The Lagos State Government on Monday, 1st September, 2014, received from communications conglomerate, MTN Nigeria, a donation of protective materials and equipment towards the containment of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) with the Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, assuring Lagosians that progress is being made towards the full containment of the deadly disease in the state.
Governor Fashola, who took delivery of the materials at the Conference Room of the Lagos House, Alausa, also urged Nigerians not to stigmatize persons who have been successfully treated and confirmed free of the Ebola Virus Disease by the state medical team.
He also said the state would abide by the new date of 14th October, 2014, as set by the Federal Government for the resumption of schools in the country adding, however, that more rigorous discussions involving all the stakeholders ought to have been made before the decision was taken.
The materials donated by MTN Nigeria include protective kits like elbow-length gloves, knee boots, rubber apron, among others and sanitizers for health givers and related health workers at the isolation centre and other members of the health team, in addition to the donation of call centres by the company for receiving emergency Ebola Alert calls from effected person and their relations and friends.
Expressing gratitude to MTN Nigeria for the gesture, Governor Fashola said the priority of government is to contain the spread of the virus in order to prevent any outbreak of the disease adding that although the state is not yet free from the disease it has gained more control than when it started.
The Governor, however, said there is need to increase the human capacity in order to be more effective in the efforts to give adequate treatment to those in isolation and also to reach all contacts for proper monitoring adding that the major concern of the government is to ensure that the situation remains firmly under control in the State.
In his words, “The health team accepts this gesture, but I also wish to use this opportunity to reiterate, as I said in my broadcast a fortnight ago, that while we understand and appreciate the humanitarian concerns that propel this kind of gesture, the real problem is the sufficiency of experienced virologists and Ebola specialists in managing this and when the sub-Region, as it were, is challenged on many fronts, that capacity thins out”.
According to Governor Fashola, what government needs more than ever now is human capacity. “It is not an equipment problem; it is a human capacity problem”, the Governor said adding, “We are at a stage where, as I said before, we do not need to panic. Ebola Virus is not a death sentence”.
Noting that a lot of knowledge is being gained on a daily basis about the behaviour of the virus including its various types and life cycle, the Governor said the knowledge is helping scientists to prepare even better to respond to the virus adding that it has helped in the management procedure that the health team has been able to put in place here.
“What that does is also that we remain, for now and sadly Port Harcourt too, the first two urban centres where the virus has broken out in the history of more than four decades. So what we have done here and what Port Harcourt will do will become definitive for improving knowledge about how to contain the virus in an urban centre not just the Ebola Virus but many other epidemics that have broken out across the world”, he said.
The Governor, who also noted that managing the disease in an urban centre is governed by many dynamics as against the rural centres, added that what is happening in Lagos now provides a learning opportunity for the government and a knowledge-sharing experience.
He affirmed that eight confirmed victims of Ebola Virus Disease have recovered under the management of the government health team and in collaboration with health officials of the Federal Government in Lagos “in a very self-respecting and professional team.
“We have had some fatalities, unfortunately, and we still have two patients in isolation and a number of people who are suspected contacts who are under surveillance which means we are in daily contacts with them”, the Governor said adding that such people are daily visited and monitored by the Health team.
Noting that oftentimes many of the contacts turn out to be negative, the Governor declared, “But this is the brutal work that must be done, to check and double check every possible contact. The paradigm for managing this is containment first and treatment later; we must not get to epidemic proportion, if we get that we will lose control and in that sense we are making progress.
“Week by week, as I said a fortnight ago, we begin to see how many people we clear from this; that is the hard work we must do, phoning people, contacting them to take their temperature and ensure that they follow the rules by staying at home during the period. So, in that respect, we have gained substantial control”, he said.
Governor Fashola said although Lagos is not yet free from the Virus but Government has gained “a lot more control than it had two weeks ago and more control two weeks ago than it had four weeks ago”, adding that the capacity to contain it is clearly improving on a daily basis.
