Medical experts on Wednesday berated the Kogi State Government for banning the use of face masks in public places as part of efforts to tackle insecurity in the state.
They described the ban as a strategy by the governor to further back his claim that there is no COVID-19 in his state.
The Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, had on Tuesday banned the use of face masks in public places just as he ordered the demolition of shanties in some areas as part of the state government’s response to a series of security breaches experienced in the state in recent times.
The governor gave the directives in Lokoja during a meeting with all first and second-class traditional rulers, including local government chairmen in the state.
The ban is coming despite the increasing cases of COVID-19 in the country.
Data obtained from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control showed that the country reported 709 COVID-19 cases in one week.
Speaking with The PUNCH on Wednesday, a former consultant with the World Health Organisation, Prof. Tanimola Akande, said “The ban on face masks with increasing cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria is not properly thought of and certainly not based on scientific and public health reasoning. It is a big deception to claim there is no COVID-19 in Kogi State.
What makes Kogi State an island in Nigeria insulated from COVID-19? The intentional cover-up of cases in Kogi State is a total deception.”
Akande, who is also a former National Chairman of the Association of Public Health Physicians, said the decision will further expose the state to COVID-19.
“This decision will further expose Kogi State to COVID-19 and encourage some of them not to take appropriate actions to protect themselves. It is hoped that the relevant government agencies will take this up with the state government,” he said.
Reacting, the Chairman of the Edo State chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Harrison Omokhua, also tackled the state government for being controversial regarding COVID-19.
Omokhua said, “If you follow the trend regarding COVID-19, you will recall that the Kogi State governor has always been on the other side. So, I am not surprised by his decision.
“Though COVID-19 mortality rate has reduced, it doesn’t mean that we no longer have the virus. You will be shocked that if you test people randomly, they have the virus but the complications have reduced. Saying that people should not wear face masks for security reasons is not a good idea.
“If it is for security reasons, you can still track someone wearing face masks, the person can remove it momentarily and the person wears it back. Banning it is wrong because you don’t know who will come down with COVID-19 complication.”
Also, a former chairman of NMA in Lagos State, Dr. Tajudeen Salau, described the decision as risky.
“Whatever the case is, both of them bother on livelihood and they are threats to life. However, I don’t think we should be exposing ourselves to one just because we want to protect ourselves from the other.
“We need to have correct details about how face masks have been able to curb insecurity while exposing more people to COVID-19. I don’t know the analogy that has been done to come up with this,” Salau said.
Also reacting, a medical scientist at the Department of Microbiology, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, Anambra State, Obinna Chukwudi, faulted the state government.
Chukwudi said, “The Kogi State Government cannot completely ban the use of face masks. Do you even know who the bandits are? Do you have the criminal records of the bandits such that even if they don’t wear face masks, you will know that they are the ones?
“Banning the use of face masks will not curb crime because these people are still unknown to us. We don’t even have data about these people. The government can relax the use of face masks for a particular period after which it can encourage them to be wearing the face masks again.”
When contacted, the Deputy Director, Media and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Health, Ahmadu Chindaya, said, “At the right time, the ministry will react, once it (the report) is in the paper, the ministry will react.”
The media inquiry request sent to the NCDC is yet to be responded to as of the time of filing this report.