NMA, Nigerian Medical Association in Cross River has cautioned the state government against its plan to commence a trial resumption of schools.
The government planned to open three public schools in each of the three Senatorial Districts across the state on June 16.
The association made this known in a press release signed by its Chairman, Dr Agam Ayuk and the Secretary, Dr Ezoke Epoke on Saturday in Calabar.
The release stated that the medical community saw no evidence to ascertain the actual COVID-19 status and disease burden in the state due to the unacceptable low level of tests.
The Association maintained that the quick resumption of schools, in spite of genuine reasons, has the potential of significant disease outbreak among students.
The Association however, called for the adoption of educational technologies to provide remote learning opportunities and educational programmes for students in public schools in the interim.
According to the release, the technology which is currently being implemented by private schools should be encouraged until a national policy is introduced on the unified resumption of schools by the Federal Government.
“The declaration by the Cross River 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.
“The gross under-testing for COVID-19 in Cross River is a significant public health concern.
“The COVID-19 tests breakdown by states as at June 10, 2020, released by NCDC revealed that Cross River has carried out only nine tests using the NCDC Molecular Laboratory.
“The Association continues to advocate for upscaling of COVID-19 testing in the state.
“The Association uses this medium to appeal to both the federal and state governments to expedite plans for accreditation of Dr Lawrence Henshaw Memorial Hospital, Calabar, a Bio-Safety Level Three Laboratory and University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Calabar, as testing centres for COVID-19,” it said.
NMA explained that the accreditation of these centres would not only upscale testing in the state, but will also reduce the turnaround time for COVID-19 tests.
NMA noted that the increasing report of flu-like symptoms, respiratory symptoms and loss of smell/taste in various hospitals and the state metropolis was an indication of potential community transmission of an undetected disease fitting the epidemiological 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, state government and all stakeholders to critically appraise the COVID-19 status of the State.
“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 to sustain infection prevention measures,” it added.
NMA commended the state government for the production of Personal Protective Equipment, mask, face shield and gowns by the garment factory, urging for quality control measures to validate their safety for use in hospital settings.
NMA joined the state government in calling on the Federal Government and the private sector to support the laudable project that has the potential of guaranteeing the availability of personal protective equipment in the country.
“The expeditious recruitment of Doctors and other health workers by the Cross River 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 per cent Consolidate Medical Salary Structure and Consolidated Health Salary Structure as the only means of retaining this critical workforce in the state Civil Service.
“The Association and her members remain committed to working with the state and the Federal Government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” the release said.