The Governor urged Nigerians not to stigmatize people who have been confirmed cured of the Ebola Virus Disease by the sState’s health team pointing out that the State has not come out with names of those confirmed cured because it is a matter of practice in epidemic situations when people are being treated not to disclose their identities.
According to him, cultural dispositions in this part of the world also makes it very challenging to make such disclosures, adding that the state government is looking at the possibility of facilitating interaction of those who have successfully recovered from the disease with members of the public which would allow people to connect names with faces of victims as a means of authenticating the fact that contracting the virus is not an automatic death sentence.
Reiterating that there is no cause to panic, the Governor, however, added, “But we must proceed with very cautious optimism because we have been able to track down every case and every case has been logged on to the original case. So we do not have any Ebola Virus disease of unknown origin and that is important for its containment”.
He thanked MTN Nigeria for the gesture which he noted has been the tradition that the State Government has come to associate with the company especially in matters of health issue adding that the government and people of Lagos have also benefited from the company in the past in the provision of dialysis machines and in partnerships in matters of Education.
“For me, those are the critical pillars of building our human capital”, he said.
Governor Fashola paid glowing tribute to the health workers who, according to him, “stood to be counted at the time of the most dire need; at the time when there was fear’, adding, “And, I must tell you, there was fear in the highest level of government. But in spite of those fears, some people stood up to be counted; to lead the way”.
Earlier in his remarks, Chairman of MTN Nigeria, Dr. Paschal Dozie, said the gesture was in appreciation of the state government’s commendable efforts in containing the Ebola Virus Disease adding that the proactive steps of the administration was profound and worthy of praise.
“The reaction was profound, dignified and heroic. You behaved as if you were waiting for it to happen”, the Chairman said adding that if it had happened in any other state of the federation, the nation would, perhaps, have had an epidemic on its hands.
In an interactive session with journalists, Governor Fashola explained that the state believes that there should have been more rigorous debate about the decision to shift the date of resumption of schools by the Federal Government but that since the prognosis seems to suggest that the nation would be out of the scourge by the new date, the state government would pitch its tent on the side of caution.
Recalling that the state has already set its official resumption date for Monday, 15th September, 2014, the Governor, however, said Government would still abide with the new date adding that there is need for a more rigorous discussion and evaluation of the risks.
“Let us also not forget how this disease works, that it is not airborne that you need to be sick to transmit it and so on. Ultimately the reality is that if you are sick sufficiently to be in a transmitting mode you would not be able to go to school. Every sense of precaution at this moment must be taken in terms of sanitation, hygiene and all of that and reducing human contacts as much as it is possible until we can say that the coast is clear”, he said.
The Governor reiterated that the issue of new resumption date also brings to the fore a need for the country to think along the line of having a unified resumption date nationwide as Lagos has just recently done adding that if all the states agree to write JAMB, WAEC and Common Entrance examinations at the same time it would be unreasonable to resume at different dates.
”It, perhaps, raises some fundamental question about the things we have left undone and that in terms of crises we can all agree that this is the new resumption date and nobody is doing something contrary behind”, he added.
On the possibility of exterminating bats in the country, Governor Fashola said Nigerians have been living with bats from time immemorial and that they exist in many places including the compound of his residence without any incidence of Ebola Virus until it was imported.
“Why should we adopt the knee jerk approach? Before we react to our bats, we have to first do some studies and I think the people who study bird movement must see if we have migratory bats and if we indeed have them. Then perhaps we then begin to find out whether bats from any part of Nigeria migrates to places outside Nigeria and there is a lot of work to be done here before we begin to start kicking ourselves in the knee and say go and drive bats”, he emphasized.
Also present at the occasion were members of the State Executive Council including the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr. Lanre Babalola; the state Head of Service, Mrs. Oluseyi Williams; state Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Ayo Gbeleyi; state Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. Wale Ahmed; and Special Adviser to the Governor on Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Raji, among others.