrastructural decay, stagnation in the civil service, dilapidated health and educational facilities and rising levels of poverty and socio-economic malaise perpetrated by the past administration.
Thus, it was with archetypal alacrity that Governor Inuwa Yahaya convened a series of top level meetings involving key health personnel and experts, government functionaries in which crucial decisions and policies were formulated with directives issued to health care providers, the civil service establishment and the general populace in order to nip in the bud any imminent threat to public health and the physical wellbeing of the citizenry at large.
The Governor had earlier directed the state Ministry of Health to mobilize its Rapid Response Team and place the emergency operations centre on high alert. The government has since commenced intensive community enlightenment, sensitisation and mobilisation towards prevention in the state and massive IEC materials were distributed statewide. The government had also procured PPEs and required consumables for management of cases and health workers are being trained.
To underscore the seriousness with which the Governor takes the covid-19 issue, Governor Yahaya delivered a statewide address and thereafter inaugurated a 21-member committee under the chairmanship of a renowned immunologist and professor of infectious diseases, Prof. Idris Mohammed with the following terms of reference:1. Assess the situation in the state in terms of the risk of the outbreak occurrence and design a response plan to prevent, contain and mitigate the consequences of such outbreak2. Identify a suitable isolation center (s) for the management of moderate to severe form of Covid 19 and equip such center (s) with required equipment including ventilators3. Ensure the availability of necessary consumables and other medical supplies critical for the management of Covid 19 outbreak in the state4. Identify and recommend to the Government a Laboratory facility in the state for upgrading to a Covid 19 compatible Public health Laboratory for testing of suspected cases5. Coordinate a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder response to the containment of the Pandemic6. Mobilize resources required for the Covid 19 response in the state7. Facilitate the training of relevant health care workers in the State on the management and containment of Covid 198. Design and Implement risk Communication strategies including robust community engagement, sensitization and mobilization of the general public and community leaders to minimize the impact of the outbreak9. Recommend to the Government other measures needed to strengthen the state’s health system capacity to respond effectively and adequately to emergency situations in the future10. Provide weekly update and report to the Executive Governor and the Executive Council on the situation (Covid 19 response)
Having solidified the medical front against any untoward health infractions, Governor Inuwa Yahaya met separately with religious leaders, traditional rulers and local Government Secretaries in an apparent move to carry along leaders across various sectors of the society to ensure that the proactive effort of his administration against the dreaded coronavirus is inclusive and enjoys the support of all and sundry.
The meetings held in strict compliance with protective measures, including observing hand sanitizing and social distancing.
Governor Yahaya, during the meeting informed the leaders on measures taken by his administration to guard against the spread of the virus in the state, including directing the immediate closure of schools, restricting gatherings that involve large number of people. The general public were urged to embrace social distancing, shun physical contact, engage in constant washing of hands and avoid persons prone to coughing or high temperature levels.
Also the Governor used the occasions to encourage the citizenry to report any suspected case(s) of COVID-19 to the nearest health facility or by utilising the emergency hotlines provided by the Taskforce while any violations of the directives against mass gatherings should be channeled to the appropriate authorities.
The Gombe State owned media organs, the Gombe State Radio and GMTV went into high gear with constant hourly jingles spreading the COVID-19 prevention messages across the length and breadth of the state in both Hausa and English.
Indeed civic awareness is just as important as the medical emergency measures adopted because ignorance, fear, superstition and misinformation are as dangerous in spreading contagion and confusion as the virus itself.
Meanwhile, the Taskforce set up by the Governor has already swung into action in line with His Excellency’s directives. At a press briefing, the state Commissioner of Health, Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Gana disclosed that the committee is considering shutting down any section of or the whole state once a case is confirmed. “We would rather shut down and suffer than to have the virus spread and kill us all”.
He assured that the state is on red alert with the activation of a response team in the 11 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state, “with the state-level response team to coordinate activities of responding to emergencies and suspected cases.“We are in the process of equipping our isolation centre in the state specialist hospital. We have also converted a hospital built by Yamaltu-Deba LGA in Kwadon community, which was handed over to the state government for upgrading to a cottage hospital, to an isolation centre for management of mild and moderate cases of COVID-19,” Dr Gana said, adding that more hospitals are being identified and converted to isolation centres, while the task force is working on building the capacity of the state to be able to detect and test suspected cases without travelling out to Abuja.
He urged residents to “stay safe and observe all precautionary measures outlined, while also avoiding rumour-mongering. These rumors are capable of killing people, let’s face the reality of COVID-19 as it is not a joking matter,” the health commissioner added.
Undoubtedly with the preventive and proactive measures adopted so far by the Government, it can be safety said that Gombe State is well prepared to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic as the government and the people are virtually on the same page as far as testing, treatment, prevention and safety measures are concerned. Much of this healthy scenario can be traced to the humanitarian and benevolent posture of Governor Inuwa yahaya who from day one has never hidden his unvarnished love and affection for the people of the state particularly the down trodden segments of the society.
The Governor’s timely, decisive, and multi-pronged proactive approach towards the COVID-19 pandemic is an adjunct of his political ideology and leadership desiderata; to transform the welfare and wellbeing of the people for the better as vividly encapsulated in his manifestos.
Ismaila Uba Misilli is the Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to the Gombe State Governor