‘What Oyo is doing on COVID-19’
The Chief Press Secretary to the Oyo state governor, Mr Taiwo Adisa, in this interview with WALE AKINSELURE, speaks on circumstances surrounding the governor’s Covid 19 positive status, fate of the governor’s aides, disposition of the government towards a total lockdown of the state and measures targeted at preventing a community spread of the virus in the state among other issues.
On Monday, the governor confirmed that he tested positive for coronavirus after what looks like limited public appearances, at what point did he begin to suspect that he may have contracted the virus?
Let me say that his appearances in public after the Abuja meeting of the governors have been measured to the extent that even while he was not suspecting anything, he had taken caution. And that was why even though he went for that inspection, he did not interact with many people and maintained social distance. Before that visit, he had scaled down activities in his office. In fact, that day, he only stayed in office for about three hours and was working largely from the government house so as to reduce the traffic of people that would see him. So, he had put that caution in place before the message came that those who attended the National Economic Council meeting should self-isolate. That message came after the governor of Bauchi had tested positive and after a son of a former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, also tested positive. So, he had already scaled down his level of visibility to the people before that visit to Agbami. One can infer that it was his contact with people in Abuja that made him open to the virus.
You seem to have narrowed where the governor contracted the virus to the National Economic Council meeting held in Abuja, what about the South West unification rally that he hosted a day before the Abuja meeting.
The PDP rally held on March 18 and the alarm around COVID-19 in Oyo state came in the evening of that same day. Before the PDP rally, there was no alarm of any incident in Oyo state. So, you don’t shut down life because of threat of a disease but get prepared for that disease so that when eventually it comes, you know how to cope. Even in places where they see cyclone, they get to prepare themselves. What you do is to get people aware. On the 18th of March when the rally held, even though there was no incident of coronavirus in Oyo state and no alarm that a possible case was brewing, the governor made it a point of duty to ensure that whoever was getting to Mapo hall, venue of the event, was sanitized. There were ushers on the left and right of the entrance to the venue. Even the crew that came from outside the state were handed sanitizers. To buttress that, the governor himself at the rally asked if the people had used their sanitizers. So people at Mapo hall were sanitized and given pocket sanitizers. The issue of rally should not keep coming up when we are talking about issues of life and death but a virus endangering humanity. How do you link Ibadan rally to London, China, Italy, Germany where they are having serious crisis as to COVID-19? Did they have a rally in Lagos to continuously shoot up the alarming figures in Lagos? Rally cannot be issue because it was held before any incident came into Oyo state and there is no person that tested positive as a result of attending the rally. Just this morning, Ekiti said its index case had been treated and the second case will be discharged in the night. People from Ekiti, Ondo came for the rally and none of them has tested positive. All those who have been testing positive in Lagos are those that had contacts with foreigners because this was an imported virus. And that was what gave the governor the go-ahead that since the virus was not domesticated in Ibadan, as at time of the rally, we can go ahead. As soon as the information that someone passed through Ibadan who became the index case in Ekiti, the governor put out a message that if the information had come one hour before the rally, he will have cancelled the rally. So, I don’t think anyone should politicize that matter.
The governor had a meeting with the Oyo state COVID-19 task force with the Chief Medical Director, University College Hospital, who has also tested positive, reported to be in attendance. Don’t you think this is another point where the governor could have contracted the virus?
Some people have been talking about him contracting the virus at UCH; the governor had not visited UCH within the timeframe of what we are talking about. He was not in touch with the Chief Medical Director of University College Hospital, Ibadan, within the timeframe we are talking about. The UCH CMD is not a member of Oyo COVID-19 task force. Yes, some officials of Oyo state went to meet the CMD UCH in view of the fact that we are trying to put up a diagnostic centre in UCH but that does not mean that the CMD had a meeting with the governor. The former CMD is a member of the COVID-19 task force and some other professionals in UCH. It is members of the COVID-19 task force that have been meeting with the governor, not the CMD. There is no need to extrapolate the fact that the governor met with the UCH CMD. The case of UCH was an imported case. It was somebody who is a board member of UCH that we heard brought the case to Ibadan. The index case was an American returnee. So, it’s not a case of the governor having contact with UCH.
