The Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has applauded the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, noting that Edo has been a trailblazer for the work done so far to contain the spread of the virus.
Ihekweazu, who spoke during a webinar (Web-based seminar) with the theme, “Edo State: Surviving and Thriving Beyond COVID-19” organised by Edo State COVID-19 Relief Committee, UK and Europe and other private partners, noted that Edo State, is the first, outside Lagos, to have three testing centres in the country.
Noting that the NCDC has a good working relationship with the Edo State Government, he said, “Edo has a good collaboration with the Federal Government, with both playing an important role in Irrua Specialist Hospital (Federal Institution), while the state medical school supports it.
“Edo State is the first outside Lagos, to have three testing centres in the country. Edo, under the leadership of Governor Godwin Obaseki, has been an ideal state for the work done against this pandemic in the country.”
On his part, Governor Obaseki said the state government approached the pandemic with a robust and scientific touch, taking nuanced measures to ensure the health and wellbeing of Edo people.
According to him, “As a state, we accepted the fact that the pandemic was here with us. Hence, we looked at the occurrence all over the world and what the Federal Government was doing and knowing that we have a lot of Edos in Diaspora, we had to respond by developing a strategy.
“We had a target to screen a minimum of 500,000 Edo citizens and test at least 5,000 of the citizens. So far, over 270,000 have been screened. Edo State has worked with knowledge and data. We are doing a lot of testing. The state has three testing laboratories. The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, just commissioned a new 300-bed isolation facility at Stella Obasanjo Hospital, in addition to several others we have across the state.”
Reacting to the migration of people from other states to Edo State, Obaseki added, “Edo is a logistic hub and people take essential products like food to other states through Edo State. If we shut down, it will affect other parts of the country adversely. The state government has placed health personnel at the points of entry into the state to police, check and test these people before they transit to other parts of the country.”
The governor noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has given the government an opportunity to refocus on food, agriculture, health care and security.
He said, “Edo State had initially taken aggressive reforms before COVID-19 with the diversification of the economy. The state is working with the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to rethink agriculture focus on oil palm, cocoa, rubber, cassava, maize and rice. We’re going into abandoned farms and making them work.
“We’re also reawakening the healthcare system by introducing technology. The state plans to have 200 healthcare centres in the wards across all Local government councils. We have introduced a health insurance scheme, to take care of the health needs of our people.”
Considering best practices in public health globally, Dr. Loretta Oduware Ogboro-Okor noted that total containment will be difficult to achieve in the state and that herd immunity, on the other hand, is fraught with possibility of losing many lives.
She expressed that instead of extremes of intervention, there should be a blend to create a balance between health and economics, adding, “One of the ways in which the Edo State Government will get it right is to focus on strengthening our primary health centres, state hospitals as well as the provision of running water and toilet facilities to markets, schools and other public places.