The University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH) has debunked the notion advertised by the cross river state government that there are no COVID 19 cases in the state even as the said hospital claim it had discharged a suspected COVID 19 patient recently.

According to the hospital a patient (names withheld) has tested positive to coronavirus in the facility despite the fact that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has not announced any confirmed case of COVID-19 in the South-South state.

The hospital management said it has already informed the NCDC of the recent development which added a new twist to the controversy trailing the COVID-19 free status of Cross Rivers State.

On Thursday, the NCDC announced 594 newly confirmed cases bringing to 22, 614, the total number of infections in all states across the country except Cross Rivers.

“With recent developments, it does appear that the state (Cross Rivers) may not be free of COVID-19 as generally believed,” an internal hospital memo exclusively obtained by the press said. “A recent rapid test carried out on a patient came out positive. However, the patient had recovered and was discharged from our isolation centre last week.”

According to the memo dated June 25 and directed to all department units, staff and patients of UCTH by the hospital’s chief medical director, Ikpeme Ikpeme, “henceforth there will be strict entry and exit protocols into our facilities in furtherance to steps taking to protect staff and patients against the virus.”

It would be recalled that a few weeks ago it was widely reported in the media that a  lawmaker representing the Obudu State constituency in the Cross River State House of Assembly, Godwin Akwaji, is believed to have died of causes closely connected and related to COVID 19 symptoms at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital Isolation centre.

Ironically, Authorities in Cross River has continued to claim that the state is COVID-19 free despite been surrounded by states with confirmed cases, alleging that there is a plot to ensure the state records a case.

Last week, the state government accused the NCDC and the Federal Ministry of Health of shipping positive and negative test kits and cartridges to the Nigeria Navy Reference Hospital in Calabar, to violate the state’s COVID-19 free status.

The agency denied the allegation by the state’s Commissioners of Information and Health, describing it as a misinterpretation of the country’s COVID-19 testing strategy and efforts to protect the health of Nigerians from the disease.

Meanwhile, health authorities and federal officials who believe the government in Cross Rivers is discouraging tests for people with symptoms of COVID-19 are disputing the state’s free status.

“There is enough anecdotal evidence to support the belief that cases of the COVID-19 disease exist in the (Cross River) State,” Efik Leadership Foundation said recently in a letter it wrote to Muhammadu Buhari, requesting the Nigerian President to intervene in the matter.

The group said the Cross River government has been “rejecting COVID 19 testing in the state. However, In its internal memo, the UCTH management said the NCDC has approved the hospital as an independent isolation centre.

Mr Ikpeme, the hospital CMD said the implication of this is that henceforth “we do not need to pass samples through the epidemiology unit of the state as was the case before. “The hospital can now send samples directly to NCDC accredited laboratories while the NCDC works to help set up and accredit our laboratory. We, therefore, urge everybody to honestly do the needful to ensure that our community is protected from the coronavirus pandemic.” The hospital Management also urged staff and patients to protect themselves as maximally as possible.

COVID 19 Theatre

“This is however without prejudice that health caregivers must make themselves available at all times to provide adequate treatment to patients without fear. Management, on the other hand, will do everything possible to ensure staff and patients are adequately protected in line with NCDC guidelines,” the memo said.

Calls and texts Friday morning to Chikwe Ihekweazu, NCDC executive director, on seeking to know if the agency has duly been notified of the recent development and how it would respond were not responded to as of the time of filing this report.