Rising Covid-19 Cases in Osun State:
Oyetola-led Government should provide free face masks, hand-washing facilities and other health safety kits, before criminalizing non-usage of face masks
* We demand expansion of testing facilities across all local governments
* We call for adequate funding of the health sector and revamping of all health institutions
The attention of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Osun State has been drawn to the mass arrest of citizens of Osun State by the State government over failure to use face masks. This is premised on the rising cases of Covid-19 infections in the state which has grown significantly in the last one week. According to the government, the failure of the people to adhere to the regulations guiding public gathering, especially the use of face masks, is the major cause of the rising cases of infection.
While it is unfortunate that the rate of Covid-19 infection has increased in the last two weeks, the reality is that the Oyetola government cannot claim not to have contributed to this situation. We agree that the people need to be more conscious of safety regulations against the Covid-19 infection; yet, we insist that the government contributed to the poor compliance with the regulation on use of face masks.
The same government that asked people to use face mask and hand sanitizer and/or hand washing did not provide for these, knowing that majority of the citizens are poor. Even for the sake of hygienic use of the face mask, it is more logical for government to supply the face mask to citizens regularly. This is because majority of those using the masks buy them at unhygienic places, while many people, as a result of poverty, use the same facemask for several days, even weeks. Interestingly, the state government committed close to a billion naira to a private garment factory under Aregbesola/APC government; yet the Oyetola/APC government could not ensure that the garment factory produced free face masks for people of the state.
Moreover, the government, despite its so-called commitment to fighting the Covid-19 scourge, could not commit some resources to providing hand sanitizers and hand washing facilities, especially at public places including markets, workplaces, motor parks, etc. In fact, a serious government will consider providing households with free hand sanitizers, given the fact that the same government has refused to provide public potable water supply across the state.
According to WHO statistics, less than 35 percent of Nigerians have access to hand washing facilities, while less than 60 percent have access to safe water supply. Coupled with high level of poverty, currently worsened by the economic impacts of Covid-19; provision of these facilities by state government is no more a privilege to the citizens but a responsibility on the government.
As a result of all of these realities, we hold that the Oyetola government cannot wash its hands clean of the blame for the latest rise in the rate of Covid-19 infection in Osun State. Therefore, any arrest or threat of prosecution of defaulters, without addressing the underlining factors vis-à-vis provision of safety facilities such as free face masks and hand-washing facility, will not be effective in stopping the growing infection rate. Furthermore, we call for expansion of testing centres across all local governments in the state. This will help to ensure that as many as possible citizens of the state are tested. We further reiterate our demand for provision of adequate personal protective equipment and adequate allowances for medical and health workers across the state.
In addition, we call for proper funding of health sector in the state. Most of the state health institutions are in decrepit state with less than 300 medical doctors under the employ of the state government. Worse still, basic facilities in most of the health institutions especially state hospitals and tertiary health institutions like LAUTECH Teaching Hospital and State Specialist Hospital at Asubiaro, are either unavailable or inadequate. Therefore, the grandstanding of the Oyetola government on fighting Covid-19 disease is misplaced.