Where is the governor isolating? Will he be isolating at one of the centres said to have equipped by his government?
I will leave that information to the state incident manager who determines where the governor or anyone else isolates.
Aides and close associates, like you, should be on isolation and submit your samples for testing.
We are observing all that is necessary. As I am talking to you, I am about going to the incident centre for them to give us update on what is to be done by the aides. As at last night, it has been decided that all the aides will submit themselves for testing. Let me add that as the governor was tested, the Secretary to the State Government was also tested and she tested negative. The SSG sits close to him in almost all the meetings and has been in close contact with the governor all this while. So, the governor just has to observe medical protocols. He has assured the people that he will do everything that needed to be done to fight this virus and to make sure that the state is safe. The only thing that he will not do is to spread the virus and that is while he is in self-isolation.
With the governor on isolation, is he still fit enough to carry the burden of governance or is he handing over to his deputy, Mr Rauf Olaniyan?
The governor has not shown any sign and is not shutting down. He is just observing medical protocol. That he is staying on his own does not mean that he is not in contact with people in government. As far back as last week, we have started holding meetings via teleconferencing. Even though he is isolation, he has been giving approvals that are necessary. It does not mean that nobody sees him and he sees nobody, it’s just that the medical people tell you the protocol to be observed before you can get close to him. We have spoken this morning and there is nothing worrying him; his voice and blood pressure are okay; he is not feeling unwell at all. Whenever anything is needed, we can quickly rely on technology. He is also working closely with his deputy.
What is the capacity of the new testing centre?
Those are not things that can be determined on the face value because it is a continuous thing. I was told yesterday that the centre is calibrating itself to be able to test up to about 10,000 per week. It is something they will continue to expand upon but we don’t pray for escalation up to that point. But at least we are prepared to tackle any eventuality that might crop up.
There have been calls for the state government to declare a total shutdown in the state. At what point will the governor be convinced to consider this option?
Oyo state is on lockdown as we speak. I spoke to people in Abuja, Lagos, this morning and total lockdown as prescribed by the President does not mean that there won’t be a soul on the street at all. That markets have been closed means there is a lockdown; that the streets are empty means there is a lockdown but you cannot close down the entire life. What the governor has not done is to say that everybody should remain indoors like they did in China. If you talk of total lockdown, we have to x-ray that. We need to know what even total lockdown means. The fact that we have coronavirus does not mean life will not go on, does not mean people selling pharmaceuticals will not be allowed to come out, or that hospitals will not open. When you shut down hospitals, chemists, markets that sell food, what do you expect the people to eat? The statistics that we are developing in this state has not gone to the level at which we mandate people to stay indoors while we buy food for them. If you enter a street with one truck load of food, the food will finish and some people on that street will still not have food. So, the issue of statistics is what the nation is grappling with. We cannot deceive ourselves to say we are there when we are not there. If you are selling clothes and open, the police have the right to close your shop. You cannot say doctors, nurses, journalists will not go to work. Schools are not open and those not selling essentials are not open so Oyo is on lockdown.
Is the government considering decentralizing its activities and use local government chairmen to better reach the grassroots?
Only yesterday (Monday), the local government chairmen of the 33 local government areas and 35 local council development areas were invited to Ibadan to come and take their own sensitization items and some of the items donated to the state or that the state procured. Hand wash, hand sanitisers and some other items were given to them. The 11 local government councils in Ibadan will be having sensitization tomorrow (Wednesday) and that other local government councils in the hinterland will be taken care of. However, the state government told them that what they were being given is samples and tasked them to replicate it in their own capacities.
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