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Cross River plans massive testing of residents, demands own lab

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To reassure people of the state and Nigerians of its free Coronavirus (COVID-19) status, Cross River State government said it would soon start massive testing of people in the state.

So far, the state has done 18 sample tests out of the 50 sample test kits it got and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN), Cross River Branch, Efik Stakeholders and few others have said that the state had not done enough testing to justify its COVID-19 free status.

As a result of that, the NCDC is planning a visit to the state next week on fact-finding and other issues. For now, only Cross River and Kogi states remain COVID-19 free and people are wondering what magic.

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But the state’s Commissioner for Health and Chairman, State Taskforce on COVID-19, Dr. Betta Edu, who was not pleased with the neglect of the state by the Federal Government and the NCDC in terms of provision of enough test kits and a test centre, yesterday told The Guardian: “Soon, we are doing our own massive testing and we are working on our lab now.

“We have reached a point where we will just get these new test kits, which the sensitivity is high up to 70 per cent. I think they are using them in Kaduna, Kogi and few other places.”

Edu, who wondered why the whole South-South has only one testing centre yet so much is expected and no one commends Cross River State for the effort put in place to maintain a free COVID-19 status, said: “In our laboratory here, we have gene expert machine and all that we need to do is to reconfigure it. This Lawrence Henshaw Memorial Hospital (former IDH) has one of the best reference laboratories, they should just come and configure it and it will not take more than N10 to N20 million and we start testing here.”

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She decried how the state spends so much to take samples to the laboratory at Irrua in Edo State for testing, which is cumbersome, money-wasting and time-wasting, saying: “I think the Federal Government should decentralise the process so that we can do our things by ourselves but they are insisting they must do it and we are attached to Irrua and every day to go to Irrua and come back, we spend not less than N200,000.

“This is expensive and because of the lockdown, to get to Irrua, it takes up to 24 hours because as you get to a boundary, you will be far behind before they will clear the chaotic traffic for you to reach where the officials are and see your pass to confirm that you are legally travelling. It’s a herculean task.

“At this critical point, we should put the right pressure on the Federal Government to come and establish a laboratory here that can handle COVID-19 tests and not unnecessary criticisms.”

On the magic the state has done to remain COVID-19 free, she said it’s God and the foresight of Governor Ben Ayade and the COVID-19 taskforce team and very early, the state blocked all its land borders, embarked on intensive checks at the airport, introduced no mask, no movement policy and educated people on all the NCDC procedures long before other states and even the Federal Government started.

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