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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Lessons from Taiwan: Governor Emmanuel's Prudence in Management of COVID-19

Emmanuel Nicholas

“The secret of crisis management is not good versus bad, it’s preventing the bad from getting worse.”— Andy Gilman, president & CEO of Comm Core Consulting Group

There is no gainsaying that the world is in crisis; crisis of a deadly disease called COVID-19. As humanity continues to wriggle itself from it's pangs and fangs, many societies have adopted various crisis management approaches.

While some may not have yielded visible result, it's  interesting to note that quite a number have birthed positive results and hope.

Outstanding among nations of the world that have recorded tremendous successes in the fight against the dreaded COVID-19 is Taiwan.

Interestingly, in Nigeria, Akwa Ibom State is renowned for her enviable successes in this fight. But there is something unique about these two societies in their management of COVID-19.

The above quoted aphorism by Gilman appears to be the cardinal approach in how Taiwan and Akwa Ibom State  manage COVID-19 since its outbreak in their domains. Their watchword is " preventing the bad from getting worse.”

Upon the discovery of the first infected person in Taiwan on Jan. 21, this country which at its closest point is only eighty-one miles (130 kilometers) away from China and has a very high population density had embarked on early intervention, a flexible command structure, and a comprehensive epidemic prevention strategy.

They undertook rigorous investigative efforts to track travel and contact history for every patient, helping to isolate and contain the contagion before a mass community outbreak was possible.

Taiwan has until now contained the spread of Covid-19. Taiwan has not only “flattened the curve” of infections but has kept its confirmed cases below 500, even though it has been more than three months since it saw its first case. Less than 1% of the more than 60,000 tests that it has conducted so far have been positive.

How does Taiwan keep the coronavirus at bay? While many countries undergo lockdowns, people in Taiwan go about their daily lives, but with their masks worn. The culture of face mask coupled with other risk management strategies described earlier is noted by expert to be their magic wand.

In the same vein, just as Taiwan, the moment COVID-19 broke out in the country, Akwa Ibom State never waited to be affected before rising to action.

The State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel understood the importance of the words of a Former US Senate Majority Leader from 1961-1977 and diplomat, Mike Mansfield that “The crisis you have to worry about most is the one you don’t see coming.”

Since Governor Emmanuel could not predict exactly when and how the State would be affected he went to work to ensure the State was proactive against the pandemic.

On Monday March 2, the Akwa Ibom State Government announced the preparation the State has taken in readiness to contain the virus anytime it finds its way into the State.

The State kick-started by setting up a task force committee for the prevention and control of the infectious diseases, called for volunteers, met with all  authorities  working  at all entry points into the State to be on high alert against anyone with suspected case of the disease.

The State Executive had met with the Chairman, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly  Committee on Health,  had meeting with churches through Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN for awareness.

The State government also powered Centres for Infectious Disease and Control across the State at Ikot Ekpene and Ibom Specialty Hospital.

The Ministry of Health went far as putting in place a Subcommittee on Decontamination and Burial in case anyone dies from any of those diseases hence prevent further outbreak. A special ambulance was also kept for that purpose.

The sensitisation was very high. Our radio waves, TV stations, newspaper and social media were covered with State Government sponsored sensitisation messages against COVID-19.

 In addition, the State government also ensured that there were adequate trainings for health professionals to be ready for the battle ahead. At Ibom Specialty Hospital, the State Governor ensured additional 25 beds in what appeared as executive suites were set up with all 13 ventilators and oxygen connected. The State which is blessed with 19 functional ventilators is only second to Lagos among States with ventilators in Nigeria.  To ensure the medical equipments are properly used and patients are also comfortable during treatment, the State Governor immediately bought 1,500 KVA generating set for the Specialty Hospital.

Within the premises, Governor Emmanuel got ready an ICU centre with situation room close to were medical experts are.

When COVID-19 finally arrived the State, true, to Governor Emmanuel's word, " COVID-19 met us prepared as if we knew".

To bring the pandemic under control, just as Taiwan, the State embarked on a robust contract tracing of suspected cases with those who may have had contact with them.  So far, the State COVID-19 management team has done 458 contacts  tracing, indicating about 99.1 per cent attainment as acknowledged and commended by NCDC.

These early detection and commitment to treatment of patients who test positive has brought rewarding results to the State. Out of the 17 cases recorded in the State, there has been close to 100 per cent recoveries. 15 patients have recovered and discharged.  It is on recorded that the two cases of death were only brought to the Hospital at very critical stages. The State is now left with only a patient which is at the stage of receiving treatment.

Despite these positive results recorded in the battle against COVID-19, Governor Udom Emmanuel understood the importance of the word of American journalist, political scientist, and author, Fareed Zakaria, who said that " The broader challenge is to lay down a longer-term strategy that endures after the crisis of the moment."

He decided to build a world class 300 bed Isolation and Treatment Centre in addition to the ones in Ibom Specialty Hospital and Ikot Ekpene Treatment centre. Apart 300 beds Ward , the Isolation centre has a virology/Clinical labs , 20 suites Doctor's quaters ,Canteen  and administration offices for the medical Director and Secretary.

 Criticism came from all cylinders. Instead of being distracted, he brought to bear the profound words of Martin Luther King, Jr. that “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” He made people understand the importance of the project.

 Speaking on the reason he embarked on the project, he noted  " Life is a curve. It slopes up and down. That tells me that I have room at the initial curve where it peaks and before it declines to actually put up something better. I have the land, I have everything, so the best is to put something enduring.

"Soon, the Isolation and Treatment centre will be ready. It shows that we are thinking ahead. We may never really use it for COVID-19. The facilities will be there for a very long time. Peradventure, you never can tell the future.

"If need arises, will we come back and live in regret that we had opportunity and could have put something down on ground which we did not."

Interestingly, to work the talk of faith over fear, Governor Emmanuel just as Taiwan, has adopted a strategy where the people will take safety precautions while the economy is still in operation.

On May 2, 2020, Governor Emmanuel ordered that the use of face mask is now compulsory in all public places.
Consequently, whether  they are commuters or pedestrians, it is now a common trend to see Akwa Ibom people strapping their face mask from ear to ear, and nose to chin.

This strategy has really proven to be result oriented. Since this practice began, just as Taiwan, the State has witnessed significant decline in her index cases despite the huge number of the index cases in other States of the Federation.

This success is no coincidence. A combination of efforts by medical professionals, strategic approaches by the State Government and the society at large have armored our State’s defenses.

In the future , the 300 beds Isolation Centre with additional medical facilities can be transform to akwa Ibom State University teaching Hospital , Uyo Campus .
It is also worthy of note ,that the two index cases that died ,did so away from Government's medical  facility and management.

Indeed, as the Chief executioner of this battle, Governor Emmanuel's approaches has bolstered confidence that we are on course not only to contain COVID-19 in the State but stand as a leading example to other parts of the Federation in a functional strategy to combat the dreaded disease

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