The governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, said he has set up a team of medical experts to make findings on how people in different communities in his state could go about their normal lives, in spite of the presence of coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Assuming God does not allow this virus go till the end of this year, we must find a way to live with it because we cannot completely shut out human existence because of (the) virus,” Mr Emmanuel said on Sunday in a live phone-in interview.
The interview was broadcast on radio and television stations in the state and also on Facebook and Twitter.
“I have set up a small team of medical experts. We may not have such a robust research facility in Nigeria. But what I told them is that they should understudy the behavioural pattern of this virus, and let’s see,” the governor added.
Akwa Ibom has 48 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus as of June 15, one of the lowest among the states in Nigeria.
Lagos State remains the epicentre of the coronavirus in the country, with 7,319 cases so far, followed by Abuja with 1,264 cases.
Kano occupies the third position on the table with 1,158 cases. Edo, with 620 cases, is fourth, while Rivers State is fifth, with 592 cases.
The total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria is 16,658.
Four hundred and twenty-four persons have so far died of COVID-19 in Nigeria, while 5,349 have been discharged from hospitals, according to data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Mr Emmanuel said he has told the team to study how the “black” genes react to the COVID-19 virus, compare their findings with the results of similar researches in other parts of the world with the hope that human spirit would ultimately triumph against the pandemic.
“How can we live with this virus without it killing us because the most important thing here is human life? Without it killing us, we can also manage to live with it. After all, malaria kills a lot too. We have been surviving with it,” Mr Emmanuel said.
“I have challenged them with that, I think they are doing a whole lot.”
The governor said he was particularly worried about the inability of the pupils and students in his state to get back to school.
Akwa Ibom, like other Nigerian states, had shut down schools in the wake of the outbreak.
“Once we are able to come up with a local solution, I don’t know what WHO would do, you see these things differ.
“I talked about environment-induced diagnostic survey the other time, our environment could carry something completely different from Europe and America. So, once we can localise how we can actually have a solution to see how we can open up schools, I am in a haste.
“And I want to believe we should be able to catch up very soon. And we are also not alone in this matter, even if we open up our schools our students would still need to write WASCE that they couldn’t write before this thing (coronavirus) came up,” he said.
Akwa Ibom has a well-equipped tertiary hospital for the management of COVID-19 cases and has recently built a new 300-bed infectious disease and isolation centre.
Medical doctors who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said the state has been quite successful in its management of COVID-19 cases, so far.
Governor Emmanuel said the state COVID-19 patients who are from Akwa Ibom but resident in other states have been sending requests to the Akwa Ibom government for their possible transfer to the case management centres in the state.
“It (has) not been practicable,” the governor said.
“I have a case now where I needed to move one of them from Lagos so that we could take care, he is a very prominent son of the state. But I’ll need like an air-ambulance to be able to move him.
“Our medical team, together with our COVID-19 team – we have been thinking, what can we do for some of our people who are stranded outside the state which we know the facilities that we have, the human resources we have can actually take care of them better.”
The governor said the state government has made such intervention, about twice, for people from Akwa Ibom who were resident in nearby states.
“One thing with the psychology of a patient is that at times the conditions, bedside manners, facilities can give him hope,” he said.
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