Visiting officials of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have reportedly fled Kogi State shortly after Governor Yahaya Bello directed them to go into isolation at the state quarantine centre for fourteen days before carrying out their assignment in the state or leave the state immediately if they refused.
This is coming barely one week after media altercations between NCDC and Kogi state government over the state’s COVID-19 free status.
The NCDC team led by Dr Andrew Noah visited the Governor in Lokoja on Thursday to help Kogi state and support her efforts in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Noah explained to Bello that his team were in Kogi to support the state in shipping swabs and samples and ascertain the preparedness of the state in fighting Covid-19.
However, Bello directed that the NCDC team be subjected to COVID-19 test and quarantined to ensure that the laid down procedure of checkmating the scourge by NCDC is strictly followed.
Bello while addressing the officials said Kogi state is highly experienced in fighting infectious diseases such as Lassa fever, malaria and the experience have been brought to bear in fighting Covid-19.
“Our people are adequately sensitised in all languages and locations throughout the state about Covid-19. As much as practicable Kogites now observe social distancing, handwashing and other protocols for prevention of infection.
“The Kogi State Ministry of Health has deployed health personnel to all the 239 Wards of the State, 2 focal persons per ward, who constantly sensitize the people on the dangers of the virus, communicate news or even rumours of suspected cases to the incident committee or task force for investigation and also assist in contact tracing.
“We have set up 3 modern Isolation/ Containment Centres in the State having a combined capacity of 130-bed spaces. These facilities currently lie unused. It is our prayer and our determination that these isolation centres will remain vacant until the pandemic is over.
“We were the first state to officially release a web application which the general public can deploy to self-assess for Covid-19 risk. That app has proved to be popular and effective in tackling fear among the populace in the face of an unknown killer disease.
“We have had over 200,000 engagements with that app, over 14,000 completed self-assessments revealing scores of cases which required further investigation before Covid-19 could be ruled out. This is great as we all know how fear and disinformation are often overlooked but highly dangerous co-travellers with disease outbreaks and other phenomena which disrupt the social order.
“We have provided emergency and toll-free numbers for the general public to call in and report suspected cases of Covid-19 at no cost whatsoever. We have also fielded many of such calls. All of them turned out to be false alarms upon investigation and did not meet the criteria from the NCDC for cases which should be sampled for testing.
“In the circumstances, we cannot manufacture cases in order to be counted among the states which have recorded same. As a Governor I hear there are ‘benefits’ for having Covid-19 cases in your state, well, I am not interested,” he said.
Reacting to the decision of NCDC officials to dodge COVID-19 test and flee the state, the state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr Kingsley Fanwo told newsmen that NCDC should come hard on its officials for violating its rules.
“Today, the Governor showed the statesmanship in him once again by appreciating the support of the NCDC and defending the health interests of his people.
“NCDC quarantined the Chinese professionals that came to give them technical support and also took their samples for test. It is a normal practice and protocol set by NCDC.
“So NCDC will have a lot to explain as to why its officials refused to test for COVID-19. How can we be sure of their status? What are their fears? Why did NCDC sent people who are afraid of test to our State? What was their intention?
“The officials that came have done an integrity blow to the works of the NCDC. Is there something they are hiding? It is time NCDC opened up and apologize to the good people of Kogi State.
“How will they encourage people to test when its own officials are afraid of test? This is sad”.
Efforts to reach NCDC has proven abortive.