Cross River State is not getting enough COVID-19 test kits from the federal government, the state government has said.
The head of the COVID-19 Response Taskforce in Cross River State, Betta Edu, told reporters on Wednesday in Calabar that Cross River has so far received only 50 test kits from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and that the number is grossly inadequate for the state’s 4.5 million population.
“With 50 sample collection kits for a population of 4.5 million, how many tests do you want Dr Betta Edu and Cross River State Government to produce in the week? These things are not available and yet you want us to embark on sample collection and send them to Irua or Ebonyi?” said Mrs Edu.
Mrs Edu, a medical doctor, is also the commissioner for health in Cross River.
There is no confirmed case of coronavirus in Cross River.
“We were told we were not testing enough and that is why we have not found a case,” Mrs Edu said. “Due to pressure, we tested somebody who has not met the criteria last September, no fever, no cough, nothing else, no difficulty in breathing and she has a family history of asthma.
“For us as a state and with the limited number of test kits we have, we decided that only people who meet the criteria sent to the state from NCDC will be tested.
“The pressure is becoming too much and unnecessary. We were asked not to use locally available swap sample collection kits which we have but rather we should use the one sent to us.”
Mrs Edu said apart from the 50 test kits, Cross River received 200 Personal Protective Equipment, four body bags, and four boots from the federal government, despite several appeals for support. She said the Cross River government has been struggling alone to ensure that the state is COVID-19 free.
“The federal government should isolate states that have done well during this period, support them in the way that they required, everybody does not need a ventilator, I don’t have a case now and I do not need it.
“What I need as an emergency is to keep my border shut so that the over 50, 000 Cameroonians that are trying to get into the state can be stopped. What I need is money to pay the surveillance officers who will go round and look for cases.
“And what I need are sample kits for us to get samples in their numbers as they have asked for, we need support from the federal government to produce more face masks, we should be treated differently.
“Yet we heard all states in Nigeria must have COVID-19 and it is almost becoming a battle to ensure that whether true or not, all states in Nigeria have COVID-19. It is possible to have a state without COVID-19 and others around it have, so it is not compulsory that every state in Nigeria should have COVID-19.”
Mrs Edu said Cross River should be commended, and not “accused”, for not having any confirmed case of the coronavirus. She said the administration of Governor Ben Ayade has been proactive in its response to the pandemic in order to protect the people of the state.
“Our instinct was Lassa fever which was killing people but we were carrying out sensitisation both for coronavirus and Lassa fever, then there was no case of COVID-19 in Africa and Nigeria.
“Cross River State remains the first state in Nigeria to screen people who came in through our local airport, at this time Nigeria had not recorded any single case of COVID-19.
“We screened people from China, South Africa and we tried to follow up on them for two weeks to see that they were not infected. Cross River State was the first state to say that its International and interstate borders be shut, and for people to come in they must be screened.
“We also make it compulsory for no mask, no movement. These were policies we put on the table and followed them through. The virus does not move but the humans that are infected move, spreading it from one location to the other,” the commissioner said.