Rumours of a pandemic similar to the Spanish flu hitting the world filtered in starting from January 2020 and led to panic worldwide. And then the news of deaths started filtering in, one country after the other started shutting their borders as the disease, which came to be known as the coronavirus disease or COVID-19, gripped the world. This article discusses Oyo State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as reported by a member of the Oyo State COVID-19 Task Force, Prof. Temitope Alonge.

In March 2020, Governor Seyi Makinde constituted the Oyo State COVID-19 Task Force. This was weeks after the index case of the coronavirus infection was confirmed in Nigeria. Members of the Task Force were drawn from various government ministries and agencies as well as the retinue of medical experts in virology (clinical and non-clinical), epidemiology, pharmacology, laboratory physicians, community medicine and infectious diseases experts of the College of Medicine, the University of Ibadan and the University College Hospital, Ibadan. Also, various experts in clinical psychology, sociology and the arts from the University of Ibadan were co-opted. As the Chairman of the Task Force, the Governor provided a template for decision-making for the Task Force based on “data, logic and science”. This mantra has become the catchphrase of the Task Force to date.

On April 27, 2020, the first Infectious Disease Centre in Oyo State was commissioned at Olodo, Ibadan, by Governor Seyi Makinde in the company of the Director General of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu who, after touring the center could not hide his feelings when he declared publicly that “this (Infectious Disease Centre, Olodo) will be the best isolation and treatment center for coronavirus in Nigeria and the research opportunities that the center will offer should be open to researchers from different parts of the country.”

Eventually, the first set of four (4) patients with the coronavirus infection confirmed through the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test were admitted to the Infectious Disease Centre, Olodo on April 27, 2020 after spending a few days at the temporary isolation center at Agbami in Jericho, Ibadan. And this is where we begin to look at all the decisions that were taken by Governor Seyi Makinde as the Chairperson of the COVID-19 Task Force.

Right from the onset, Oyo State had a roadmap for the containment of the pandemic and the management of citizens within Oyo State who contracted the viral infection. This template included the establishment of isolation and treatment centers in the three (3) Senatorial Zones/Districts of Oyo State. This ultimately led to the establishment (in addition to the Infectious Disease Centre, Olodo) of an isolation and treatment center at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso and another center at Saki in Oke Ogun, which had an Observatory Unit (pre-diagnosis) in addition to the isolation and treatment units for COVID-19 because of the influx of patients from neighbouring countries (Burkina Faso and Benin Republic) seeking healthcare in Oyo State.

Two things stand out regarding the isolation and treatment centers. First is the quality of the centers. One unique feature of all three Isolation and Treatment Centers is the availability of a well-equipped laboratory with a Laboratory Information System (limiting human contacts and thereby reducing the risk of infection transmission), Ventilators and Patients’ Monitors in the Intensive Care Units complimented with piped oxygen. Also, all the Intensive Care Units are powered by a robust solar inverter system.

To support the three standard isolation and treatment centers, two observatory and isolation centers for suspected mild cases were located at Awe, Igboora and the old Senior Staff Hospital block at the Jericho Nursing Home complex in Ibadan.

Second is the vision behind creating the centers. The Oyo State COVID-19 Technical Task Force is still active in disease surveillance for coronavirus and other communicable diseases. The Infectious Disease Center at Olodo has been upgraded to cater for common transmissible and highly infectious diseases, including Monkey Pox and Lassa Fever.

Many would recall that Governor Seyi Makinde, whilst setting up the Oyo State COVID-19 Task Force, made it clear that pandemics are not usually a yearly occurrence, but epidemics have come to be part of our daily and seasonal lives. And so, he insisted on setting up permanent isolation and treatment centers as opposed to the temporary structures that were adopted by many states of the federation.

It is on record today that in Nigeria, the Infectious Disease Center at Olodo, Ibadan is adjudged;

 The best Infectious Disease Center for the Isolation and Treatment of Coronavirus infection in Nigeria by various units of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

 The Infectious Disease Center in Nigeria with the most (over twenty publications between 2020 and 2022) academic research publications on coronavirus in peer-reviewed international and regional academic journals, and the research findings are widely cited. The data storage and utilization at the center is very robust and reliable.

 The best template for an Infectious Disease Centre, and this model has been recommended to other states in Nigeria. The unique features include the well thought-out unilateral flow of staff and patients, 24-hour CCTV camera monitoring of activities in the center, structured waste disposal system and incineration system tailored to best global practices, water chlorination system with automated chlorine pumps delivering specific concentrations of chlorine as required and the well-equipped laboratory with a robust laboratory information system that enables healthcare givers to download results of patients from remote locations without recourse to physical contact with the laboratory.

Two of the most controversial decisions made by Governor Seyi Makinde in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic were the decision to have mild to medium COVID-19 patients self-isolate at home and only admit serious cases at the isolation centers – which reduced the burden of admitting so many people too quickly too soon; and the decision not to lock down the state. Although, this was more of an economic than a medical decision. It shows how, when medicine meets economics, decisions have to be made following not just science but data and logic. In hindsight, that was a good decision.

The laudable and highly commendable response to the coronavirus pandemic by the Oyo State Government ably led by the Executive Governor of Oyo State, His Excellency Seyi Makinde is a promise kept. Health is one of the four (4) pillars of Governor Seyi Makinde’s Roadmap to Accelerated Development in Oyo State (2019-2023). During the pandemic, Governor Makinde’s positions showed that he always put the good people of Oyo State first.

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Oyo State Government’s robust response to the coronavirus pandemic | The Guardian Nigeria News

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