Sunday, 1 March 2020

Coronavirus: Cross River steps up containment measures

Our Correspondent|1 March 2020 

Following the confirmation of the first case of Coronavirus in Nigeria on Friday, the Cross River State Government has stepped up measures to contain the eventual outbreak of the disease in the state.

The index case involved an Italian who arrived Lagos on Tuesday for a business trip. He reportedly fell ill on Thursday and was diagnosed of the virus on Friday.

Cross River Commissioner for Health, Dr Betta Edu, in a press conference in Calabar on Friday evening, said that the state government has put in place adequate modalities to ensure effective response against any case of COVID-19 in the state.

Dr Edu disclosed that apart from the setting up of Emergency Operation Center (EOC), there were two temporary isolation centers located in Ogoja and Calabar respectively. She further stated that a permanent isolation center, which meets WHO standard, was being put in place at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital to respond to Coronavirus emergency.

"In the last two months the state set up an EOC, which is the Emergency Operation Center, where we carry out emergency response from. The lead partner supporting the state is the World Health Organization. We have other partners and stakeholders like UNICEF, National Orientation Agency, University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Cross River Primary Healthcare Development Agency, State Health Insurance, SACA, Nigerian Port Health. 

"We also have the Nigerian Army- they have done a lot to support the process, including sensitization in all their barracks and communities across the state; the Nigerian Navy, Air Force, Immigration, Customs and indeed everyone is part of this EOC.

"For us as a state, from the EOC we update on a daily basis of all activities going on to prevent the spread of Coronavirus as well as Lassa Fever. We have a group where we interface on a day to day basis and then we come to interface physically once a week.", she said.

She disclosed that the EOC team had visited the Margaret Ekpo International Airport and the Port Health Services at NPA to assess their level of preparedness and expressed satisfaction with what the personnel at the locations visited were doing to prevent the spread of the disease in the state.

The Commissioner, who was in the press briefing with the State Coordinator of WHO, Mr Raju Rilwan, Director General of the Cross River Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr Janet Ekpenyong and other top officials of the Ministry of Health, said that the government had distributed over 5,200 personal protective equipments to both private and public health facilities across the state.

She said: "The state has been able to distribute over 5,200 personal protective equipments across the state. We have given to private facilities, military and para-military; We have given same to our public health facilities - UCTH, and all our key stakeholders. They have received the delivery. We gave them thermometers and other commodities that are required for this response. So, from whatever angle which it comes into our dear state, we have people just right there to immediately respond.

"Communities have been encouraged to notify the disease surveillance and notification officers in their LGAs or the PHC directors in those LGAs. If you see something, say something.

"We have issued out protocols to our primary health centers and secondary health facilities on the management and of course the transfer of suspected cases to the isolation center in either Ogoja or Calabar at the UCTH. There is a system for sample transfer and they have been trained on all of these. We have ambulances in all the LGAs both at the primary and secondary health facilities. Remember that we have distributed smaller ambulances to pull people from the hard to reach areas down to Calabar in case we have any emergency. 

"It is important to inform Cross Riverians that we have permanent isolation center at the UCTH, Calabar. They had some encumbrances initially, but the contractors have fully handed it over to the UCTH. We have gone on inspection. We have gotten a full list of all we require for the place to be fully functional and by tomorrow (today), we will be doing the public handing over to the UCTH to set up the permanent site.

"Globally, we have about 82,294 cases as at today (yesterday), of which 78,230 of these cases are in China. The death recorded so far globally is 2,804. Presently as we speak, 48 countries have been implicated in this public health emergency which is of concern to us all. In Africa, Algeria and Nigeria is on the list."

While listing the signs and symptoms of Coronavirus people should watch out for, Dr Edu urged Cross Riverians to report any suspected case to the nearest health facility around them.

"We are asking everyone in Cross River State - whether you are a citizen, resident or you are here temporarily or you are just passing by to go to somewhere else, we are asking you to please look out for persons who might have fever, cough or catarrh, difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath. When you have people with these signs and symptoms who have been to one of the 48 countries implicated in this outbreak, then you must report. A high index of suspicion is very important as it has to do with Coronavirus and of course other diseases of concern to us like the Lassa Fever.", she said.

The Commissioner also advised people to adopt preventive approaches to stay healthy not just from Coronavirus, but other infectious diseases such as Ebola. She emphasized the need to observe basic personal hygiene at all times, adding that people should avoid consuming dead and infected animals.

Her words: "First, we must maintain a very high level of personal hygiene. You must wash your hands as often as possible with soap or a hand sanitizer that contains alcohol. You must wash your hands before eating. Wash your hands after contact with people. You should wash your hands after you have manage a sick person. Wash your hands even after praying.

"Secondly, when you sneeze please do so in a tissue paper. If you don't have one with you, flex your elbow and do same and remember to wash. If you use a tissue paper please properly dispose off same in a tightly covered dustbin. Beyond that, please do not come in contact with animals that are infected. Do not eat animals that are infected. It's very important to separate the knives and even the cutting board that we use for raw food from the ones we use for cooked food. And so, after touching raw meat, please try to wash your hands before going to the cooked food. It's very important.

"Finally, we are encouraging everyone to avoid spitting around. At this point, pouring saliva everywhere is not helpful, and please we do not want people coughing into the air and stuff like that. Remember, the highest and best point is that you should always wash your hands. It's the most cost-effective way of reducing infection even beyond Coronavirus, Ebola and Lassa Fever."

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