Nigeria’s economy must gradually begin to reopen because lockdown cannot be forever, so declared the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, who visited Port Harcourt Sunday afternoon.
He said that because the prolonged lockdown cannot continue indefinitely, stakeholders must begin to work towards gradually reopening the economy without endangering the populace. The NCDC boss also urged the private sector to focus more on helping the states to build their capacity to respond to the virus.
Ihekweazu commended Gov Nyesom Wike for what he called the governor’s ‘firm and personal leadership to check the spread of coronavirus in Rivers State’.
This comes as Rivers says only two of 216 Coronavirus contacts in the state are still in isolation. The State’s health commissioner, Princewill Chike, gave the account to the Director-General of the NCDC, Ihekweazu, during his visit to the state Sunday.
Speaking during a meeting with Gov Wike in Government House, the DG of the NCDC said that Rivers State is important in the fight to stop the spread of the virus. Gov Wike had berated the federal authorities on Friday for allegedly marginalizing the second largest economy in Nigeria and one of the biggest oil states.
The DG however said: “This is a working visit. I want to thank you for your firm, strong, committed and personally led response to COVID-19 in Rivers State.
“Rivers is one of the most important gateways into the country, one of the most important economies in the country . So, Rivers is important , not only to you but to the entire country.
“We thank you very much for your leadership and we need your leadership to continue in order for us to continue doing our work nationally.”
The DG said that his team was in Rivers State to engage with the state’s public health team to consolidate on the successes on the fight against coronavirus. He noted that because of the unique nature of the virus, all stakeholders must work in Unity. “We share information across the states to make sure that everyone is informed as they can possibly be. We share Information on new developments, strategies, what works and what doesn’t work.
“Whether it is in detection, prevention and treatment, our role as NCDC is to make sure that our technical colleagues are able to respond at all levels and are supported in any way with the expertise they need.”
On the work by the state on the large number of Coronavirus contacts, the health commissioner said the feat was as a result of Gov Wike’s proactive leadership, saying the state has no current confirmed case of coronavirus. He said the two cases in the state have been treated and discharged.
“Since January, Rivers State has had two cases of coronavirus: a 19-year-old model and a 62-year-old retiree. They have been treated and discharged. All the 214 persons that had contact with them were placed under surveillance. Except for two cases, all other contacts have exited Isolation,” he said.
The health commissioner said that the proactive approach of Gov Wike in tackling coronavirus centres, early detection, prevention and treatment, helped to keep the virus under control.
“We give kudos to our Governor for his proactive approach at tackling coronavirus . It has been successful. The Rivers State Executive Council set up a sensitization committee to sensitise and inform the people on ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
The commissioner said that it has polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines, but they are devoted to the treatment of other major ailments before the outbreak of coronavirus.
The health commissioner said that another set of PCR machines to be devoted to the testing and treatment of COVID-19 is on its way to the state. He also announced that all public hospitals in different local government areas of the state have COVID-19 centres, developed by the Wike Administration.
“They have been developed to hold suspect cases before the intervention of the State Rapid Response Team on COVID-19.” The state government called on the FG to take immediate steps to stop oil companies from violating the State Executive Order on restriction of movement.
“The way some oil companies breach the Executive Order issued by the Rivers State Governor to restrict movement in and out of the State can jeopardise the fight against coronavirus. The Rivers State Government needs the support of the State Federal Government in this regard. ”
The Rivers State Government also requested the establishment of a functional Federal Laboratory to handle coronavirus testing. The Government said even though it is in the process of setting its major laboratory, the strategic place of Rivers State as the nation’s oil and gas hub, requires a federal testing centre.
Reacting, the NCDC boss admitted that Gov Wike has shown strong and firm commitment in the fight against the virus. He said he was in the state to share information with health officials because the fight can only be for all hands on deck.
Responding on behalf of the Rivers State Government, the Health Commissioner, Princewill Chike, said that Gov Wike had strengthened the public health system of the state to fight coronavirus.
He said before the coronavirus pandemic, the Rivers State Government was already battling Lassa Fever, Monkey Pox and HIV/AIDS.