Arising from the Ordinary General Meeting (OGM) of the Nigerian Medical Association Cross River State held on June 10, 2020, Congress deliberated extensively on COVID-19 response in the State and the Cross River State Health Sector and came up with the following observations and recommendations.
1) The declaration by the Cross River State Government on a trial resumption of three public schools in each of the three Senatorial Districts in the State to commence on June 16, 2020, is alarming.
To the medical community, there is a lack of evidence to ascertain the actual COVID-19 status and disease burden in the State due to the unacceptably low number of tests carried out. The quick resumption of Schools, despite genuine reasons, has the potential of significant disease outbreak among students. The Association advocates for the adoption of educational technologies to provide remote learning opportunities and educational programmes for students in public schools in the interim which is currently being implemented by private schools until a national policy is introduced on the unified resumption of schools by the Federal Government.
2) The gross under-testing for COVID-19 in Cross River State is a significant public health concern. The COVID-19 tests breakdown by States as at June 10, 2020, released by NCDC revealed Cross River State has carried out only nine (9) tests using the NCDC Molecular Laboratory. The Association continues to advocate for upscaling of COVID-19 testing in the State.
3) The Association uses this medium to appeal to both the Federal and State Government to expedite plans for accreditation of Dr Lawrence Henshaw Memorial Hospital, Calabar a Bio-Safety Level Three (BSL-3) laboratory and University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Calabar as testing centres for COVID-19. Accreditation of these centres will not only upscale testing in the State but will also reduce the turn around time for COVID-19 tests.
4) The increasing report of flu-like symptoms, respiratory symptoms and loss of smell/taste in various hospitals and the State metropolis is an indication of potential community transmission of an undetected disease fitting the epidemiologic pattern of COVID-19. Recent research published in Nature Medicine in the United Kingdom revealed: “loss of smell (anosmia) was a stronger predictor than a fever for COVID-19” prompting recommendations on self-isolation if detected. We call on the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 through the Federal Ministry of Health and Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), State Government and all Stakeholders to critically appraise the COVID-19 status of the State.
5) The COVID-19 infection curve is still on the rise and yet to peak in the country. The lack of adherence to infection prevention strategies like social distancing, use of face mask, hand and respiratory hygiene at this crucial time is worrisome. We, therefore, call on all residents in Cross River State to sustain infection prevention measures.
6) The production of Personal Protective Equipment (mask, face shield and gowns) by the garment factory of Cross River State is highly commendable. We advocate for quality control measures to validate their safety for use in hospital settings. We join the State Government to call on the Federal Government and the Private Sector to support this laudable project that has the potential of guaranteeing the availability of personal protective equipment in the country.
7) The expeditious recruitment of Doctors and other health workers by the Cross River State Government through the Civil Service Commission with advert dated April 27, 2020, to meet the potential health challenges is desirable. The concomitant increase in health needs of the public in line with the lifting of bans on interstate movement and domestic flight shortly makes the recruitment imperative. We wish to reiterate the urgent implementation of 100% CONMESS and CONHESS as the only means of retaining this critical workforce in the State Civil Service.
8) The Association and her members remain committed to working with the State Government and the Federal Government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Agam Ayuk, Chairman
Dr Ezoke Epoke, Secretary.