COVID-19 Scare in C’River over Isolation of 28 Oil Workers in Tinapa

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* Govt gives reasons for stopping 35 Americans’ flight

Bassey Inyang in Calabar

The Cross River State capital, Calabar, has been enveloped by COVID-19 scare following reports that 28 persons suspected to be workers of an oil exploration company who entered the town last Saturday are being lodged in a form of isolation at the Tinapa Lakeside Hotel.

The scare may have been heightened due to the confirmation of a COVID-19 suspected patient who tested positive in Port-Harcourt last week, and the suspicion that the 35 Americans whose flight was denied from landing in Calabar last Monday, were billed to converge with the oil workers that are in Tinapa.

Sources close to Tinapa and the hotel, who pleaded not to be quoted, said the 28 oil workers are being lodged in a manner that can be described as ‘Self-quarantine’ as they asked the management of the hotel not to accommodate any other guest while they are being lodged there.

The sources also said the oil workers demanded that none of the workers should leave the hotel while they are lodged there, and that they would pay for all services and inconveniences.

The development has created serious anxiety because of the report of a positive case of COVID-19 in Port-Harcourt, and the fact that the US where 35 others were to join them from currently holds the record of the country with the highest rate of the virus infections.

Also, their demand to stay isolated or ‘quarantined’ with the workers of the hotel through out their stay, even without the knowledge of the state government about their presence in the state, has added to the scare.

The fear in the town is that they have not undergone any form of test since they arrived Calabar last Saturday, more so as they had entered the town after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Port-Harcourt, River State.

Besides, it is feared that if any of them is a carrier of the virus, there was no guarantee that such person would not infect their contacts in the hotel, who are residents of the town, and even other contacts in the town since the much-talked about self-isolation is not guaranteed.

One of the sources, who is very much privy to their stay in the hotel, spoke to some journalists in confidence about the development.

“They are oil workers from Port-Harcourt. Why did they not stay in Port-Harcourt and fly with their chopper to their rig? Why should they come in, and stay quietly in a hotel, when hotels are shutting down? So, there is something fishy about their stay. They don’t want the workers to go out, and funnily enough, Tinapa is in the outskirts of Calabar and its not even functioning to accommodate guest, let alone oil workers who often go for the best hotel in town. Besides, Cross River has no oil rig or platform.

“Or could it be that as rig workers, they don’t want the rig to be infected or alarmed, hence they decided to keep them on shore, first for observation for some time as they are managed by their own doctor? This disease grows in astrometry order, which is one can affect one, two infect four and in that order. That is why the Cross River State Government has to get to the bottom of it because if 28 persons are infected, it is possible over 1,000 can get the virus in Calabar,” the source said.

Responding to enquiries from the media about the presence of the 28 oil workers from Port Harcourt, the Cross River State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Betta Edu, said she had no knowledge of their presence in Calabar.

“I have not heard of that, I only know of the 35 persons who tried to make their way into the state but were stopped.

“I have never heard about this other group of people. I just heard about it for the first time, and I will send our team down there to confirm the story.

The general situation in Calabar is still calm, and we are working on sensitisation, especially in the rural areas, where they seem not to understand the implications of COVID-19,” she stated.

In a related development, the state government has offered explanation on why it stopped the aircraft carrying 35 Americans from the US from landing at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport in Calabar.

The state government said it took the decision in line with the order of the state Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, that the air, land, and sea boarders of the state be closed for a period of time to checkmate the spread of COVID-19, which has become a pandemic.

The state government’s position on the development was stated in a statement issued yesterday by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Christian Ita, entitled: ‘No Air Peace flight landed in Calabar’.

It stated in part: “While there was indeed a curious arrangement to have the flight come to Calabar, the governor, however, refused outright to allow the airline fly into the state in line with his order to restrict flights as well as other cross border movements on land, air and sea.”