May 15, 2021

COVID-19: Villagers tracking suspected cases in Riyom, Plateau State

Mafeng Gwalson

Central Nigerian authorities say they have tightened security at State entry points to guard against Coronavirus.

Entry restrictions have helped in controlling the spread of the virus. However, politicians, medics, securities and fuel deliverymen with express permits still undergo border checks, Chairman of Riyom Local Government Area in Plateau State, Mr. Mafeng Gwalson told Journalists, Saturday.

Mr. Gwalson said, “Long before State and Federal restrictions, my staff have been at the border (Plateau entry point in Riyom LGA) 24/7 checking everybody coming in.

“The only people that sometimes when I’m not around they make exceptions to are the security personnel. But I can tell you that when I’m around, no matter who you are you must be tested. I’ve stopped Senators on that road, I’ve stopped House of Rep members and have asked all of them to get down with their drivers to get tested.

“Anybody whose temperature is beyond 37.5 degrees, we take down their house addresses, phone numbers and other personal details and begin test for malaria, typhoid and other related ailments. We have the equipment there to test for all of those ailments and refer where necessary.”

Until the total shutdown of the borders last Thursday, Gwalson said over 10,000 people coming to the State through Riyom LGA were screened daily. However, no coronavirus case was detected, he said.

Four high risk groups

Being a border LGA to the State, Mr. Gwalson said makes it a high-risk location for COVID-19, hence the tightened border routine. In particular, Street cleaners, Road Safety Officials, peacekeeping troops and street hawkers are at greater risk of the disease, he said.

In his words, “Street cleaners interact daily with motorists. They (motorists) sometimes stop to ask them for directions, and they throw trash off the car window which the cleaners pick up.

“The next group is the security personnel. Once you come to Hawan Kibo (a hilly terrain at Riyom entry point), you must meet Road Safety Officials on the way and they interact with drivers all the time. If they pick the virus and go into the community, they might spread it.

“There is also the Special Task Force personnel (peacekeepers) on the road. Once any of them gets the virus, he could pass it on and it might get to the villages.

“The last group is the street hawkers. Before the total shutdown of the borders, at all military checkpoints, there were always people selling drinks, snacks, vegetables and fruits. But with the lockdown, we have asked that those street hawkers vacate. The Federal Government policy allows those into food business to continue and we are not restricting them. Some of them didn’t foresee this lockdown especially those into farming and selling perishable goods. We have no choice than to allow them to sell but certainly not on the highway.”

Villagers track suspected cases

Riyom is a typical rural community. However, the awareness of the villagers on the coronavirus disease is “impressive,” said the Local Government Chairman.

Several times, they not just complied with regulations but reported noncompliance and suspected cases of the disease, Gwalson said.

“When it started, a woman came from Lagos and was said to have symptoms of COVID-19. The people had a vigil by her house to prevent her from going out. They called me all night and we went and had to examine until we confirmed that she was down with appendicitis not COVID-19.

“Few days ago also, in another village, a man who just returned to the State was thought to have symptoms of the virus and reported to us. We had to send our team until we confirmed that he only had TB.

“Elsewhere, another man came from a trip and the people advised him to isolate himself but he didn’t and the locals called and reported. We have sent securities there and they have advised him to isolate himself for a week. At the moment, he has spent three days in isolation. By the time he stays few more days if he has the virus it will show.”

The awareness however same from sustained village-to-village sensitization carried out by the Local Government on the disease, during the early days of the pandemic.

The sensitization is still on, but this time, with some sanitation facilities distributed to households to further guard them against the disease, Mafeng said. Details of that coming soon.