Governor Udom Emmanuel

Abasifreke Effiong – Uyo

There is a possible community spread of Coronavirus in Akwa Ibom state, medical personnel at the forefront of the response and management of Coronavirus in the state told The Dune in strict confidence.

This suggests that more people are contracting the virus, but they do not know how and where they came in contact with it.

Community transmission is a third level spread, a high risk level, where the virus can not be traced back to a certain person.

The medical personnel said they have recommended group surveillance but the Incident Management Committee on COVID-19 in the state has turned down the recommendation.

The medics claimed that the state government is trying to suppress information about the spread of the virus and recommended that more people with suspected symptoms of Coronavirus should be tested.

“Lives are at risk. There is a possible community spread of COVID-19 in the state. We have recommended group surveillance, even among medical personnel, but the incident management committee says the state is not ready for that. They want to suppress the information”, a member of the response team on COVID-19 in the state told The Dune.

A third level spread without massive testing will put communities in the state at high risk.

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During the weekend, spokesperson of the Nigerian Medical Association in Akwa Ibom state, Dr. Nathaniel Emmanuel John, said medical personnel collecting samples from suspected cases for testing have been given instructions to limit the number of people they take sample from, even if more people with symptoms suspected to be those of Coronavirus turn up for testing.

The Dune learnt that the Incidence Officer on COVID-19 in the state, who is also the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, is forcing medical personnel to backtrack from collecting more samples even from medical doctors who are qualified for the test.

So far, Akwa Ibom state has collected and submitted only 53 samples to the NCDC for testing.

Results from the 53 samples came out with 12 positive cases.

It was recently reported the NCDC scored Akwa Ibom state high on contact -tracing.

Amidst the threat of a possible community spread of COVID-19 in the state is a running battle between medics who are at the forefront of the response to COVID-19 in the state and medical officers who are political appointees of the state governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel.

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On March 27, the Coalition of Health-care Professionals in Akwa Ibom passed a vote of no confidence on the state’s incidence officer on COVID-19 and Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, citing disregard for Professionals and professionalism.

However, on Friday 24th April, Dr. Ukpong sacked the state epidemiologist, Dr. Aniekeme Uwah, for collecting samples from more people who had suspected symptoms of Coronavirus against his directive.

Medics raise alarm over possible community spread of Coronavirus in Akwa Ibom Dr. Aniekeme Uwah.

The sacked state epidemiologist is the secretary, COVID-19 team of the Common Wealth Medical Association and has received award from the African Union (AU) for leading doctors to Liberia to end the carnage of Ebola disease.

Though the state government said on Saturday that Uwah was mere “reassigned to another job within the same public health directorate”, the spokesperson of the Nigerian Medical Association in the state, Dr. Emmanuel John, said the state epidemiologist was sacked for taking more samples from suspected patients than what the government wanted.

READ ALSO : Akwa Ibom government’s bluff at NCDC report puts citizens at risk of spreading COVID-19

The Commissioner for Health who is the Incidence Officer on COVID-19 in the state wanted only 10 samples to be taken but the sacked epidemiologist of the state took 31 samples from suspected cases who presented themselves for testing, Spokesperson of NMA said.

“Dr. Aniekeme Uwah, the State Epidemiologist was removed from office because he had instructions from the Commissioner for Health to collect only ten samples.

“He (Dr. Aniekeme Uwah) asked why and the Commissioner replied that: ‘Cross River State has no case because they are not testing, this is how we went about testing HIV and became number one in the country’.

“The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Health came up with a policy that anybody that wants to get tested for COVID-19 must be cleared by the State Government which Dr Aniekeme Uwah objected to.”

Akwa Ibom state has recorded 12 cases of Coronavirus. Last week, when the state had just nine cases, the state’s incident management committee on COVID-19 at a controversial press conference which was not attended by the state NUJ, announced plans be embark on “voluntary aggressive testing” in the weeks ahead.

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The voluntary aggressive testing was announced on Sunday 19th April, by Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, Secretary to Akwa Ibom state government and chairman of the state incident management committee on COVID-19, was part of plans by the state government to open up the economy of the state after three weeks of lockdown.

“As a prelude to opening up our state economy, the state government, not willing to take chances with the lives of the citizens, has resolved to adopt aggressive testing of citizens and residents in Akwa Ibom State. Voluntary aggressive testing has become imperative because, without ascertaining the level to which we have been impacted by the Coronavirus, it would not be possible to relax the lockdown, which we have just extended by one week”, Ekuwem was quoted in a report by the Akwa Ibom government house press unit.

Medics raise alarm over possible community spread of Coronavirus in Akwa Ibom Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, Chairman, Incident Management Committee on COVID-19 and Secretary to Akwa Ibom State Government.

The voluntary testing implied that citizens who feel they are showing possible symptoms of Coronavirus would walk in to a designated center and get tested.

Akwa Ibom state government does not have a testing center for Coronavirus. And, no center or date was announced by the state’s incident management committee for the commencement of the “voluntary aggressive testing.”

However, the NMA has said there is nothing like aggressive testing in Akwa Ibom state.

“There is no such thing as aggressive testing in Akwa Ibom State. I don’t even understand what that means”, Spokesperson of NMA, Akwa Ibom state said on Saturday 25th April while speaking on a private radio station in Uyo.

Akwa Ibom state gov’t has properly managed outbreak of Coronavirus – AILM

The decision of the state’s COVID-19 team to limit the collection of samples for test from suspected Coronavirus cases puts the state at a greater of the deadly Coronavirus.

The state’s incident management committee is yet to explain why it does not more persons to be tested.

Attempts to get comments from the Commissioner for Health, Dr Dominic Ukpong and the Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Udoh were abortive.

None of the two commissioners who are serving in the incident management committee replied to SMS sent by our correspondent nor responded to our phone calls. They did not return the calls as of the time of fielding this reporting.