1 June 2020
Fall out from the Friday 29th May press briefing organised by the Honourable Commissioner for Health in Cross River, the only state without an official case of Covid-19 in Nigeria, suggests that Dr. Betta Edu is in a dilemma in her fight against the dreaded Coronavirus Disease 2019, Covid-19 in the state.
This disposition became obvious while the health commissioner addressed a section of the press in Calabar the state capital city. According to the sober Dr Edu, the state is under intense pressure to be politically correct as all quarters are insisting that Cross River should have cases of the ravaging Coronavirus.
Edu frowned at the federal government, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Cross River state, the medical laboratory scientists in the state for refusing to support prevention as explored by the state government but has been insistent on the emergence of positive cases of the rattling Covid-19 pandemic in Cross River.
After outlining the measures initially taken by the state government before the disease was labeled as a pandemic, Dr Edu observed regrettably, 'These and lots more have been done by the Cross River State Government (CRSG), but you see rather than get commendations, we continue to get pressures and knocks, to say… 'no, you have not tested enough'.
'I want you to just sit down and imagine how much we have helped another economy to grow: if as a nation we carry out 2 million tests in 3 months or 6 million tests in 6 months, each of those testing materials, at least for the gene expert machine, cost about $150, times it by 4 million, and see how much a country that has a sinking economy is doling out to other countries.
'Rather than test people who come down with signs and symptoms, we want to do massive screening using the PCR method and the gene expert. How many people will be positive?
FG glorifying the Covid-19…
The Commissioner for Health slammed the federal government of Nigeria for not rather supporting prevention of the pandemic, but glorifying it and even enriching other economies because of the adopted method of testing:
'It is sad to know that our country would refuse to support a state that is preventing the virus, and everyone is insinuating, everyone is pressurising and everyone is insisting that Cross River state has cases of Coronavirus and we're trying to hide it, or suppress it, or kill people, I don't know, I don't get it.
'The monies we spend alone to do a live broadcast everyday, paying how many stations at least N12 million for each hour that they have to go live, times the number of stations times three months, that runs into billions, if they were given to help states, states would respond better.
'We have so glorified it that everyday people are waiting to hear numbers… 350 new cases, 500 new cases, the total number of cases is 10,000. And it's beautiful for us as a people. And if you say you don't have cases, 'that's wrong, you can't say that, you must have cases, you should test people in their millions everyday, whether you have the sample test kits or not, whether you have the lab to test people or not, it doesn't matter'. That's the only time you'll be politically correct in the eyes of the federal government, correct in the eyes of Cross River state NMA, correct in the eyes of the Cross River laboratory scientists, and those who are projecting the conspiracy theory.
'We've tried as a state, but maybe at this point, prevention doesn't work anymore, maybe prevention is not key… it's not important to Nigeria and that's why you won't get any support to continue to prevent cases or to continue to protect your people, that's why you will not get support from the federal government… Maybe we should change the strategy, maybe at this point we should open our borders, maybe we should dole out torrent of cases, 1000 everyday… positive cases, maybe we should remove everybody from the borders, both at the Cameroonian borders… illegal path, the maybe we should pull the commissioners back, maybe we should ask the surveillance officers whom we have to pay N10,000 every single day to be in the field looking for people who meet criteria, maybe we should pull them back, and we should just let Nigerians have it their way, we should test 1000 persons everyday, manufacture cases in their number, at that point I am sure I will get peace… at that point NMA Cross River State will be happy, at that point those who desperately want us to have coronavirus will be happy.
Why Cross River is yet to record a case of Covid-19…
According to Commissioner Edu these are the reasons Cross River has not recorded any case of the pandemic out of all the 36 states of the federation.
She revealed that as early as 4th January 2020 Cross River had set up an EOC for Coronavirus Disease 2019; as early as January this year 'I started radio, TV jingles; as early as January, we started sensitisation through communities; I guess we were the first state to distribute 5,000 PPEs to medical facilities in Cross River; we were the first to screen people coming into Cross River from the waterways, airports; the no mask no movement began in Cross River; we were the first to shut the interstate borders before the federal government called for it; CRSG produced 1.5 million face masks and distributed free to people; the government made available 100 vehicles including trucks, small cars; we were the first to say churches, school, should shut down, no public gatherings; purchased buckets with taps and sent to healthcare facilities, and instructed public places to do same; produced 200,000 hand sanitizers and distributed across board especially at point of entry; sensitised the refugee communities; Launched a 50 man Taskforce; governors, commissioners etc kept vigil to man official and unofficial borders in the state;
Continuing she noted that 'we set up the Isolation Centres; there's a laboratory; hotel facilities to house staff of the isolation centre; we've over a 1000 surveillance officers working in various LGAs; we gave food and financial palliative to over 44,000 Nigerians indigenous to and residents in the state; jobs were created in the health sector by engaging 400 doctors, 600 nurses, 1000 DSO's; training for health workers in the state', she concluded.
Edu said having done all these without commendation and support from the FG, she resigned to fate while pleading with President Muhammadu Buhari to support prevention.