Kano’s gain from COVID-19 pains

Kano was in the news again last week, this time, for the right reason.

The state was commended by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control for its positive response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The NCDC singled out Kano for praise for carrying out more tests than other states in the country.

Speaking on a live TV programme, the NCDC Director-General, Chikwe Ihekweazu disclosed that the state has made a giant recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There was a time on this programme (PTF on COVID-19 briefing) where everyone was criticizing Kano for their slow response. I recall that the biggest team we have ever sent to any state was in Kano.

“Kano State rose to the challenge and invested millions of naira. Today, Kano is testing more than any state in Nigeria and they are not finding as many cases anymore. We are confident of their response,” Ihekweazu said.

He revealed that the NCDC was quite impressed with the state’s giant stride.

“If you think about how we were talking about Kano a month ago compared to now, it is incredible. It shows that we can turn things around in certain states if we work together across federal, states, partners and whatever lines we use to distinguish ourselves.

“That is really what I keep offering every state in Nigeria to work together and protect the health of Nigerians irrespective of the state they are living,” he said.

This is no doubt a great stride for the Kano State government.

On August 3, NCDC reported that Kano recorded no new case of COVID-19 and discharged an additional 12 patients that have recovered from the infection having been treated at the treatment centres in the state.

According to the NCDC, as of August 3, Kano has tested 34,510 samples and has a total of 1,597 confirmed cases. The state has 274 active cases and has treated and discharged 1,270 recovered patients. Its official recorded total number of COVID-19 related deaths was also put at 53.

Considering the situation of things in Kano some couple of months back which made many Nigerians feared COVID-19 situation in the state could get out of hand, the statistics are not bad.

It would be recalled that when Kano recorded its index COVID-19 case on April 11, 2020, the challenges posed by COVID-19 to the state did not initially kick in.

There were even reports of the locals in different communities in the state chanting “Babu Corona” (COVID-19 does not exist) and “COVID will not survive in Kano.” 

All efforts to make the people realise how dangerous COVID-19 seems to fell on deaf ears.

The people went about their lives as if nothing as change with little or no regard for personal hygiene, social distancing and other NCDC guidelines on COVID-19.

Three weeks after the announcement of the index case, COVID-19 cases in the state skyrocketed to a little above 300, with several reports suggesting that the official figures may not even be a true reflection of the COVID-19 situation in the state. This was because of reports of increasing cases of unexplained deaths in the state.

At a point, the Presidential Task on COVID-19 identified Kano as the second epicentre of COVID-19 in Nigeria after Lagos.

As of May 5, 2020, Kano has recorded 342 active cases of the novel coronavirus and recorded 8 deaths.

While Kano was making news daily in Nigeria for the way it was managing the viral pandemic, the international media did not also spare the state.

On May 17, the New York Times reported that dozens of doctors were infected and gravediggers were overwhelmed in Kano, where inaction led to an unchecked outbreak.

The paper reported that “In the northern Nigerian city of Kano, some people say they now get four or five death notices on their phones each day: A colleague has died. A friend’s aunt. A former classmate.

“The gravediggers of the city, one of the biggest in West Africa, say they are working overtime. And so many doctors and nurses have been infected with the coronavirus that few hospitals are now accepting patients.

“Officially, Kano has reported 753 cases and 33 deaths attributed to the virus. But in reality, the metropolis is experiencing a major, unchecked outbreak, according to doctors and public health experts. It could be one of the continent’s worst,” the publication stated.

This makes the turn-around in the fortune of the state as it concerns the management of COVID-19 quite commendable. 

The Kano turn-around, it must be stated was because the state government faced the challenge frontally and got all stakeholders in the state, including people in the community to work together to tackle the viral pandemic.

In early June, the team led by Kano State Incidence Manager for COVID-19, Dr. Tijani Hussaini sought help from community leaders in Zango and Dorayi wards, two major socio-political hubs in the Kano Municipal Council and Gwale Local Government Areas respectively.

It was a calculated attempt by the team in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to launch and extend the pilot sample collection from those two regions.

The effort worked as the wards recorded the highest COVID-19 positive cases from increased testing.

On June 12, Kano activated two more laboratories to expand the testing capacity in the state.

The new additions, which was jointly donated by stakeholders and corporate organisations brought the total number of COVID-19 testing centres in Kano to five.

Kano has not just turned the corner as regards COVID-19 containment, the number of confirmed cases in the state has steadily been going down.

Clearly, other states in the country have one or two things to learn from Kano (and by extension Lagos) in terms of scaling up testing capacity and COVID-19 containment. Increasing testing capacity is more than crucial to defeating this viral pandemic. 

While the NCDC must be commended for working with Kano, the agency should also work with other states to replicate this model that brought good result in Kano.

With the gradual lifting of lockdown for schools and religious centres, state governments should know that the task of containing COVID-19 rest on them and not the NCDCD.

 State governments should, therefore, put measures in place to ensure strict compliance with the NCDC guidelines by all stakeholders.

As long as there is no approved preventive vaccine or curative drug for COVID-19, all Nigerians must embrace the guidelines of NCDC aimed at halting the spread of this viral pandemic.

COVID-19 is still a big public health emergency. However, it is a public health challenge that can be surmounted with everyone working in tandem with NCDC guidelines and complying with safety preventive measures.

As Kano has shown, containing the viral pandemic is a task that is achievable.

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