Cross River, before now, was the only Nigerian state without any confirmed case of the coronavirus.
The five cases are apparently the ones reported earlier in the state by the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH), Calabar.
The Chief Medical Director of the UCTH, Ikpeme Ikpeme, had told the hospital staff via an internal memo that the tests were conducted in a laboratory approved by NCDC in Abakiliki, Ebonyi State.
Two of the samples came from the health workers in the UCTH, Mr Ikpeme said, adding that the workers were making “tremendous progress along the path of recovery”.
Mr Ikpeme said in the memo that the Cross River State government had been informed on the development.
The Commissioner for Information in Cross River, Asu Okang, however, dismissed the hospital’s memo as “desperate attempts by mischief-makers to ensure that the state records a case of COVID-19”.
“No hospital is empowered to announce cases of pandemic in the country asides the NCDC. So if a hospital uses one test kit and says we have COVID-19 (it) does not mean anything,” Mr Okang told PREMIUM TIMES.
“The point is that the NCDC is the body required to reflect cases of COVID-19 and announce it to members of the public. Not ‘one small lab technician’ trying to assert their egos and hatch their mischief on the grounds of what they think and their state of mind could through an internal memo.”
Four days after the UCTH’s memo, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in the state challenged the NCDC on why it did not publicly confirm the five cases of the coronavirus in the state.
“The Association demands explanation from NCDC, why, the five (5) COVID-19 confirmed cases from UCTH carried out at the NCDC accredited Molecular Laboratory at Alex Ekwueme University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State have not reflected in the daily situation report of NCDC long after results had been transmitted to UCTH since July 1, 2020.
“Congress demands update of the NCDC situation report as a matter of urgent public health interest,” the NMA said on July 5, in a letter to the minister of health.
The NMA letter was signed by its chairman and secretary, Agam Ayuk and Ezoke Epoke respectively.
The letter added, “Congress demands explanations from NCDC, why, epidemiology code numbers have to be generated by Cross River State Ministry of Health before results of samples sent by UCTH to an NCDC approved Molecular Laboratory can be published by NCDC, despite having approved UCTH as an independent Test Centre.”
The NMA said doctors in the state were withdrawing their services from public and private hospitals in the state until the NCDC and the state ministry of health give urgent attention to the issues the association raised.
The UCTH in June issued a similar memo to its staff, informing them about a patient who tested positive for the coronavirus in the hospital. The NCDC is yet to confirm the case.
PREMIUM TIMES could not immediately reach the Cross River State government for their comment on the latest development in the state.
Meanwhile, the total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nigeria is 29,286 as of July 6, according to data released by NCDC.
Lagos State remains the epicentre of the infection with 11,367, followed by the FCT with 2,281.
Oyo occupies the third position on the table with 1,530 cases. Edo and Delta states occupy fourth and fifth positions with 1,435 and 1,285 respectively.
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