(By Iheanyi Ezinwo) – In spite of the strategic importance of Rivers State in the economic equation of Nigeria, the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, is yet to establish a laboratory in the state for COVID-19 testing. This disclosure was made by Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike of Rivers State at a press briefing in Port Harcourt on Friday, adding that the state is yet to get any material support from the Federal Government.
Governor Wike, who stated that the Federal Government has been selective in its support to states, with Kano State being the latest to enjoy prompt response and generous support shortly after the Governor complained of neglect, stressed that Rivers has long been pleading with the government at the centre for support without success.
He hinted that Rivers State has so far recorded 13 cases of infection, two recoveries and two deaths, even as he decried the politicization of security by the Federal Government, resulting in the compromise of professionalism and rules.
His words: “We are virtually fighting this battle without any tangible material support from the Federal Government. We are wondering as most of you may also be, that up till now the NCDC has not established any testing center in the State in spite of our position, huge socio-economic and demographic mix and high transmission threat hanging over us as a result. Was this deliberate? If not so, why and what was the justification for this dangerous neglect, which is obviously limiting our capacity to expand testing for this virus in the State.
“But, for us as a Government, every single new infection of COVID-19 in our State is one too many. We shall therefore continue to take every necessary measure to control and possibly end the transmission of this disease in Rivers State in spite of the enormous challenges and lack of concrete support from the Federal Government.
“It is for the very reason that we have taken our fate in our own hands with the establishment of the Border security task force, which has been mandated to provide and ensure a water-tight situation in all our entry and exit points and prevent any unauthorized entry and or exit of persons and vehicles into the State during the period of the closure.”
He further observed: “The logical conclusion therefore, is that the pattern of transmission of COVID-19 in the State is evidentially predicated on outside importation just as the rate of infection and progression is also relatively low and arithmetical, when considered from the date of the index case.
“Generally, we believe that unless there is a sudden and vertical slide into community transmission, we expect our COVID-19 infection and prevalent rate to continue along this low trajectory, which gives us the assurance that our hard work is paying off and Rivers State is certainly not in any dangerous position when compared to most other States, and we will never be by God’s special grace.
“This is not to say that we are at the peak of this crisis and that everything about the containment and transmission of COVID-19 is under control. No; we are not, because of the challenges occasioned primarily by the negative elements that continue to undermine and sabotage our efforts to protect our people from this disease.
” For instance, the 7th infected case was an offshore oil and gas worker who went and passed a night in a Lagos hotel before returning to Port Harcourt on the 9th of April 2020 with the aid of the security personnel manning our borders. When his symptoms started, he was admitted to a private hospital, (St. Martin’s Hospital) on the 20th and discharged on the 21st of April 2020. Had the security agencies not compromised their responsibility at the borders, this man would have been prevented from coming into Port Harcourt with this virus and threaten the lives of other people for over two weeks before he was evacuated to the treatment center.”
To re -enforce the fight to check the spread of coronavirus Governor Ezenwo Wike also announced the compulsory use of face masks in the state and that the State Security Council will in the next 24 hours take stringent measures against commercial transport operators for their failure to observe social distancing.
He said: “The wearing of face mask in all public places is now compulsory throughout the State.
” The State’s Security Council will meet in the next 24 hours to consider and approve necessary mitigating measures for commuters, including the deployment of Government buses to shuttle designated public routes free of charge.”
Governor Wike said though the State Government agrees with President Muhammadu Buhari on the gradual re-opening of the country, it will continue to take critical steps on the peculiarities of the state.
“While we agree with Mr. President’s decision to gradually re-open the country for business, we shall be guided by the peculiarities of our State on when to relax the measures we have put in place and gradually restore business activities to the State.
” Until then, I wish to restate that we love all residents of Rivers State. Please maintain social distancing, stay at home, wear face mask in public places and stay safe, ” he said.
Governor Wike said that his administration has trained health professionals to tackle coronavirus, procured relevant Personal Protective Equipment for frontline workers, purchased and received Ventilators for the treatment of infected people.
He added that the State Government has taken delivery of 250-bed Isolation Centre sponsored by the private sector, treatment and holding centres established by State Government and received one GeneXpert RT-PCR testing machine from TOTAL E & P, which is ready to be used and will be deployed for testing in the State.
The Governor added that Pamo Hospital has also donated another PCR machine to Rivers State, improving capacity of the State Government to test for coronavirus.
On the distribution of palliatives, the Rivers State Governor said, “Reports reaching us from independent monitors indicate that, so far, both Committees are creditably executing their respective mandate in spite of the difficult logistical challenge that is involved.
“As a matter of fact, the Procurement Committee has so far purchased and delivered to our ware houses local food items, including garri, yam, beans, fish, palm oil, plantain, tomatoes and onions worth over 590 million naira.
“The Food Distribution Committee has successfully distributed food packages to vulnerable households in 16 Local Government Areas, namely: Obio/Akpor, Port Harcourt, Ikwerre, Eleme, Omuma, Bonny, Opobo/Nkoro, Tai, Okrika, Etche, Akuku Toru, Asari Toru, Oyigbo, Gokana, Khana, and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni.”
Governor Wike reiterated that the Strategy of his administration is to contain, prevent or minimize the spread of the disease and save the lives of Rivers people.