Lagos State is now safe, secure and ready to receive more tourists as a destination of choice to relax, live and transact business following the successful containment of the Ebola Virus Disease.
This assertion was made at the Oriental Hotel, Lekki in an address delivered by the state Deputy Governor, Hon (Mrs) Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire who stood in for Governor Babatunde Fashola, SAN at the “Lagos Welcomes Visitors” interactive session with journalists, members of the diplomatic corps and operators of the hospitality business.
She added that the interactive programme is about assuring the partners of the government in the hospitality sector that the state government is more than prepared now to do all that is necessary to make the business of the hospitality partners more rewarding.
She stressed that Lagos State Government can now beat its chest and declare that the state has been secured and that the health sector has been strengthened to cope with any kind of emergencies more than before.
The state also expressed appreciation to the members of the diplomatic corps, the World Health Organisation and the Federal Government for partnering with the state government in the successful efforts to contain the EVD scourge.
In his presentation, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris said when the number of people who tested positive which was 20 and the number who died are compared with cases from other parts of the world; the Lagos cases had the lowest mortality rate.
He added that it was realized that contrary to widely held beliefs, Ebola was not a death sentence, but that a lot of people survived provided the cases were presented early and not hidden till it became worse.
He said even in the Lagos case, all the health workers used by the State Government survived the disease because very strict protocols prescribed by the Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation were followed.
Dr Idris added that during the period also, Lagos State recorded early containment success because the hospital where the index case was taken to was very vigilant and thorough in not allowing the patient to be discharged despite pressures until the tests were followed through.
The Commissioner stated that another issue which the government had to contend with but which it tackled frontally was stigmatization which also instilled fear in many people suspected of having the disease not willing to own up for treatment.
He stressed that part of the measures taken by the government was the personal decision of the Governor to publicly host the survivors and demonstrate that those who have recovered and tested negative can indeed live normal and productive life without any fear of infecting their neighbours, families or colleagues.
He informed that the state also disinfected the premises of the First Consultants Hospital where the index case was treated several times and has ensured that the outfit is open for business once again after putting behind the travails of the Ebola disease.
Dr Idris said the state believes that as long as some West African countries still have Ebola cases, the country and nation may not be out of the woods yet, adding that the government has decided that all the structures it has put in place must still remain in place.
“We are still sensitizing people, we will continue to do that and ensure that everyone must be vigilant, alert. We will continue to strengthen the points of entry and luckily the Federal Government has taken that up while we will continue to train and retrain people.
“We have formed a core research group in the Ministry of Health. We are working hand in hand with a group in USA first to deal with some of these cases. In Lagos about 9 people survived. These people have serum and antibodies which we can research upon. This is where we can build capacity and there is a whole fertile ground for research”, he stressed.
Dr Idris also hinted of plans to upgrade the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba to different segments that will cater for highly infectious diseases like Ebola and Whooping Cough separately, adding that the State will increase the diagnostic capability of the facility in terms of diagnosis and laboratory.
While speaking on the impact of Ebola on the hospitality business, the General Manager of Wheatbaker Hotel, Mr Simon Grinrod congratulated the Lagos State Government for the extraordinary efforts and determination made in containing the spread of the disease.
He explained that while the Ebola scourge lasted in Nigeria, the managers of the hospitality businesses took some precautionary measures to safeguard the health of their guests.
He added that they embarked upon the checking and monitoring of imported goods such as consumables brought in by foreigners who lodged with them adding that the Ministry of Tourism was always meeting with them and keeping them informed of efforts of government in containing the disease.
Grinrod stated that the whole sector was impacted by an average of 35 percent decrease in international patronage and had to rely on local patronage during the period.
At an interactive session which also featured as part of the event, the state Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr Wale Ahmed said as part of efforts to ensure that Ebola is decisively checked in the Continent, Lagos State is putting together a team of volunteers to go and assist the people of Sierra Leone on how to put an end to the spread.
He added that about 28 professionals on whom all precautionary measures such as life insurance covers have been taken would be sent to Sierra- Leone, adding that the State would however have to work with the Federal Government because it is a Sovereign issue.
While responding to a question on measures in place to respond to such emergencies in future, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris said all the structures put in place now would not be dismantled but would be upgraded.
He informed that the Emergency Operation Centre is still functioning although some of the external staff have been coming and going but members of the Nigerian team are still in place just as the epidemiology unit is still intact.
He also stated that in a couple of days now, a team from the Yale University in United States would be coming to town to conduct training for Nigerians on infection prevention and control and that the training would be cascaded down to different categories.
In his contribution, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Lateef Ibirogba said the preparedness and commitment of the state government to prevent a recurrence of Ebola could be seen from the decision to train school pupils on hygiene by bringing it back into their curriculum as it was in days gone by.
Earlier in his address of welcome, the state Commissioner for Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations, Mr Oladisun Holloway commended the operators of the tourism sector for their unshakeable confidence in the Nigerian business environment.
He added that the successful containment of the Ebola would only reinvigorate the confidence of the Nigerian and Lagos State Government to responsively respond to such medical emergencies in the future.
The event attracted members of the diplomatic corps and both foreign and local operators of hospitality outfits in Lagos State.