COVID-19 and Governor Udom Emmanuel taciturnity
Governor Udom Emmanuel inspecting the isolation center at the Ibom Multi-Specialty Hospital.

Governor Udom Emmanuel inspecting the state’s isolation center in Ibom Multi Specialty Hospital.

Abasifreke Effiong – Uyo

The Akwa Ibom state government has called a bluff the report by the National Disease Control Centre, NCDC, which says that five persons from the state tested positive to Coronavirus.

The state government on Thursday rejected the result of the COVID-19 test by NCDC which five of her citizens tested positive, claiming that there was a breach in the testing and reporting procedure.

The vehement rejection of the test result by the government has put more citizens of the state at risk of contacting the deadly Coronavirus, as citizens of the state who had started complying with the partial lockdown ordered by government suddenly left their houses and went about their normal businesses.

READ : NCDC reports five cases of Coronavirus in Akwa Ibom

There was a surge in population of people on the streets of Uyo and other communities within Uyo capital city, a space of 10km radius from the state capital.

The Dune observed that security officers who were forcing motorists to comply with the one passenger per row in public buses and one passenger in tricycles, left the different checkpoints along Oron road and Aka Nung Udoe road, after the state government rejected the tests result and insisted that no person tested positive with the virus in the state.

More citizens of the state were seen wearing disposable nose masks and hand gloves, Thursday morning than other days, after NCDC announced that five persons in the state tested positive.
But the statement by the state government may mislead them to abandonment such safety going forward.

The state government rejected the test result saying that it only heard about the result in the news.

After it rejected the result, the Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, in broadcast on Thursday evening ordered a complete lockdown of the state for 14 days, an action the state government also bluffed before the five cases tested positive.

The Commissioner for Health in Akwa Ibom state, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, had earlier rejected the test result from samples collected in the state.

Akwa Ibom government's bluff at NCDC report put citizens at risk of spreading COVID-19 Dr. Dominic Ukpong, Commissioner for Health, Akwa Ibom state addressing traditional rulers on COVID-19 pandemic recently.

Ukpong in a statement he read to the press said, “sequel to the news report about the positive testing of five hitherto suspected cases of COVID -19 in Akwa Ibom state, we wish to state as follows, that; we observed a disturbing breach in the test and reporting procedure.”

“Akwa Ibom state government only heard about the test results in the news. The Director General of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was not aware of the reported result announcement.”

“All five reported positive test cases have been contacted and they have showed no COVID-19 symptoms. While the tests were being processed in NCDC approved test facilities, all suspected cases were held in isolation.”

“Several sample batches have been previously sent for testing from Akwa Ibom State and they all returned negative results.”

“Owing to the irregularities observed in the testing and reporting procedure, Health Care Professionals in Akwa Ibom State have called for an immediate reconfirmation test on the 5 reported cases.”

Barely hours after the Akwa Ibom state government rejected the result and called for a reconfirmation test, the Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, ordered total lockdown of the state to allow the government to curtail a spread of the virus.

There was panic buying in supermarkets and petrol stations by residents of the state on Thursday night following the total lockdown order.

Residents of the state trooped into supermarkets and petrol stations around Shelter Afrique, a highbrow residential estate in the state for last minutes shopping after the Governor ordered the lockdown.

Groups and residents of the state have expressed worry over the state government’s preparedness and responses since the outbreak of COVID -19 in the country.

Last week, Health Care Professionals in the state passed a vote of no confidence on the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, who coordinates the Incidents Management Committee (IMC) in the state.

The Health professionals said that the state was not well prepared for an outbreak of the epidemic. Spokesperson for the state government, Mr. Charles Udoh, upbraided the group for the statement, dismissing their claim as “political”.

Residents of the state have accused the Udom Emmanuel administration of playing politics with its preparedness plan ahead of the outbreak of the epidemic.

The state government briefings of her citizens on the COVID -19 pandemic are less frequent, uncoordinated and incomprehensive.

It took a whistleblower on Twitter @EditiEffiong who said some residents of the state who had contact with some US-based medical doctors who were on a medical outreach in the state were showing symptoms of Coronavirus, before the state government took samples of the said persons for a test.

Media aide to the state governor, Mr. Aniekeme Finbarr, dismissed the whistleblower as an alarmist who wanted to swindle the government by “selling his test kits.”

The Dune learnt that even though the governor’s aide misled residents of the state to ignore the alarm raised, state government acted on the information which led to the discovery of the five cases that tested positive.

