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The Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, on Wednesday said he has authorised the use of chloroquine as a medication for the treatment of COVID-19.

Mr Mohammed, who was the COVID-19 index case in the state, said he was treated with “chloroquine and Zithromax.”

The governor, who disclosed this while providing an update on COVID-19 in the state, at the Government House, Bauchi, said he would take responsibility for any consequences of approving such drugs.

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“Our medical team is using their own ingenuity to use chloroquine and Zithromax to treat the patients, even though in some places, they said it is against the protocol,” he said.

“As the governor, I’m taking responsibility for that because I don’t want anyone to die.

Addressing the health officials directly, Mr Mohammed said, “I have given you the directive that you must use something that I have used to get well, just as you have used for all other cases that got well.

“Rather than saying that something is harmful, we should not follow what the white people are saying by not taking anything and die.

“We are used to taking chloroquine in Nigeria. We are going to use them. We have taken responsibility and I have taken responsibility.

“Zithromax and chloroquine are not harmful to our body, our physiological system has adapted to it. If you are having a fever you take chloroquine.”

He said it was for the reason of using the said drugs that Bauchi has not recorded any death.

“Nobody is affected with any serious distress in Bauchi, even though now we are going to be tested with the 23 cases.”

Mr Mohammed’s statement on chloroquine adds to the global debate on the appropriateness of recommending the drug.

While the drug has been found to be effective in some cases in treating COVID-19, the World Health Organisation and other experts have warned that it has not undergone essential clinical trials to be recommended for treating the disease; and may have detrimental side effects.

President Donald Trump of the U.S. was criticised last month for recommending the use of the drug for the treatment of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Lockdown not the best panacea

The Bauchi governor also rejected any total lockdown of the state.

Ruling out a total lockdown that involves curtailing of all movement and commercial activities, he said: “community participation in the enforcement of social distancing works out best for the government and people of Bauchi.”

“We have noticed that total lockdown is not a solution and I still maintain that community consciousness, communal efforts, and professionalism of our health workers in terms of contact searching and testing are key to curbing the spread of COVID-19.

“Yes, we don’t have a lockdown for now, but I still believe when the need arises, we will do it.”

Mr Mohammed announced that to help increase the searching and testing of persons suspected to have COVID-19 as well as reducing the delay in getting the tests done, Bauchi is putting the final touch to establishing its own laboratory.

“That’s why in just ten days, we are establishing our own laboratory here in Bauchi so that every day, we will be able to test at least 1000 people,” he said.

“We will do that perspective of what the federal government has done for us. And we must thank the Northeast Development Commission, who have given us support. And, if we have another opportunity, we will establish another testing center in Azare because that axis shares borders with the high-risk areas of Jigawa, Borno, and Kano.

“We must protect the Northern part of the country, while we have one here, we must have one there.”

He said despite the challenges, his administration “has done so much” in providing facilities like isolation centers.

“We have a 100-bed-capacity at the ATBU teaching hospital, we have 20 beds in Bauchi Specialists hospital, we have 120 beds in Bayara General hospital isolation center, we have (an) 80 bedded isolation center at the Federal Medical Center in Azare; through our collaboration with Zenith Bank, we have made available another 100-bed isolation center in Toro,” he said.

He said Bauchi has more than the required capacity to trace more people, admit and treat them.

He said the state currently has six ventilators to be used by COVID-19 patients “in case something goes wrong.”

“But thank God nothing has gone wrong so far,” he noted.

The governor explained that the “recently confirmed 18 cases of persons who tested positive for COVID-19 has unfortunately raised the Bauchi case to 29.”

“Of this figure, six have been discharged and 23 are on admission with mild cases and no deaths.”

The governor said all of the recent cases are contracted from outside Bauchi.

“None of them has a link with the index cases in Bauchi,” he said.

Calling on the residents to obey social distancing, the governor said, “putting on facemask is better and safer than the use of ventilators because most people that go on ventilators normally go (die).”

He said people should stay at home because “the numbers are increasing by the day, and very soon the federal government will lift the lockdown and if we don’t do the needful now, it would appear we have not succeeded.”

He said the increase in the number of cases in Bauchi was as a result of the ongoing testing in the state.

“Most of the new cases that we are now treating are those that are brought (it) from other states. (In) just two days, the numbers have increased from 14 to 29.”

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