Delta state government has given reasons why it does not lay emphasis on giving results of test conducted on coronavirus patients in the state and by parity of reasons all the governors of the states in Nigeria.
The government also said it does not want the COVID-19 patients to be stigmatised by people in society, hence it has become a policy not to reveal identity of patients to members of the public either through still pictures or videos at the isolation centres across the state.
The clarification was made by the state commissioner for information, Charles Aniagwu, when he visited the Indigenous correspondent chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Asaba, the Delta state capital.
The clarification became important as members of the patients and members of the public have continued to call for results of test carried on the patients to authenticate the fact that they are COVID-19 positive.
But the Delta state government spokesman said the state only communicates with result to the patients but it does not go into printing results and distributing to patients at the isolation centres.
He said the government is more interested in treating the patients, preventing community infection and getting them back to their normal state, adding that it is only the patients who can reveal their identity to the public but not the government.
EXCERPTS OF THE CHAT WITH THE COMMISSIONER IS REPRDOCED BELOW
Hon. Commissioner, people and the patients have complained of not seeing results of the test after declaring patients COVID-19 positive. This has been an issue and made people to doubt the results of the test. NCDC has said since it is the states that give samples to it, it is not its responsibility to deliver results to patients. Why do states not give results to patients?
You take a sample of who is either sick, he does not pay a single penny for the test. He does not pay for even the feeding or anything in the hospital. He didn’t pay for anything yet what he is interested in is go and bring result. The results usually go in batches. The moment you test positive we communicate you. At that moment we are interested in getting you out of the society and get you treated so that more people will not be infected. We can’t be busy printing papers for everybody.
What do we gain by taking somebody to isolation centre where we are going to spend several amount of money to treat you? What does the state government gain by taking in more people when the government is going to be spending money? Look at what is happening to the economy, do you think anybody is enjoying it? So, as we make progress, we have continued to show people their results. But we cannot begin to lay emphasis on result showing and ignore the treatment and keeping the person alive. So, let’s leave the mundane and focus on what is real.
Some people have also argued that NCDC is just releasing figures but the people are not seen, they are not known. People no longer believe that the number being released by NCDC is true. People want to see the visuals of the people infected as done in the western countries to buttress the claims of NCDC. So, why are the photos or videos not being shown in Nigeria?
When we listen to some arguments, it makes us feel we have in our midst individuals who do not put themselves in the shoes of those who are going through pains. We have had the issue of, for instance, HIV. Amongst you here who has ever gone to the hospital and say these are HIV people? The patients deserve personal dignity. You don’t use because of the argument of people to reduce the dignity of the patients. And you want us to carry camera and say see this man, coronavirus is worrying him. And at the end of the day, you begin to fuel stigmatization. We are fighting to make people know that coronavirus is not a death sentence. It is for the patient to bring himself to the public, it’s not for the government.
We cannot, as a government, wake up and carry camera, just because people do not want to believe. We do hope that coronavirus does not get to their families so that they will see with their eyes because they are doubting Thomas. And if the coronavirus comes to their family, will they use their family member to do the scape goat to convince others? Even if we say let us take five press men to see the patients, they will say they have bribed those people to say they saw people. It means we must take all Nigerians into the ward for them all to see.
They say coronavirus is in US but not in Nigeria. They are trusting the white man but distrusting their brother. They say they have it there because many people are dying. That means because we are not dying here like that, God is helping us, you want us to begin to die before you will believe that there is coronavirus. Meanwhile, the loss of over 200 Nigerians on account of this virus, is it not bad enough? Must we lose one million people for us to believe that corona is real? And what does anybody think that government will benefit to say there are coronavirus patients? How many people in the last one month have gone to US? If it’s before, everybody will say I want to go to US. Even when they go to US, they hide themselves when they come back. Before when people travel US and UK, they want to brag that they have been to abroad. Now they hide because they don’t want to be known that they are even coming from there.
They know that if they make too much noise, they are going to be quarantined. Do you know the implication of that on the economy of those countries? People from Brazil cannot easily fly into US. Do you know the implication? Do you know how many airlines have been grounded on account of coronavirus? But I know you know because it is also affecting you. So, what does a government gain? We know what is involved. To pay the salaries of workers now is very tough. Businesses are no more taking place. And somebody is thinking I’m part of those who will be doing audio virus.
It is true that over time our people do not trust government, maybe because of certain things that may have happened in the past. But do not carry the mistrust of those in government over the years and bring it into coronavirus. Do you make money as a government person under coronavirus? So, help us educate those who may not have known that this thing is real and that it can affect anybody irrespective of age, and if it is not properly handled, it can also kill. Malaria is not infectious. If I have malaria, both of us can lie down on the same bed and drink, joke, go to parties, but not so with coronavirus.