However, the government did not brief citizens about the suspected cases brought to public notice by @EditiEffiong, nor did it retract the misinformation churned out by the governor’s media aide.

The state government only admitted on Thursday that there were suspected cases of COVID-19 in the state, a day after the NCDC reported that five persons tested positive to COVID-19 in the state.

“Sequel to the news report about the positive testing of five HITHERTO suspected cases of COVID -19 in Akwa Ibom state… several sample batches have been PREVIOUSLY sent for testing from Akwa Ibom State and they all returned negative results”, the Commissioner for Health said in a statement.

CDHR calls for contact-tracing of persons who tested positive in Akwa Ibom

The Committee for Defence for Human Rights (CDHR) in Akwa Ibom state says it was pathetic that residents of the state heard of the report that five persons tested positive to COVID -19 from the press.

In an interview in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state branch chairman of CDHR, Comrade Pius Ntuen, while sympathizing with the government and people of the state over the outbreak of the epidemic as reported by NCDC, CDHR called on the state government to start contact-tracing those who tested positive with the virus.

Akwa Ibom government's bluff at NCDC report put citizens at risk of spreading COVID-19 Comrade Pius Ntuen, Chairman CDHR, Akwa Ibom state.

Ntuen said the government should find out whether those who have tested positive actually came in contact with the foreign mission from the U.S.A who were on medical out reach in the state three weeks ago, as it is widely rumoured.

He said such information will give the government an idea about the index case and the possible number of persons who had contacts with the primary carrier(s) of the virus.

CDHR also demanded that the state government volunteers useful information on the five persons who tested positive.

“As it was in the high profile cases including, Abba Kyari, the son of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Governor of Bauchi, Akwa Ibom people deserve useful information on the persons who have tested positive so that people who had contacts with them can be alert and turn in themselves for tests, if they show any symptoms.”

“Trying to wrap the identities of the affected persons in secrecy will only worsen the situation for the state”, CDHR warned.

While urging residents of the state to observe high standards of hygiene and abide by government’s regulations, CDHR urged the state government to provide palliatives to cushion the impact of the lockdown.

Residents beg government for PPEs, Palliatives

Despite ordering a lockdown of all activities in the state and the sudden increase in the prices of food items, water and Personal Protective Equipments, Akwa Ibom state is yet to tell provide palliatives her citizens as done in other states.

A survey of prices of goods in popular markets within Uyo capital city by The Dune showed that prices of food items and PPEs have gone up by about 40 percent.

RELATED STORY : Prices of food, sachet water, PPEs skyrocket in Akwa Ibom

Residents of state have appealed to the government to provide palliatives during this period.

The Chairman of Traders Association in Ibesikpo Asutan, Mr. Jude Effiong Edet, told The Dune on Thursday that since the virus was novel and has affected businesses, the state government should provide PPEs and palliatives.

Edet said the government neither at the local government nor the state has provided any PPEs to the traders.

Akwa Ibom government's bluff at NCDC report put citizens at risk of spreading COVID-19 Mr. Jude Edet, chairman, traders association, Ibesikpo Asutan local government area.

“I have not seen anything, either hand sanitizer, wash hand basin, or any other thing from either the state or local government council. I am worried that those who have been told to stay at home may die of hunger. We have heard that donations have been made to the government, let it go round to the people to cushion their suffering this period”

Edet who is also an adviser to the traders association in Akwa Ibom state said traders in Ibesikpo Asutan have fully complied with the stay – at – home order.

“Traders in Ibesikpo Asutan have complied totally. We have closed our shops except for those selling essential commodities . I came out here today to continue to urge traders to maintain recommended social distance and protect themselves from this virus.”

Akwa Ibom state announces 14 days total lockdown of the state

Following the confirmation of five suspected cases of the coronavirus in Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel has announced a total cessation of movements and prohibition of all events of any nature for 14 days in the State.

This is to enable a thorough process of contact tracing to identify those who may have been exposed to the five confirmed victims.

READ : COVID-19: Ughelli North shuts markets, warns against hike in food stuff

In a statewide broadcast Thursday, Governor Emmanuel explained that the Covid 19 suspects, mostly healthcare professionals who are in good health with no symptoms, have been moved to the state isolation centres for proper management. “There will be no movement of persons, except those on essential duties who must carry a proper means of identification on them at all times

“All business premises, markets, shops, motor parks and offices except grocery shops and pharmacies, must remain closed during this period,” he said

Governor Emmanuel insisted that the relevant security agencies have been briefed to ensure strict compliance with the directive.