Kano State government is now bracing up for a major Coronavirus crisis as the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 finally confirmed after verbal autopsies that recent mysterious deaths in the state were caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governor Umar Gannduje had initially denied any connection between Coronavirus and increasing sudden deaths in Kano which, by independent computation, is now over 300. He attributed the deaths to meningitis, diabetes, hypertension, and other regular illnesses.
The Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 sent a team to investigate the deaths and the preliminary report confirmed the deaths were caused by COVID-19.
Kano State government is now bracing up to fight a major health crisis as the infection has infiltrated the common population. The government had quietly ‘deported’ Almajiris to their respective states in the North. Many of these homeless children were suspected to have contracted the infection in Kano, which they carried to their states.
Kano recorded its first case on April 11 and by May 6, the confirmed cases ballooned to 397 cases, 383 of which are active with 11 deaths. It is the fastest in the country. Within this short period, Kano displaced the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, from the second position on the infection table. And the fear is that at the rate the infection is spreading, Kano may overtake Lagos as the most impacted state in the country. What is slowing down the numbers is the low testing capacity of the State.
President Muhammadu Buhari had imposed a total lockdown on the State on April 27, in addition to FCT, Lagos and Ogun states, to enable government find out the cause of strange deaths in the State. But Ganduje relaxed the lockdown last Saturday, allowing free movement between 10 am and 4 pm on Mondays and Thursdays. However, all major markets in the State remain closed, except Ya’nkaba and Ya’nlemo markets where vegetables and fruits are sold.
Faced with this grim reality, Kano State government is working harder to avoid a health catastrophe in the commercial city. The government has decided to convert five facilities into 650-bed isolation Centres to check the spread of COVID-19. Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, deputy governor of the state who is also the chairman of the State Task Force Committee on COVID-19, inspected the facilities last Monday.
The facilities are: Abubakar Imam Urology Hospital, Murtala Muhammed Library Complex, Hospitality and Tourism Institute, formerly Daula Hotel, Sports Institute at Karfi, and the Nigerian Air Force Hospital in Kano.
The State had three isolation centres at Muhammadu Buhari Specialist Hospital, Kwanar Dawaki Hospital, and Sani Abacha Stadium. Gawuna said converting more facilities into isolation centres would curb the rising cases of COVID-19 in the State.
According to the deputy governor, conversion of the Hospitality and Tourism Institute, formerly Daula Hotel, with a 50-bed capacity, to an isolation centre, would start Saturday, May 2; to be followed by Abubakar Imam Urology Hospital with 80-bed capacity on Monday, May 4. The Isolation Centre at Murtala Muhammad Library Complex is expected to accommodate over 200 beds, and another 300 beds would be provided at Karfi Sports Institute, while 20 rooms are to be converted into an isolation centre at the Nigerian Air Force Hospital.
Gawuna assured the people that the State Government was taking all measures to curtail the spread of the dreaded disease.
From the private sector, two prominent sons of the state, Aliko Dangote and Abdulsamad Isiyaku Rabi’u, last Monday increased their assistance to the government. Rabi’u, chairman of BUA Foundation, donated the sum of N2 billion, five ambulances, and 20 Hilux Vans to Kano state government as his contribution to the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in the state. Kano State government is to identify any COVID-19 project where the N2bn would be spent. Rabi’u said the BUA Foundation would be willing to donate more if the need arises.
Prior to this, on Sunday, Dangote had donated a Mobile Test Centre which is designed to process 400 samples per day. He is also building a 500-bed hospital in the state to shore up the healthcare system.
Governor Ganduje said, “This will certainly improve our efforts in testing more people for the virus. More so, we need transportation. Today, the BUA Group, owned by another son of the soil, Alhaji Abdulsamad Isiyaku Rabi’u, has given us five ambulances, 20 vehicles, promised to execute N2 billion project; and we hope they will do more.” He promised, “…We shall make good use of these facilities.”
Ganduje revealed that plan had been concluded to open 100 collection centres within the eight metropolitan local government areas, while the 36 other local government areas will get one collection centre each. He said the government was considering house-to-house collection of samples to ensure that residents were adequately tested for the Coronavirus.
Dr. Tijjani Hussaini, Technical Coordinator, Kano State COVID-19 Task Force, said, “We are witnessing a special moment in Kano today; a moment that will aid us do the work even better. These vehicles will facilitate our work for contact tracing and evacuation of patients, and other follow-ups.”
Kano will need all the help it can get as the full report of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 on the ‘strange’ deaths in the state is awaited. It is likely that the Federal government may take over the management of Kano response to the pandemic to avert a health disaster.
Nasiru Sani Gwarzo, leader of the Presidential Task Force Committee on COVID-19 team sent to Kano, said last Sunday, “Let me inform us that most of the deaths recorded of recent and test carried out showed that Coronavirus was the cause. We have five cogent reasons to say that the mass death recorded in Kano is associated with coronavirus.”
These include: age of the deceased persons, concentration of the people in one place, and test constructed which have elements of COVID-19.
He admonished Kano to be careful. “So, before the final report which would be ready in the next one week or few days, it is necessary for people of Kano to wake up from their slumber that this is a serious issue. It is not a new thing, countries like America, China, Italy, Spain, England, France, and others experienced similar mysterious deaths.”