Moses Emorinken, Abuja

Findings from the Presidential Task Force team’s visit to Cross River state shows that the state has low capacity to test for COVID-19.

The team, which comprises experts from the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), noted that the state was also grappling with other challenges like inadequate surveillance, dearth of personnel, and other logistical problems.

The PTF said it is in discussions with the state and other stakeholders to find ways to solve those problems.

It also said although its first visit to Kogi state did not yield expected results; it is however, hopeful that the second visit will be more productive as there is now better correspondence and understanding with the state.

Cross River and Kogi are the two states in the country that have not recorded a single confirmed case of COVID-19.

The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Adeleke Mamora, who made this known on Wednesday in Abuja, during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, said: “Kogi is yet to be visited the second time. But I can say that we have a better understanding with the government of Kogi this time around and we are hoping that when the team visits Kogi, we will have a better report based on better understanding.

“For Cross River, we want to commend the Governor for welcoming the team and for the collaboration that took place and better understanding as well. Essentially, the findings at the end of the visit revolves around issues of security at the border, inadequacy of surveillance system and the low capacity for testing because of dearth of personnel to make this testing possible.

“Of course, what was also observed was that the call centre is probably not what it should be, as it is still being set up as at that point in time. The situation may have changed now.

“There was also the issue of difficulty in shipping test samples from Cross River State to Irrua reference laboratory in Edo state, which is possibly the nearest centre to Calabar. At the end of it all, there were discussions about how to mitigate these gaps and challenges.”

Concerning updates on the hazard allowance and other incentives promised the frontline health workers, Mamora said: “The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health is currently in a meeting in this regard and I do hope that before the end of the week, the final outcome will be made available.”

The Director-General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, added: “We are focused on supporting all the states in the country. Almost every single day I have been having discussions from Governors pushing for labs, treatment centres, commodities, technical support, guidance, and knowledge.

“So our hands are full, but the purpose of our existence is to support states and we will continue to do so.

“I sent out messages to all state commissioners of health and their state epidemiologists over the Sallah holiday to really focus this week on getting in more samples. In Imo state, we just saw a small but significant increase in the number of cases because of their increased testing and the fact that they now have a lab in Owerri.

“We have enough reagents to test over 100,000 people in our stockpile. The challenge now is how to work with state to reinvigorate the sample collection process, and this is the purpose of our work this week.”

 TheNation

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