Plateau is among Nigerian States that have yet to record a case of coronavirus disease. This is because the Governor Simon Lalong administration has remained “proactive” in dealing with the disease from the onset.
In the early days of the disease, when some Chinese nationals came to the State, Government immediately isolated and investigated their health statuses. Since then, the State has maintained surveillance and networks to track and tackle the disease. Top among these efforts is the activation of a Public Health Emergency Operation Centre to monitor and receive up-to-date information from all 17 Local Government Areas in the State.
As the Nigerian cases increased, Government provided isolation facilities in urban and suburban hospitals with ventilators for treatment. This it did as it closed all schools from pre-primary to tertiary level in the State to prevent pupils and students from contracting and/or spreading the virus.
While increasing media sensitization, an enlightenment meeting of government officials and religious, traditional and community leaders, civil society, non-governmental organisations as well as health experts was held.
As part of agreements reached at the meeting, Government suspended all festivals and anniversaries. It also directed all worship centres and important public events to reduce congregation to not more than 50 persons with a 2-metre sitting interval. This they were directed to do while providing running water and soap for hand washing and sanitizers for public use.
Though there were few cases of resistance in some areas, the move relatively kept the State safe from the disease in spite of its links to other States that have recorded cases. The battle is still on and the State is not relaxing its guard.
Effective from Wednesday 25th March 2020, all public servants in the State from Grade levels 12 and below have been directed to work from home. Only workers offering essential services such as security, health, media, street cleaners and water supply and energy are exempted.
Also, government directed all markets to close effective 25th March 2020. Only traders selling food items, pharmaceuticals and cooking gas were allowed to open. All street trading, street hawking, and begging were equally prohibited. Social joints, Nightclubs and pubs have also been asked to also close while restaurants are advised to prepare takeaway for their customers to avoid crowding.
Furthermore, motor parks have been directed to capture and keep data including contacts of all passengers as well as observe social distancing and hygiene. All entry points into the State by land and air have also been referred for medical screening.
These are measures backed by constitution to ensure public safety. However, they are painful as they imply shutting down means of livelihood for many citizens. The Government might not provide any palliative to this aside from the Federal cut in pump price of Premium Motor Spirit from N145 per litre to N125 per litre. The coronavirus pandemic has crashed prices of crude oil, Nigeria’s main revenue source, resulting in at least 50% revenue cuts for the State.
The shortfall has forced a cut in allowances of public officials by 50%. General recurrent expenditures excluding salaries and pensions have also been slashed by 40%. Capital projects and programs, the new minimum wage implementation and all recruitment exercises have also been halted. “We must be ready to brace up for the challenges and make necessary sacrifices,” said the Governor of the State, Simon Lalong in a State broadcast.
Decisive as the measures are however, if tests are not readily available for citizens when needed, the disease might spread. In other States where the disease has grown, not lack of prevention but diagnosis posed challenge. It is essential therefore for the State and Federal authorities to make screening and treatment accessible to citizens, and not just claim to have done so.