Dr Betta Edu

Against the backdrop of a seeming verbal altercation over the zero-free coronavirus status of some states in the country, the Government of Cross River State has stated that it would quarantine any NCDC official that enters the state, even as it has called on the Federal Government to re-strategize in the fight against Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country so as to come up with approaches designed to meet the peculiar needs of individual states.

The State Commissioner for Health, Dr Betta Edu, who made this disclosure during a press briefing in Calabar, on Wednesday, 29th April, 2020, also lamented that, while the Federal Government does not provide incentives to COVID-19 free states as a way of encouraging them to keep up the good work, the current approaches in fighting the deadly virus does not encourage states that have worked hard to prevent the outbreak of the disease in their respective jurisdiction.

Highlighting the measures the state government has been putting in place to maintain its COVID-19 free status, the Commissioner expressed regret over the seeming hostile posture of contempt and suspicion, with which the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), has been exhibiting towards states that are yet to record cases of the highly infectious disease so far.

Recall that the NCDC had on Tuesday mocked Cross River and other states that are still COVID-19 free, saying they cannot hide for too long, even as the Director General of the federal agency, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, had also stated earlier that Coronavirus would spread to all the states in the country.

Addressing these issues, Dr. Edu said, “Today I want to gradually take us through certain steps which have become critical for Cross River State. I want to thank the Almighty God and of course the governor of Cross River State, Sen (Prof.) Ben Ayade for his ingenuity, selflessness and indeed love for Cross Riverians, which he has shown during this period of COVID-19.

“It is very obvious that the governor has put in everything to see that Cross River State continues to improve on its level of response and our people continue to receive the best of health they can get.

“As we speak this minute, Cross River is one of the two states in Nigeria that is still COVID-19 free. And I must sincerely thank the media for the wonderful work you have done because if you have not taken the message out there on time, we would have not been here today. I also want to thank Cross Riverians for their cooperation thus far.

“I also know how uncomfortable some policies have been, including the ‘No Mask, No Movement’. It’s been very very uncomfortable for some persons, but Cross Riverians have comply.

“I want to take us from the genesis up on till this point. The journey thus far. Why we should be commended rather than accused. In the first week of January this year, we set up the emergency operation center. And I’m sure some of us have attended this emergency operation center and we have been part of it.

“At this center, we brought together specialists in the medical field, military, para-military and indeed the who is who as it concerns preserving and protecting our dear state from COVID-19. As at that point, it was being called the novel Coronavirus.

“This EOC met every forthnight and we spent hours, sometimes late into the night as far as 10pm, discussing on how to improve sensitization, how to engage with community leaders, chiefs, traditional rulers, religious leaders, name it. We went all out to begin sensitization at a time when no state in Nigeria was carrying out sensitization on Coronavirus.

“At that point the in thing was Lassa Fever which was killing people in their numbers. But we were carrying out sensitization both for Coronavirus and Lassa Fever.

“I remember as early as January doing a jingle to educate people on Coronavirus. Then it sounded absurd as we didn’t have any case in Africa and Nigeria and so why would you be carrying out a campaign on Coronavirus.

“Cross River State remains the first state to start screening people who came in through our local airports. At the point when we were screening people, both Indians and all of them, Nigeria has not had a single case of COVID-19.

“We screened people coming in from China and south Asia and we followed up on them for two weeks to see that they were not infected. Then I had people call me to say why go that far and stress yourself that much after all, there’s no Coronavirus in Africa, there’s no Coronavirus in Nigeria.

“Cross River State is the very first state to say that its international and local borders be shut and that for people to come through, they must be screened.

“Like you very well know too, the ‘No Mask No Movement’ directive which the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria announced this week in his address to the nation, originated from governor Ben Ayade. When governor Ben Ayade said it over a month ago, he was highly criticised that the mask does not provide protection for anybody and as such, mask should be allow for only health workers.

“Today, the whole nation is back on the same spot where one man said over a month ago that we should use our mask to protect ourselves and protect others. Today, research has shown very clearly that if you are using a mask and I’m using a mask, the probability of transmitting the virus from you to me is less than one per cent.

“So these were the policies that we put on the table and we have followed through, doing our best to see that we can implement these policies. I remember as at last week, the governor said the interstate borders should be completely shut off.

“And we had the presidency call, the IG of police called to say no, allow essential services. Remember the virus does not move, it’s humans who have been infected with the virus that are moving and spreading it from one location to the other.”, She said.

Dr Edu also contended with the notion held in some quarters that the state is ostensibly COVID-19 free because it has not carried out community testing and while wondering how Cross River would test a population of over 4 million when the Federal Government only provided it with 50 test kits, added with conviction that despite the lack of testing capacity, it was possible for some states in Nigeria to be free of the virus.

The Health Commissioner therefore called on the Federal Government to set up a vaccine manufacturing plant in Cross River State to align with the state’s industrialization drive, stressing that this would further consolidate government’s effort in battling COVID-19 to a standstill.

Dr Edu then reiterated the call on Federal Government to offer Cross River financial support to enable the state monitor its international borders effectively and concluded by appealing to journalists to always verify their information before going to the press.

Reported by Roselyn Ntekim

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