In apparent response to a statement credited to the Director General of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, that states which are yet to record cases of COVID-19 are negligent in testing and tracing, the Cross River government has said the federal government should commend the state for its efforts and give financial support to build Covid-19 vaccine production plant in Calabar.
Addressing Journalists, Wednesday, the Chairman of the State Covid 19 Response Team, and Commissioner for Health, Dr Beta Edu, said:“The federal government should commend and support us in the things we are doing right, especially to ensure production of face masks, to ensure more rice seedlings in our Rice City are made available to farmers to reduce post Covid 19 hunger and food chain challenges. The federal government should come in and help us establish Vaccines Production plants in Cross River state.”
Edu also called on the federal government to send more security personnel to police the Nigeria/Cameroon borders as well as giving assistance in areas of adequate sample collection kits, noting that the state was more interested in the prevention of the virus than its management.
According to her, Cross River had done its home work well and early too to ward off the coronavirus, adding “It is troubling that some individuals at different places of authority are insisting all states in Nigeria must have Covid 19 and it is almost becoming a battle to ensure all States in Nigeria have it. It is possible to have a state without Covid 19 even though those around it have.
“Look at Lesotho and South Africa. The two countries are all in the Southern part of Africa. One of the two countries has one of the highest recorded Covid 19 cases while the other does not have. Czech Republic is in Europe where people are dying in their thousands in countries like Italy, France and the rest but in Czech Republic, the story is different. It is not compulsory that every state in Nigeria should have Covid 19.”
Explaining why the State was yet to record any case, Edu said “In early January, Cross River state government set up emergency response centre. In this centre, we brought together specialists in the medical field, scientists, military, paramilitary and indeed who is who that could render service in protecting our dear state from Covid 19 which at that time was called the novel corona virus.
“We spent hours, sometimes late into the night discussing on how to scale up sensitization, how to engage community and traditional rulers, religious leaders etc. We were all out to begin sensitization at a time that no other state in Nigeria was carrying out sensitization on Covid 19.
“What was killing people in their numbers then was Lassa fever but we were carrying out sensitization for both coronavirus and Lassa fever. Then, it sounded absurd because there was no case in Africa, there was no Covid 19 case in Nigeria. Cross River state still remained the very first state to screen people who came into Calabar through our local airport.
“We were the very first state to say that its international borders and the inter-state borders should be shut. The ‘no mass, no movement,’ policyr, which the President of our country, in his speech few days ago, imbibed, was propounded by Gov Ben Ayade.
“They said we were not testing enough. The total of samples collections kits sent from the federal government to us is 50 with 200 PPEs and four body bags for a population of 4.5 million, and we were told not to use the locally available sample collection kits we have but to use the ones sent to us.
“With 50 sample collection kits, how many tests do they want Cross River state to conduct in a week? In other States, my colleagues in other states have raised concern that their samples collection kits have been used up.
“We all know that these things are not available yet you want us to do sample collections of all Cross Riverians and sent to Irrua for test. With the limited number of test kits that we have, we decided that it is only people who meet the criteria from NCDC who will be tested. Due to pressure, we even conducted test on someone in University of Calabar Teaching Hospital who had history of asthma. Every sickness is not Covid 19.”