COVID-19: Lagos, Kwara, Bauchi to convert Hajj camps, schools to isolation centres

With the rising number of COVID-19 cases, Lagos and Kwara state governments have announced plans to convert their Hajj and pilgrims’ camps to isolation centres to ease the burden on hospital facilities and the limited number of bed spaces.

 There had been a spike in the number of cases in the country in recent times.

 On Saturday, there were 661 new cases, pushing the total cases to 19,808. There were 19 new deaths, pushing the total deaths to 506, while 19,808 patients have so far been discharged.

Meanwhile, the Bauchi State Government has also said it had prepared two schools for conversion into isolation centres.

The Lagos State Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr Olusegun Ogboye, disclosed the possible conversion of Hajj camps and other public places into isolation centres in an interview with one of punch correspondents, noting that four communities with the highest cases were already under consideration.

The Bauchi State Government, on its part, said it had set apart two schools as isolation centres to accommodate more COVID-19 patients.

The state Commissioner for Education, Dr Aliyu Tilde, confirmed this to one of punch correspondents, saying the move was to plan ahead should current facilities be overstretched.

Meanwhile, Oyo State Government said it planned to partner hotels for bed spaces for prospective COVID-19 patients, while Osun, Katsina and Kano states claimed they had sufficient hospital bed spaces in case of rising COVID-19 cases.

The three states said they had not been contacted by the Presidential Task Force on the possible use of schools as isolation centres and had no such plan.

On May 28, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, stated that the Federal Government would require hotels and school dormitories to be prepared as quarantine and isolation centres in the event of overwhelming COVID-19 cases and the pressure on hospital beds.

The minister, during the briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, added that the government anticipated the shortage of hospital bed spaces due to rising COVID-19 cases and therefore opted for the use of school dormitories as an alternative.

“We need to continue increasing bed capacity to match the probable number of patients so that we do not experience horrific scenes of bed space shortages seen in some European hospitals.

“In event of overflow, we can require hotels and school dormitories to be prepared for level 1 which is quarantine, and level 2 which is the isolation of COVID-19 positive with zero or mild symptoms, to free hospital beds to be dedicated to level 3 which are moderate to severe cases and level 4 which is the high dependency and Intensive care unit,” he said.

This move is also partly based on the assertion of the Federal Ministry of Education in the third week of May that the government could not risk the reopening of schools until all measures had been put in place.

The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, had said, “We are not taking that risk yet. We are going to prepare as much as possible within the guidance that we are offered, working in conjunction with the World Health Organisation before we reopen schools.”

Amid rising COVID-19 cases, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, the Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Ogboye, said the state was considering Hajj camps and possibly schools, as well as liaising with four endemic communities.

He said, “We are using a strategy that involves three types of isolation centres. If someone is asymptomatic and very mildly asymptomatic, they will be treated at home. They will be isolated at home and we will visit them and give them the drugs that they will be taking. We will be visiting them to check their temperature on a daily basis. That is if their house meets the requirements for self-isolation at home.

“Some people’s houses are too small; they don’t have private toilets and so they cannot meet the criteria for self-isolation at home. Those are the ones that we intend to isolate at the community-based or community-supported centres. We have had a meeting with the PTF about the possible support from the Federal Government to establish these community centres.

“We are going to start with about four of them. We are going to focus on the highest burdened local governments. So, we are in the process of identifying four of them now. It may not necessarily be schools, it may be community centres; it may be Hajj camps and areas that can accommodate quite a large number of people. We have not started implementing but it is a discussion we are having with the Federal Government and we are in agreement about how to move forward.

“The third level is the isolation centres that we have. These are for moderate to severe COVID-19 complications.”

Meanwhile, the Bauchi State Commissioner for Education, Tilde, said the state government had set aside the Government Girls College, Bauchi, and the Government Secondary School, Azare, as isolation centres.

He said, “When the Commissioner for Health and his team met with me, we suggested to them some of the schools that we have here in Bauchi and in Azare, Katagum Local Government Area. The schools are Government Girls College, Bauchi. In Azare, we have Government College, Azare, or Government Secondary School, Azare.”

In Kwara State, the Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development, Hajia Fatimah Ahmed, said had no plan yet to use public school dormitories as isolation centres but it had prepared 600 bed spaces in its state pilgrims’ camp in Ilorin, the state capital.

She said, “We have no such plan to use our public school dormitories as isolation centres for the treatment of COVID-19 patients and the Federal Government has not made such request from the state government. So, we don’t have such a plan.”

The Chief Press Secretary to the state governor and spokesperson for the COVID-19 Technical Committee in the state, Mr Rafiu Ajakaye, said the state had 3,000 bed spaces at its isolation centres at Sobi Specialist Hospital, Ilorin and General Hospital, Offa.

“Though there is an increasing number of COVID-19 patients in the state, we have enough bed spaces in our isolation centres and we also have about 600 bed spaces in the state pilgrims’ camp in Ilorin which we have not even used,” he said.

In Kano State, the state Commissioner for Education, Alhaji Muhammadu Kiru, said the government did not earmark any school for isolation centre but it had inaugurated two more testing centres as part of efforts to intensify COVID-19 testing in the state.

Kiru said in a release that the two testing centres were inaugurated by the state Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, on Independence Road, Bompai, Kano, on Thursday.

In Oyo, the state government said rather than convert schools to isolation centres, it planned to partner hotels to be converted into isolation centres.

The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr Taiwo Adisa, said, “We are not converting schools into isolation centres in Oyo State. What we are doing is to partner hotels and other well-meaning persons to raise capacity.

“Some medical centres are also in the cards to serve as isolation centres. Officially, the state has isolation/observatory centres in Ogbomoso, Awe, and Igbo-Ora with treatment centres at the Infectious Disease Centre, Olodo, Ibadan; Agbami Chest Hospital, Jericho, Ibadan; and Saki.”

Meanwhile, in Osun, the Special Adviser to the state Governor on Education, Mr Jamiu Olawumi, said the state had enough bed spaces to cope with its coronavirus cases.

In Katsina, the government said there was no indication it would allocate schools or dormitories to serve as isolation centres for COVID-19 patients, saying it had begun moves to construct additional isolation centres to the existing four.

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