By Oluwatope Lawanson
Lagos – Gov. Babajide Sanwo-olu of Lagos State has called on community, religious and traditional leaders as well as associations and educationists to cooperate with his administration in spreading information essential for containment of coronavirus.
The governor made the call on Tuesday at a Stakeholders’ Forum on the Management and Control of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
He was represented by his Deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat.
The event was organised by the state Ministry of Information and Strategy, in Ikeja.
Sanwo-olu said that the forum was aimed at sensitising the citizens to the need to apply precautionary measures against the spread of the deadly disease.
The governor urged the state residents to stop rumour mongering on coronavirus, saying that its outbreak in many countries called for caution and heeding to medical advice.
“Apart from the threat of coronavirus, an issue of great concern is fake news on social media about the patient currently receiving treatment at a government facility,” he added.
Sanwo-olu advised that information which did not emanate from the Federal Ministry of Health, Lagos State Ministry of Health or the National Centre for Disease Control should be authenticated before spreading on social media.
The governor said that, as a responsible government, his administration had no alternatives to activating all medical procedures that would ensure that coronavirus would not put the lives of the residents at risk.
He reiterated that although the government did not desire an increase in the number of coronavirus cases, it was prepared to handle any further incidents.
Sanwo-olu said that owing to the state government’s experience with Ebola in 2014, the government, in partnership with the Canadian Government, set up Biosafety Level-3 Laboratory at the Mainland Hospital Yaba.
He said that the laboratory was to enhance the capacity to manage any disease outbreak such as the coronavirus existing in more than 67 countries.
He urged that all hands should be on deck to prevent the spread of the disease
He added that Lagosians must adhere to the simple procedure that could break the chain of transmission of the disease.
The governor appealed to anyone with fever, cough or difficulty in breathing, to seek medical attention immediately at a primary healthcare centre or a general hospital.
Earlier in his address of welcome, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, said that the forum was to enlighten Lagos residents on coronavirus.
“We are here to provide information from the state government about the journey so far and stop fake news that has been trending in the last one week.
“Lagosians need to form a strong bond to ensure that there is compliance with medical advice to prevent an upscale of the coronavirus situation in the state,” he said.
He urged the participants to assist the state government in ensuring that the messages/information shared at the forum would be passed to many people.
In his remarks, the state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said that there was only one case of coronavirus in the state – that of an Italian who came into Nigeria on Feb. 24.
The commissioner said that the state government was working with the World Health Organisation to identify everyone who was on the same flight with the Italian.
He said that so far 100 persons who were on the same flight with the Italian had been identified and were being monitored.
He said that since 2014 when Lagos experienced the Ebola virus, the state government had been building capacity to handle any disease outbreak.
He called on the residents to cooperate with the government in its efforts to check the spread of the virus, by living healthy.
“We need to maintain good hygiene: wash your hands frequently; the sick should be indoors and seek medical help immediately,” he said.
The representative of World Health Organisation in Nigeria, Dr Okudor Ifeanyi, commended the Lagos State Government for preparedness and swiftness in handling the case.
He said the organisation would continue to support the country and the state in ensuring that the disease would not spread.
He urged Nigerians not to panic, but listen to authentic channels for information on the right things to know and do in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
He said: “If we do the right thing, we can collectively curtail the spread of the virus.
“We need to maintain good hygiene, we should always wash our hands. We do not need to panic.”