FEARS are growing that the dreaded coronavirus pandemic might spread rapidly across northeast Nigeria over the coming weeks after a nurse died at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) from the virus over the weekend.
Across the northeast and Borno State in particular, thousands of people are living in makeshift camps due to the Boko Haram insurgence, making them very vulnerable to the virus. About half of Borno State’s population is living in the capital Maiduguri and Nigeria has a total of 2.5m people living in internally displaced persons camps.
Last week, the United nations warned Nigeria to disperse the people in the camps into smaller enclaves to prevent the spread of the virus. Sanitation, hygiene and medical services are poor in the densely-populated camps, leading to fears that if a few people are infected, the virus could spread like wildfire.
On Saturday, Babangida Buba, a retired nurse with the Borno State Hospital Management Board, succumbed to the virus, creating panic as it might be the first case of death in the state. After leaving the services of the state government, Mr Buba joined Medecins Sans Frontieres otherwise called Doctors Without Borders and worked with the organisation in Pulka before he died.
Mr Buba, an anaesthetic nurse, was rushed to Maiduguri from Pulka last week when his health condition deteriorated. His passing has sparked fears that the virus may be have been spread among other health workers in the state and from there onto residents of the IDP camps who they work with.
One of his colleagues said: “The deceased was admitted to the medical ward last week and died under suspicious circumstances which led to a test being conducted on the corpse and the result came back positive for Covid-19. The bad thing is that he had contact with several health workers both within and outside the UMTH.
“He was brought from Pulka to the UMTH by two nurses who are also now at risk together with their families.” However, the Borno State deputy governor, who is also the chairman of the state task force on Covid-19, Alhaji Usman Kadafur, called on people not to panic, insisting that the case was under control.
Alhaji Kadafur said: “A sample has been taken and the result has been communicated to the Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC), the people that are mandated to make a statement on that. However, as a committee, we are working and reviewing things in the town so for now, I assure you that if there is anything from the outcome of the NCDC, we will make it public.”
Also, the deputy governor added that although there was no restriction in the Maiduguri metropolis, the government would introduce a lockdown if necessary. He pointed out that for now, there is only an inter-state lockdown into Borno State.