Till date (May 2, 2020), no Coronavirus case has been reported in Cross River State. Of the 200 or so countries and territories in the world, 181 have reported at least one case of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, according to the count being kept by the World Health Organisation.
The pandemic, which emerged in late December in Wuhan, China, has spread across the world at an alarming rate — topping 1 million cases as of May 1, 2020. The virus, which leads to a respiratory illness that can be transmitted from droplets of body fluids – such as mucus and saliva, is nearly everywhere.
What should we then make of the two States in Nigeria that have not reported cases? Are they unable to test? Are they lying? Are they that isolated? The bulk of the states in Nigeria have reported cases except for Cross River and Kogi.
It is on record that Scientists, health officials, and governments across the world have encouraged citizens to practice physical distancing and to avoid going out unless for essential purposes. The Governor of Cross River State, Prof. Ben Ayade, is a Microbiologist.
However, my investigation reveals that the current COVID-19 status of Cross River state is as a result of the proactive approach by the governor to keep the State safe, which was lacking in most other states.
In the words of Ayade, “A lot of what people refer to as a huge surprise is down to very effective response that has been basic but laced with effective public health – well-functioning programs, doing the basics, but doing them very, very well.”
Some observers have also alleged that Cross River might not have registered any Covid-19 cases due to a lack of testing kits. My thorough investigation reveals the contrary. Cross River state was among the first states in Nigeria (even before Lagos State) to monitor their borders and to screen those that were entering the State.
Some of the measures taken in Cross River include:
• Free distribution of Face Masks to the residents of the State. All thanks to the fact that Cross River has one of the largest garment producing factories in Nigeria
• Enforcing the “No mask, No movement” policy. No one can go out in public without using a Face mask
• Ban on all social gatherings such as bars, churches, mosques, etc. and the restriction of public gatherings to not more than five people
• Enforcing the social distancing rule
• Among many others
The high literacy level and awareness in the State also played its part. Over 3,800 health workers went around since January 2020 to educate people about Coronavirus and Lassa Fever.
In response to the skeptics that are wary about the State of preparedness of Cross River to handle the virus in case it creeps in, it’s important to emphasize that Gov. Ayade’s administration have well-equipped isolation centers, one of the best in the country, to handle such.
The governor said the primary concern of Cross River is to create jobs so that their economy can thrive even when the Coronavirus pandemic is over. The palliative measure that has been put in place ensures that food is given to the Elderly while jobs are given to the youths.
There are many lessons to learn from this experience. However, we must commend the dexterity, proactiveness, and pragmatic approach of the Government and people of Cross River State in tackling the Coronavirus pandemic.
In the light of the current challenge facing the bulk of the States in Nigeria, we can borrow a leaf from Cross River to show the world that we can get our acts right even in the face of stiff health and economic challenges.
Emeh James Anyalekwa is the Executive Director of IGBERE TV and National President, Online Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria (OMPAN). He writes from Abuja.