Nigeria: Benue Govt, UK Returnee Disagree Over COVID-19 Status

30 March 2020

The Benue State Government and a female returnee from the United Kingdom who tested positive for COVID-19 in the state on Monday disagreed over her status.

Governor Samuel Ortom had on Saturday alongside the members of the State Emergency Response Committee announced the female as the first confirmed case of Coronavirus in the state.

But, in what appears to be a melodrama, the UK returnee took to the social media to deny her confirmed status, accusing the state government of political mischief and setting up the stage to sufficiently embarrass her.

EDITOR'S PICK: Benue confirms first case of coronavirus

The woman, whose name was given as Susan Okpe, 62, also alleged that the state government falsely declared her an index case and moved further to quarantine her against her wish, stressing that she showed no symptom of the virus as they have made people to believe.

"I told him (referring to Benue's Deputy Governor) that if the state is insisting that I am ill, I should be taken to Abuja to be tested. I have never in my life seen a staged drama with human life and politics like this before.

"I want the world, Nigerians, Benue state to hear my side and verify that I am not a COVID-19 positive. I left my children behind in London and they are healthy till this moment," Okpe said.

Reacting to the allegation on Monday night, the state's Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu, who now heads the Coronavirus team in the state, explained that no one even among his team knew the lady by name as at the time her sample alongside a 21-year-old returnee from the virus pandemic country was taken to Abuja for testing.

He said that the duo out of the eight persons fished out by the committee as recent returnees from abroad exhibited serious symptoms of the deadly virus, hence their sample was taken for the test which proved Okpe positive and the other person tested negative.

"As protocol demands that treatment centre should be housed in a tertiary institution, the committee moved to transfer her from the Grace Cottage Hospital where she was isolated to the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH) but she resisted.

"She resisted between 2:00pm that the team arrived the hospital on Saturday until 7:00pm on account that she didn't believe the result.

"As at 7:00pm, I went there myself to plead with her to be moved, it was at 9:00pm that she yielded after I got two of her brothers to talk to her," he added.

Abounu said she had also since on Sunday resisted medical personnel from attending to her at the treatment centre which he described as a brand new building with brand new beddings, stressing that the lady is the first to lie on the bed as well as the first to use the new building.

The deputy governor however said the lady was in stable condition and that the team would require her cooperation to carry out another test and if negative, she would be allowed to go into self-isolation before a second test that would now let her mingle with people in line with the best practices.

Corroborating the deputy governor, Prof. Steven Abba of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), who was drafted to the state on Sunday to aid the team on ground in combating the virus, confessed that he had been to the treatment centre and that the state was following all the laid down rules according to best international practice.

"I've been to the treatment centre and they (team) are following all laid down rules. My duty here is to ensure that health workers and other people don't come down with the disease. We have index case in Benue and we are working to ensure that whoever comes down with the disease is free to walk again," Abba said.

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