According to a report by The PUNCH, there was an outbreak of serious panic among staff of the National Youth Service Corps on Tuesday after a resident officer died of COVID-19.
The PUNCH gathered that the top officer was posted to the permanent orientation camp in Kano, a few days ago where he developed coronavirus symptoms and died on Tuesday.
Following his death, workers of the NYSC in Abuja and orientation camps, particularly in Kano, had been gripped by fear of contracting COVID-19.
Recall that the Economic Sustainability Committee led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had in June last year called on the Federal Government to consider suspending the NYSC orientation camp exercises for two years.
But on January 16 Saturday PUNCH reported that the Federal Government snubbed the recommendation by re-opening orientation camps nationwide amid rising COVID-19 infections.
Since the camps were reopened, many corps members have tested positive for COVID-19. For example, at the Cross River NYSC camp, 13 corps members were reported to have tested positive on January 25.
The PUNCH learnt on Tuesday that the deceased officer went to Kano State where he represented the Director-General of the NYSC, Brigadier General, Shuaibu Ibrahim.
When contacted, NYSC Deputy Director (Press and Public Relations), Emeka Mgbemena, confirmed the death of the officer to The PUNCH, but said he died outside the orientation camp.
But a top officer of the NYSC, who confided in The PUNCH, said the officer was tested by doctors and officials of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control who confirmed that he died as a result of COVID -19.
The source said, “The resident officer, who was posted from the NYSC National Headquarters in Abuja to Kano State NYSC permanent orientation camp died early this (Tuesday) morning as a result of COVID-19.
“But very unfortunately, the NYSC management and the NCDC are trying to hide the case. The officer and representative of the DG was tested by the doctors and the NCDC who confirmed that the officer died as a result of COVID-19 in the camp. Right now, multiple numbers of the NCDC staff are in the camp.”
Another top officer of the service, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said staff of the NYSC in other camps, who had learnt about the development had started panicking.
Giving more insight into the officer’s death, Mgbemena said, “Indeed, NYSC lost an officer. In keeping with COVID – 19 protocols, everyone, including the DG, must subject themselves to COVID-19 test. Only those that test negative are allowed into the camps.
“The officer in question was suspected of COVID-19. Accordingly, the NCDC took over the case. Sadly, he succumbed to the cold hands of death in the course of treatment. It is imperative to state that he did not step into the camp, neither did he die there too. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
“Everybody in the camp, including resource persons, camp market operators were tested for COVID – 19. There’s no COVID-19 positive person in the 37 camps of the NYSC nationwide.”
On Tuesday evening, Mgbemena later told one of our correspondents that the NCDC was in charge of the testing.
He also stated, “The capacity of the camps have greatly reduced to a maximum of 800 persons to ensure social distancing.
Watch hand basins, liquid soap, running water and sanitisers have strategically placed in the camp.
“The number of camp market operators has been scaled down to 50. Corps members don’t sit to eat anymore at the mammy market.”
Also, in a document titled, ‘Sad loss of NYSC staff in Kano State,’ he said, “The officer was tested for COVID – 19, as precondition for admittance to the orientation camp, just like all other camp officials and prospective corps members in the 37 NYSC orientation camps nationwide, as prescribed by the Presidential Task Force on COVID – 19 and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
“The test result was positive for the officer, and was subsequently moved to the Kano State Isolation Centre for proper care but unfortunately succumbed to the virus.”