Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Friday, 1st August, 2014, advised the Federal Government to consider closing some of the nation’s borders to ensure that deadly Ebola Virus does not spread across the border to the country just as he commended the state Ministry of Health and all health workers in the state for their prompt response and professional conduct to ensure the prevention of the spread of the disease in the state when a victim of the Ebola Virus who flew in from Liberia died in a hospital in the state.
Fashola, who spoke to journalists at a media interaction at the Lagos House, Ikeja, also urged members of the Customs and Immigration Services at the nation’s borders to demonstrate professionalism in order to check spread of the deadly disease into the country.
The Governor, who commended the effort of the state Ministry of Health and all health workers as well as the First Consultants Hospital who had been working relentlessly on the issue, also thanked the telecom service providers for giving out toll free health lines for people to call government health services.
According to him, the men and women at the nation’s border posts; airports, seaports and land borders, especially men of the Customs and Immigration Services, should be conscious of their added responsibility as the first line of defence for the country against the deadly disease.
“Quite aside from localizing the spread, the men and women at our border posts, especially the Customs and the Immigration Services must now know that they are our first line of defence. What happens going forward depends on how professionally they act. It is prevention rather than just calling health workers to come and quarantine people that are really the strongest defence now against the migration of the virus”, the Governor said.
Fashola said the spread of the disease would be more easily contained if it is localized than to allow free entry of people at the nation’s numerous borders adding, “This is no longer a local problem; it is an international problem because it is being transmitted across the borders.
“From what I gather, unless the spread of the disease is localized, it becomes increasingly more difficult to stop its epidemic. We must make that choice now and consider it very seriously. It is a national security issue and I think we should give it the required attention”.
The Governor promised that the state government would continue to put out information on what the health risks and symptoms of the disease are adding that he had instructed the Ministry of Health to put on the Lagos State website an information he got on his e-mail from the Ministry so that people could read more about the risks of coming in contact with dead bodies of people who are infected adding, “That is a very potent risk”.
Urging Lagosians to be more careful, the Governor, who listed the other ways through which one could contact the disease to include fluid exchange like saliva, blood, sweat and other body fluids, excreta and others, added, “This is also the time to seriously shut down on public urination, they have serious health risks”.
“We have also been appealing against public defecation. This is the time to really stop it now that we know the serious health risks”, Fashola said adding that government considered cremation as the best way to dispose of the body of the Liberian victim.
The Governor recalled that when his administration promulgated the Cremation Law people were saying all kinds of things pointing out that his response and explanation at that time was that Lagos has become an international city where people from different cultures and tradition have come to live as their home.
“Apart from the fact that I said it was not compulsory to cremate anybody; it is going to be a matter of choice, but if people who are used to cremate bodies in their country come to live here, they must be able to get the kind of facility they get in their country in our country”, the Governor said.
He added, “But it has become useful now as a service to also prevent the spread of disease. This is a health and safety issue. It lies at the core of our responsibility to protect life and property. It is not just physical security that is the security of life and property, it is also health security.
“So there must be all hands on the board. People must embrace more contemporary health standards; wash their hands regularly with soap and water. They should stop indiscriminate dispersal of human waste. People should stop urinating in public places; it must stop. Health workers should be on the highest alert”.
Noting that the ministry has finished the decontamination of the hospital where the body of the Ebola victim was kept, Fashola said the hospital would get the global certification that is necessary at the appropriate time for it to reopen adding that so far some of the people who had contact with the victim have been tested and so far all the tests conducted have proven negative.
He added, however, “But we are not resting. We heard news of the body of another victim brought to another part of the country from Liberia. So there is still need to be vigilant especially monitoring our border post security by Customs and Immigration and to act professionally to report every incident that they suspect.
“Let us check everything. We won’t dismiss anything. It is our problem to check; we will not be tired of checking”, he said adding, however that people must take the responsibility to notify the government of any suspected case. “All the health flyers have been put out there”, he said.
Urging the media to also help in the campaign, especially, that of hand washing and general public enlightenment to stem panic, Fashola declared, “You cannot wash your hands too often now. Help us carry that message along. Help us also contain the panic, people should not panic, they should remain calm. We have very good professionals working on this, both at the Federal and State levels. That said, I think all will be well”.
On the constant rainfall and the flood phenomenon, Fashola who noted that rainfall is a seasonal thing, however, drew attention to the fact that unlike before when such constant down pour caused flooding in many parts of the State, no such case has been reported across the State in spite of the persistent rainfall in the last three weeks.
“I think that it is important to remind people that a few years back if we had rain for a continuous week, we would already have stories of houses taken over by flood, children swept away; but that is now a distant memory. I recall Idi-Araba, for example; by the time it rained for a few days, the place would have been flooded. But that is now all in the past”, the Governor said.
According to him, “Idi-Araba is now flood-free; it has been channelized, all the roads that used to flood have been rebuilt by this government. The canal has been opened up and channelized. There are still challenges ahead on the coast; areas like Awoyaya for example on the coast from Goshen Beach. I announced that about three years ago that we were having some coastal challenges.
“But we have started the protection work that I told you then that it is a five-year project that will cost the government some thirty something billion Naira. Year-on-year we have carried-on on our own and the work has been done now. Goshen Beach is now safe”, he said adding that the slow-down of the erosion is already in place as sand is accruing instead of being taken away.
Fashola urged Lagosians who want to build houses or estates to contact the Government in order to be instructed properly where to and where not to build pointing out that there are natural flood plains where building should not be constructed for the fact that flood pass through such channels when it rains.
Also present at the media interaction were the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Aderemi Ibirogba; the Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Raji; and his counterpart on Media, Mr. Hakeem Bello.