By Anayo Okoli
WORRIED by the carefree attitude of citizens to wearing of face masks and other coronavirus, COVID-19 preventive measures, in the face of the rising number of positive cases, Enugu State Government yesterday said it would engage the services of soldiers to enforce wearing of face masks.
The government said it was disturbed that some residents of the state still regard the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic as a scam, urging such people to have a rethink because the pandemic was real and killing people all over the world, including Enugu.
Addressing journalists, the Expert Medical Advisory Committee, EMAC, said Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi was concerned that people were dying mysteriously in the state and attributed the deaths to COVID-19 and not malaria as erroneously being claimed by some people.
The Chairman of the committee, Prof. Emmanuel Ejim, said people should no longer delude themselves that COVID-19 was a scam, saying it was killing people in Nigeria, including Enugu State hence the need for the governor to set up the committee to offer advice on the de-escalation of the outbreak which a number of infected persons had spiked in the state.
The committee explained that the government was talking with the General Officer Commanding, GOC, 82 Division, Nigerian Army, Enugu, to authorize the engagement of soldiers to enforce the preventive measure, particularly, wearing of face mask as “the police have not been helpful, especially in the metropolis”.
Ejim lamented that of state’s current 261 positive cases, over 70 of them were health workers, representing about 25% of the number, saying “the ongoing hand hygiene activities that were being adhered to initially are slowly slumping into the complacent neglect. The nonchalance, non-compliance is worrisome; the outbreak should be of serious concern to the citizens. Covid-19 is killing us, it is with us, it is killing us, it is everywhere, people are dying of COVID-19, not malaria. Enugu needs at least three testing centres with one located in Nsukka.”
According to him, EMAC had engaged with people of different sectors in the state, including the Church, market leaders, transport unions down to the local government council level saying: “interestingly, the knowledge of the existence of COVID-19 was not in doubt, but the commitment and capacity to enforce the necessary preventive action specifically the wearing of face masks, observing physical distancing and ensuring hand hygiene were all being undermined by several factors that we continue to unearth.”
The chairman stressed the need to strictly enforce the preventive measures as there is presently no drug for the cure of the virus “everything now is supportive, no drug for now”.
He also said the committee was in the process of getting recovered patients of COVID-19 to come to the open to share their experiences, as a section of the stakeholders engaged said that they had never seen anybody who suffered from the virus to make them believe.
He urged the media to do more to educate the people that the virus is real and inform them of the need to adhere to preventive measures.
In the face of the rising number of health workers infected by the virus, the committee also met with private medical establishments in the state who appealed to the government to “support them with personal protective equipment, PPEs, bailout of insolvent private hospitals and immediate scaling up of testing and surveillance capacities.”