Irked by the frequent dispute between some states and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on figures of positive COVID-19 cases, a socio-political group in Akwa Ibom State is demanding for the unbundling of the agency.
The group, Ibom Patriots says a situation where states and NCDC ‘’unnecessarily dispute figures of positive persons cast doubts and breeds suspicion on the reality of the pandemic which is unhealthy for the nation.”
They are also calling for the decentralisation of the operations of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 to make for a more rapid response to suspected cases.
Chancellor of the group, Bassey Inuaeyen; Secretary-General, Usenobong Akpabio, in a statement said the dependence of states on NCDC for test results on the status of suspected patients/carrier slows appropriate action/treatment and endangers not only the concerned life but others, who may contract it from unidentified contact.
The group calls for a dynamic policy of establishing Test Centers in each state of the federation and Abuja, adding that cities like Lagos and Abuja may need multi-centres, to sufficiently address rising needs.
The statement that was addressed to the Chairman of Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, states ‘’the NCDC should, in line with its envisaged unbundling, ensure that Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), replicated in each State of the Federation as Incident Management Committees (IMC) are up to speed for effective and efficient preparation, coordination, and management of response activities for public health events. Also, testing kits/materials should be readily available in all states.”
Decentralisation, according to them, will lead to quicker testing and quicker results, adding that it will also ease possible conflicts between NCDC and states in the announcement of confirmed results for positive persons/carriers.
They also made a case for essential workers including medical doctors, healthcare professionals who are classified as frontline workers, journalists/media workers and other personnel essential, saying that their continued harassment by security agents should be addressed urgently.
The patriots call for more transparency in the treatment of patients, urging NCDC to make public the process vis-à-vis the drugs used for treatment. This, they said, will offer benefits to Medical Doctors and other frontline healthcare practitioners.
While acknowledging efforts made by NCDC in the area of publicity and enlightenment of people on the virus, they urged the body to consider Nigeria’s plurality in their awareness and enlightenment campaigns, adding that local government areas/electoral wards should form the channels to engage in a robust sensitization and awareness campaigns.
“Through the community-based approach, locals, indigenes and residents will get to see familiar faces and hear from voices of persons known to them and understood by them, to talk to them about the disease, using their local dialects/languages that they understand.
‘’This should be in addition to the existing channels of communication. Bulk SMS sent/distributed centrally by NCDC cannot be enough to enlighten the people’’, they said.
Continuing, they called on the Federal Government to fund the exercise through the PTF down to the grassroots, claiming that the method will not only be effective and efficient but will be cheaper than the reported billions of naira spent for SMS and other advertorials since the outbreak of the pandemic.
In the interim, they want NCDC to improve people’s perception of COVID-19 as a virus that is treatable as opposed to a death sentence and accordingly called for massive investment in Nigeria’s healthcare sector in addition to training and retraining of medical personnel to meet up with the challenges of the time.
They are equally urging the authorities and public-spirited organisations to promote drug research and development both in universities and respective colleges, adding that the lockdown and restrictions on movement should be reviewed and eased out totally or in phases due to the adverse effect it has on the economy.
“The challenge of survival with prolonged or continuous lockdown and restriction of movement is becoming suicidal and the government should not engage on it any longer. Instead, the government should deepen basic health protocols that will standardise safety. Foreign countries with a higher rate of infections and deaths are easing the lockdown. Without hesitation, we recommend that we do the same”, the group said.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s COVID-19 caseload hit 10,819 confirmed cases on Tuesday, with 241 new cases declared.
There was however no major surprise in the new figures released by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) though Lagos remains the epicentre of the pandemic with 142 new cases, taking state tally to 5,277.
The situation in Lagos has informed the decision by the state government to delay the opening of mosques and churches, as approved by President Muhammdu Buhari.
The death toll has also increased from 299 to 314, though the patients discharged hit 3,239.
A breakdown is as follows: Lagos-142, Oyo-15, Abuja -13, Kano-12, Edo-11, Delta-10, Kaduna and Rivers-nine each, Borno-eight, Jigawa-four, Gombe and Plateau three each, Osun and Bauchi one each.