Fashola To Lagosians: We Need Your Support, Cooperation To Contain Ebola (Full Text Of Address)


Dear Lagosians,

As you must now be aware, we are facing perhaps our biggest challenge to public health and the safety of human lives at this moment with the discovery of the Ebola virus in our state.

This poses a threat to the primary purpose of our Government which is to save lives.

This address has become necessary to respond to a series of text messages, e-mails and telephone calls that I have received in order to reiterate some of what you may already know, to share information about what you may not know, and to keep everybody safe.

This has become the moreso in the light of allegations that are making the rounds, either that victims are being neglected, or that a useful drug or vaccine is being rejected or that there is a shortage of funds.

I wish to state very categorically that none of these is true.

What is true is that we should perhaps never have been in this situation, but we are now in it.
What is true is that the Ebola virus did not break out from within Nigeria, it was imported into Nigeria.

What is true is that we have followed all the contacts that we know who have had primary and secondary contacts with the patient who imported the virus into our state, or with people who had contact with him.

Because we had to react to an unexpected situation, we had to react in a proper and methodical way, according to acceptable global health standards.

I can now tell you that in the last one week, with the help and advice of our technical partners, such as the World Health Organisation, the Centre for Disease Control and the Medecins Sans Frontiers, who have tracked this virus and studied it for decades, our response is a lot better than when the news first broke; and our capacity is increasing daily.

Although we have suffered very painful losses of lives, I think it is fair to say that we are not yet at an epidemic stage and we are determined to do everything not to get to that stage; because of the grave consequences to the safety of human lives.

We have provided information to the public on all state-owned media, while the private media have commendably joined in this effort. There is also information available on the social media platform.

Since Monday last week, precisely on the 11th of August, I commenced meetings on an almost daily basis with stakeholders in our society, religious leaders, traditional rulers, market men and women, community development associations, to brief them of the risk, to re-assure them that we are daily gaining control, to advise them and all of you to be cautious but not to panic.

My view of the fact that we are gaining control, is informed by verifiable facts that I receive daily from our health workers that all the cases of those who have either unfortunately died, or those who are sick, and those who are contacts under surveillance are directly traceable to the imported case.

There is also now the news that a confirmed victim has fully recovered, which reinforces the advice from our experts that it is not an automatic death sentence.

This is encouraging news from which our containment strategy can profit greatly; because it means that we do not have any case of unknown origin, which will raise the risk of an epidemic.

Dear Lagosians, the challenge of managing the Ebola virus is big but our resolve to contain and defeat it is bigger.

That resolve is demonstrated by the courage shown by the first set of health workers at state and federal levels who stood up to be counted, and the leadership of the state and federal Ministries of Health with the support of our international partners.

In spite of fear, they stood up to be counted at a time of grave danger.

We should salute their courage, professionalism, patriotism and humanitarian disposition.

They are the heroes and heroines that we have looked for for a long time. I cannot thank them enough.

While we are doing everything to assure their safety and to give them confidence to proceed; I want to passionately appeal that we must not do anything to distract them or demotivate them.

What they need now is our encouragement and support to gain even stronger control of the situation.

What they do not need are rumours and the distractions that they can bring with them.

I appreciate the concerns and anxiety that friends and relatives of sick victims must be going through. I assure you that our thoughts and prayers are with you.

I understand that you expect special care for your loved ones, and this is to be expected.
I assure you that they are receiving the best care that the experts have recommended to us, given the circumstances; because they say that this is the best way to proceed especially because experienced personnel in Ebola containment and management have always been a challenge.

What will be helpful to the situation now is additional medical personnel, who are willing to volunteer to join hands with those on the frontline.

But the experts also caution that those who sign up cannot immediately start to participate in the isolation ward, where sick people are being treated, no matter how qualified and experienced they are.

They must undergo a few days of training by our international body of advisers and understand the protocol for operation in the isolation ward for their own safety, and the sustenance of the containment plan to stop the virus from spreading.

To those who are seeking to do brisk business from this situation, I offer a word of caution and re-assessment. This is not our way.
I must also say to those who are seeking to raise funds that we appreciate your concerns but we are not yet at a fund raising stage and I cannot foresee that eventuality.

For now, the state has enough resources to fund everything that is needed. This is what your taxes can do in emergencies. Our House of Assembly has thankfully approved a request for any needed expenditure.

The President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the Honourable Minister for Health have shown the appropriate level of concern about the national and global risks that this poses and I am sure they will provide funds should we be unable to do so, if we ask for it.

The combined team of State and Federal personnel, our international partners, are daily sharing information with the public and the Federal Government about the status of the patients and contacts in a transparent way, and we should all please listen to them. They are the ones who have the facts.

What all of us must do is to follow all their advice, especially about reporting any suspected cases and about increasing our personal hygiene by constant washing of our hands with soap and water.

We should stop unhygienic practices of urinating in public and defaecating in public because those are body fluids and waste through which the virus is known to thrive.

This new week, starting from today and the next one, will be the sharpest part of the curve that we expect to negotiate.

Last week we cleared a total of 61 (SIXTY ONE) contacts after the 21 days surveillance which is the known lifespan of the virus.

These people were not sick. They were persons who needed to be monitored because of real or suspected contacts to be certain that they did not eventually fall sick.

We cautiously wait to see how many more people will be cleared and hope that there will be no new cases.

Nevertheless, our strategy is to prepare for the worst by making plans to expand the facility to take any new cases, while we hope for the best.

There is a lot to do, and we need your collaboration to remain focused on containment and treatment.

Finally, I will like to say that this is the first time that the virus has infected people in an urban centre. It is a steep learning curve for everybody but it presents a huge opportunity for us as a people to show the world how to overcome it.

With your support and understanding, we will do no less, because we intend to overcome and defeat this threat.

Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN Governor of Lagos State.

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