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Zamfara has reported no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases in more than 50 days since the state recorded its first infection in late April, marking a major turning point in Nigeria’s battle to contain COVID-19.

The milestone will likely be held up as proof of the state government’s ongoing success in limiting the spread of the virus to less than a hundred despite allegations that local officials are not turning in enough test samples.

On April 25, the Zamfara Governor, Bello Matawalle confirmed two index cases of COVID-19 in the north-western state.

This came a few weeks after the state government announced the purchase of 12 ventilators and 20,000 test kits for its isolation centers, according to a statement by the spokesperson of the governor, Zailani Baffa.

In late May, the Zamfara branch of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) said eight of its members tested positive for coronavirus while treating patients at various health facilities in the state.

On June 8, authorities in Zamfara celebrated 14 days of no new local infection after the state reported 76 confirmed cases, leading to five deaths.

As of the time of reporting, the north-western state bounded by Sokoto State to the North has not reported a single case in the past 54 days, data from Nigeria’s infectious disease outfit, NCDC, showed.

‘How we Responded’

Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES in a phone interview Friday morning, the state governor’s spokesperson, Mr Baffa explained how the state promptly responded to the outbreak.

Mr Baffa said the state government adhered to all federal government guidelines including the closure of schools, borders and markets as well as maintaining social distancing and strict use of face masks in the public.

“Even before Zamfara recorded its index case, the state government has already set up two committees: one is in charge of enlightening the people about the virus and providing palliatives to cushion the adverse impact of the lockdowns as well as providing cleaning products for free.

“The other committee was in charge of providing support for the two infectious disease centres set up in Gusau and Damba.

“We provide more than 100 beds for the two centres, 12 ventilators, test kits and thousands of facemasks.”

The official said fumigation of streets, markets and public places were done constantly. “We also did aerial fumigation and enforced all safety protocols.”

“When we started having problem(s), what we did is that once a case is found in a particular place, we move in, surround the area, isolate the confirmed cases and trace contacts.

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“After sometime, the highest case we had was 76. Out of these, five died unfortunately but 71 have recovered and sent home. Since then, we have not seen a single new case.

“Even when the northern governors agreed that all Almajiri children should return to their various states. The Zamfara governor asked all Almajiri from the state to return. They were received at the state border where they were all tested before allowed in,” he explained.

Beyond Zamfara

As the danger has lessened in Zamfara, a state of over 4 million population including about 800 thousand children under five, the national infection rate continues to accelerate, with other states across the country now grappling with fast-expanding outbreaks of their own.

As of Friday morning, the virus, which first landed in Nigeria late February in an Italian man, has infected almost 35, 000 persons, according to NCDC’s latest update.

About 14,292 patients have been discharged after treatment in the country’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. More than 750 have died.

There are 19,793 active cases in Nigeria.

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Lagos remains the epicentre of the disease with a total tally of 13,097 infections and 176 deaths. Almost 2, 000 patients have been discharged after treatment while more than 10, 000 cases are on admission in the city.

Nigeria’s commercial nerve is followed by the nation’s capital, Abuja, with 2,761 infections and 39 deaths. Oyo has since displaced Kano to become the third state with the largest caseload with 1,989 cases and 19 deaths.

Nigeria is the West African nation most impacted by the coronavirus.

She has tested about 202,097 of her 200 million population.

Health experts believe there is a gross undercount of the infection, questioning the government’s testing capacity especially after new symptoms of loss of senses of smell and taste emerged.

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