Ebonyi and Covid-19 pandemic: Neccesity as mother of invention





Following the outbreak of Corona virus in Nigeria, AMARACHUKWU EGWUAGHA writes on how the laboratory machine at the South-east Virology Centre in Ebonyi state was being upgraded for Corona virus test.
The South-east Virology Centre situated at Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital in Abakaliki (AE-FUTHA) capital of Ebonyi state was constructed in March 2016 by Governor David Umahi.
The centre being a multi-million naira one was originally built to take care of diagnosis and treatment of Lassa fever in the state and South-east geopolitical zone of the country.


It was built out of the passion of Governor Umahi that no Ebonyi man or foreigner living in the state would die of the disease.
While constructing this centre, the state government estimated the sum of N250 million naira for the project even as it also made provision for the purchase of four ambulances in the fight against the scourge.
The centre in 2018 began full operation kitted with facilities required. Since then, it has treated patients from not just South-east zone but other regions.

Outbreak of Coronavirus

Following the outbreak of Corona virus otherwise known as COVID-19 in the country, Governor Umahi went into action to preserve the state by ensuring that the virology centre is equipped to fight the pandemic should it enters the state.Umahi in his wisdom invited the federal government and other partners to ensure that the dream of the laboratory machine at the centre is actualised.  
Although Ebonyi has not recorded any case so far, the governor has been fighting tooth and nail to see that the disease doesn’t cross into the state.
Umahi had on several occasions sensitised people of the state in a live broadcast which he does often and the monitoring of border areas which have yielded results.In one of his broadcasts, he noted that about eight suspected cases of the corona virus reported in the state tested negative as soon as they commenced testing of suspected cases from across the region.
According to him, “All passengers to and from Lagos, Edo, Abuja and the South-west must be recorded and submitted to the Ministry of Health on daily basis, their phone numbers are essential too. This would help our medical team to monitor them.
“We have purchased a number of equipment like temperature gauge, ventilators and isolation cubicles. Our virology laboratory equipment for Lassa fever would be deployed for blood sample testing of suspected COVID-19 patients,” he stated.
In another broadcast he said, “These are fortunes donated to the federal government since 2016, well furnished with dialysis machines and all kind of equipment. The federal government has been sending patients to come and use these facilities, so all that the federal government did is to bring in agents and configure it in order to accept the specimens for COVID 19. 
“Now these eight people that are in the holding centres, we have taken their samples to the lab to run the test now and if the results are negative, which I pray for, then I will let them go, then we will let the world know that we have launched ours. Our prayer is that the blood of the lamb will protect our state so that all these test shall turn negative.”
The governor had also in one of his inspections to enforce compliance on government order on the boundary closure ordered that about 16 Ebonyi natives who were captured at the states border  areas returning from Lagos  should not only be quarantined but tested in the lab to ensure their COVID 19 status.
There he again emphasised that the state Covid-19 centre of excellence for testing cases of Corona virus is ready and is the 7th Corona virus testing centre in Nigeria. 
He added that with the assistance of the federal government, reagents have been configured to fit into the screening machines owned by the state government even as the eight suspected cases were examined and would be discharged accordingly.
Umahi also announced that holding/observation centres have been established in six locations across the state on equality of zones, adding that with the three treatment/isolation centres being put in place and the check points at the various borders of the state, the state was battle ready to prevent the spread of corona virus in Ebonyi.

CMD commends gov’t effort

Meanwhile, the chief medical director of AE-FUTHA, Dr Emeka Onwe Ogah, while briefing journalists in Abakaliki commended both federal and state government for upgrading the dialysis machine at the South-east Virology Centre to be used in testing COVID -19.  
“I want to start by thanking the President, Muhammadu Buhari, the minister of health, the minister of state for health, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi state, the director, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, for their effort for making sure that the pandemic is put to a stop in the country.
“I want to thank them immensely for their contributions towards making sure that our virology lab is scaled up to test for this corona virus that is cursing the disease.
“We are happy to announce to the world that the federal government of Nigeria has established the lab for testing of this virus, such that would help them begin confirmation. This would help to reduce the anxiety that may arise following the suspicion of this disease. As it stands, this centre  covers the whole South-east and South-south, if need be.
“We also want to thank the governor of Ebonyi state for establishing an isolation/ treatment centre, one at the Unity Square where we keep suspected cases to trial. 
“There are also six holding areas outside the one in the virology unit of Alex Ekwueme University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, AE-FUTHA. This other six holding areas are two per zone: Ebonyi north, central and south zones. Two general hospital each were selected for this which the governor had earlier on told the world during his press briefing.
“All these would help in preventing/management of this case should it occur.
“We also want to thank the board and the entire staff of AE-FUTHA for their ; so far, patients are being seen in the hospital, there is no panic and there is no crisis, the hospital management has tried to its to provide sanitiser and to maintain IPC infect prevention and control which is very very important in fighting this scourge.
“In the course of doing that, every patients is educated on what to be done at home to avoid getting this disease. This includes getting nose and mouth mask incase you are coughing or have a runny nose, washing your hand with soap and water which we emphasised on more because it is easier to get soap and water than sanitiser as some sanitisers are fake; they are agent of exposing you to getting this disease. 
People should insist on using the sanitiser, soap and water that are readily available.”We want to thank God that so far from the report given to us by the state government, no case had been reported in the state.
“I also want to thank the gentlemen of the press for the work they are doing. We urge them to do more by ensuring effective and accurate reportage on this scourge.

NMA tasks gov’t on further measures

However, the Ebonyi state chapter of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) called on the state government to engage many young doctors, nurses and health workers who are jobless in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
In a statement signed by its chairman, Dr John Egede, and secretary, Dr Nwoye Chukwuemeka, the association noted that, “Now is the time to motivate health workers who are at the front line battle against the epidemic. Such motivation may include but not limited to improvement of their hazard allowance, insurance policy and increment in the take home package for the government at all levels.
“It is our opinion that there are many young doctors, nurses and health workers who are jobless in Ebonyi state. They could be recruited and trained to help at this time.”They thanked the state government for its efforts towards checkmating the spread of Coronavirus and ensuring that Ebonyi people are protected and safe during this period. 
The governor directed that the security agencies, committee members or others so designated by him to effect and ensure strict compliance to the law. 
He further said, “The law also prohibits the transmission or dissemination through a computer system or network or otherwise false information regarding COVID-19 within the state and other dangerous infectious diseases and or any circumstances related to.
“Promotion of unverified, untested, or unapproved cures, vaccines or other similar medicinal items that purport to cure, alleviate or reduce instances of persons infected or believed to be infected with COVID-19 or any other dangerous infectious diseases within the state is prohibited,” he proclaimed.

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