By Adekola Afolabi
True to his promise to hit the ground running as soon as he is sworn-in for a second term in office, Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu yesterday commissioned three projects in a row in Akure, the state capital.
The projects which included a state-of-the-art molecular laboratory, Ondo State Public Health Laboratory (PHL) and Public Health Emergency Operation Centre (PHEOC), all at the state Infectious Diseases Hospital ( IDH), beside School of Nursing Akure, were aimed at combating COVID-19 pandemic.
The commissioning was the first official assignment to be performed by the Governor and his deputy after their inauguration on Wednesday.
The Governor noted that his administration would continue to take definite and effective steps to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the state, saying his government would leave no stone unturned until the State is rid of the scourge of COVID-19 and other similar diseases that threaten health security.
Akeredolu named the Public Health Emergency Operation Centre (PHEOC) after the former Commissioner for Health, late Dr. Wahab Adegbenro to immortalise him.
He also disclosed that another state-of-the-art Molecular Laboratory with greater capacity at the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo, would soon be completed.
The Governor who explained that so far, Nigeria has recorded about 153,842 cases and 1,885 deaths, with Ondo State having 2,993 cases and 57 deaths, further revealed that since the outbreak of the pandemic the State has taken several definite steps towards its effective containment.
“In spite of our best efforts, one major challenge the country at large and the State in particular are facing, is a low capacity of testing due to unavailability of functional and accredited laboratories to run the highly technical tests. At the outset of the outbreak, COVID-19 samples in Ondo State were taken to Ede in Osun State with attendant delay of several days.
“Later, the Federal Medical Centre, Owo was accredited which only slightly improved the system. Consequently, our administration resolved to address this situation head-on by establishing additional laboratory.
“Today, we are here to commission an extension of the State Public Health Laboratory that has now been accredited to run the PCR test for COVID-19 by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and also linked to the National network of laboratories.
“As we speak, work is ongoing in another state-of-the-art Molecular Laboratory with greater capacity at the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo. This laboratory is expected to be fully functional within the next few weeks. We believe that these assets will greatly improve our efficiency in testing for this virus and greatly reduce the turn-around time”, he stressed.
Earlier, the Chairman, Inter-Ministerial Committee on COVID-19 in the state, Professor Adesegun Fatusi, commended the governor for maximum support given to the committee.
Fatusi who described the commissioning of the laboratory as a turning point in the health sector of the state, also solicited for more support from partners to further assist in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
In his goodwill message, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General, Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), praised Akeredolu for prompt release of funds to the Inter-ministerial Committee for the fight against COVID-19.
Speaking on behalf of COVID-19 Response Fund Committee, the Secretary of the committee, Mr Babajide Akeredolu who applauded all the donors for their tremendous support, disclosed that a lot of money was spent for the actualisation of the projects.
He also said in the next few weeks the Testing Laboratory at UNIMED Ondo would be completed.
Highlight of the event was presentation of award to the Agro-Traders Limited in recognition of their support for the state.