Fear has gripped the residents of Kano, a state Governor Abdullahi Ganduje says is the most populated in Nigeria, after Lagos. As at Tuesday night the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, confirmed that Kano State’s COVID-19 cases had ballooned to 73 with additional 14 new cases. Kano recorded the first case on April 11. It took the State just 10 days to make that milestone.
On Monday, Kano recorded 23 new cases, the highest for the day to take its number to 59, from the 36 cases as at Sunday, April 19. Kano has rapidly risen to the third on the national table of cases in 10 days.
What makes Kano the next national emergency is the estimated population of 13.4 million people living in highly clustered communities. And the infection has penetrated the local population which naturally stay together.
Officially, only one person has died from COVID-19 but within seven days, 180 ‘mysterious’ deaths have been reported in Kano. It is suspected that these may have been victims of COVID-19 but no autopsy was performed to confirm the cause of death.
Governor Abdullahi Ganduje disclosed that the index case, was “a 75year old retiree, (Kabiru Rabiu) a former ambassador, who travelled to Kaduna, Abuja and Lagos, came back to Kano on 25th March and was not feeling fine for the last few days. He voluntarily invited our medical team, who took his blood sample alongside other nine samples. After the sample was returned, he was found to be positive while the other nine were negative.”
Though independent sources alleged Rabiu may have travelled to United States, Ganduje said he had no history of travelling abroad in the last six weeks but his medical report shows that he has heart problem which aggravated his case.”
The State government swiftly went in to action to stop the inevitable spread. Ganduje ordered the immediate closure of the private hospital and diagnosis facility used by the index case. He warned members of the public that it is now not business as usual! “Movement must be restricted. Tricycle operators must take only one passenger…”we must take measures that are absolutely necessary, however hard they appeared to be.”
Reports say this order was not followed.
On April 17 Ganduje directed the conversion of Muhammadu Buhari Specialist Hospital Giginyu to an isolation centre for treatment of people that have tested positive for Covid-19 in the State. The Centre, with 100 beds accommodates only confirmed positive cases that have mild or no symptoms at all.
Normal health services in the hospital were suspended and the public were advised to visit Khalifa Sheikh Isiaka Rabiu Hospital at Zoo Road or any other facility in the State for medical care.
The State government is also clearing Kano of Almajiris to reduce community infection. They are evacuating identified Almajiris to their respective states and local government for reunion with their families. At least 432 Almajiris have been handed over to Katsina State government
Muhammad Garba, commissioner for Information, in a statement, said that since the closure of all primary and secondary schools over three weeks ago, the Almajiri seminaries remain congested with pupils having no shelter and nowhere to go. He said the measure is in line with government’s proactive measures to control the spread of the deadly virus in the state.
The total number to be evacuated is 1595 as follows: Katsina 432, Yobe 63 , Kaduna 198, Jigawa 663, Bauchi 101, Zamfara 01, Gombe 09, Nassarawa, 10, Kano state 117 and Niger Republic 01. Garba said the exercise would be a continuous one until all the Almajiris are evacuated to their states of origin.
As Kano’s cases escalated, Chikwe Ihekweazu, director general of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, visited the State for on the spot assessment. He gave pass mark to the response of the State. He visited some isolation centers to assess the level of the state’s preparedness.
“We appreciate your good support and contribution in the state response team. We have no other option but to support you. We are supporting you with all our commitment. It is good to let you know we have a collective responsibility to do our very best to make sure that Kano is supported to move forward,” he told the Governor.
“For us to succeed at the national level in this response, states also need to succeed. We will sit down tomorrow before we leave for Abuja, with the state and make a plan on how to forge ahead.”
Ganduje said the situation was under control. “So far we don’t have very serious cases where index cases need the usage of ventilators and monitors. But that doesn’t mean we shall sit without doing anything. We are doing our best, as acknowledged by the DG NCDC. All the index cases we have are within the metropolitan local governments. We can therefore say, community transmission is not there. So it could be true to say we need more testing centres. There is a need to increase our capacity for testing our suspected cases. At the same time we also need more collection centres.”
Ganduje explained the spike: “Being the most populous state in the country among other factors, are reasons for the high numbers we are recording. Lagos being the second populous state in the country and Abuja being the federal capital, there is no surprise that the numbers are rising up. So also when Kano becomes the third in this category. Is just like what is happening in other global cities. Due to the metropolitan nature of the settlement.”
He said the State is adjusting to the new behaviourial changes that go with it.
“We thought we should also get new strategy to deal with those new behaviours. That is why we are coming up with our Kano State Infectious Diseases Regulation 2020 to take care of those new public behaviours.”
He signed the Bill into law on 15th April. Among other things, the law has provisions empowering government to respond appropriately to the pandemic, starting from relating with suspected cases, to other areas in dealing with the disease.
The law also has a controversial clause which Ganduje says is a “very clear provision that deals with originating and spreading fake news by some journalists, because they either don’t understand the processes or they are doing that for other reasons, such as political reasons,”
The State government appears to be doing its best at the moment but with the numbers multiplying daily it is doubtful how long they can cope.
“We are doing as much as we can to tame the situation. That is why, those suspected cases that are less privileged, we take them to hotel after taking their samples, to keep them there. For those whose samples are positive, we take them to isolation centres. And for those that are negative we leave them go to their residences. Our administration is very serious about this.”
The Governor is asking for financial and logistics support. “We need interface, rapid response and we need good coordination. As the third state in the category after Lagos state and the federal Capital Territory, Abuja, as the most affected states, we need funds to respond well to this deadly COVID-19 pandemic.”
His appeal is beginning to receive hearing.
Aliko Dangote, Africa’s celebrated billionaire has pledged to build a 600 bed hospital in Kano. Individuals and corporate bodies have also donated over N350million to shore up the State’s response. Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, deputy governor, is the Chairman of the State Task Force on COVID-19 while Tijjani Hussaini, a medical doctor is the coordinator of the Technical Team.
Ganduje ordered an initial lockdown of the State on April 16 for seven days. This will most likely be extended when it expires on April 23.
Yet there are people who do not take the public alarm serious. This week some people organized a football and Ganduje was heartbroken at this.
“It’s a bit unnerving to have select people still disregard the lockdown up to the point of organizing football games. We need every hand on deck to beat COVID-19 and I ask that everyone puts in their own shift to make sure we contain this pandemic as soon as possible,” he said on his Twitter handle.
“The number of infected persons in our wonderful state of Kano is now 59, while additional 23 cases were registered yesterday and I would like to appeal to everyone to obey the lockdown rules.”
The Kano team will be severely tested in the coming days as the State scales up testing. It is strongly suspected that community infection may be advanced.