Nigerian Prelate “certified free of COVID-19” Tasks Gov’t to Upgrade Health Facilities

Bishop Stephen Dami Mamza certified free of COVID-19. He tested positive for the deadly virus on August 23.
Credit: Diocese of Yola

After spending days in isolation under the care of health practitioners, the Catholic Bishop of Nigeria’s Yola Diocese has recovered from COVID-19, he told journalists at his residence, thanking all those who have accompanied him spiritually.

During the Saturday, September 5 press conference, Bishop Stephen Dami Mamza who had tested positive for COVID-19 August 23 challenged Nigeria’s Federal government to work toward improving the country’s health care.

“I have been certified free of COVID-19 and I want to use this opportunity to thank very sincerely all people of goodwill across the country who have been praying for me in order that I get well and I want to assure everybody that I’m now physically well,” Bishop Mamza told journalists in a televised press conference.

He added, “COVID-19 is not a death sentence and it is not as bad as people are talking about it.”

“If you get it, you will get well even if you have the underlying sicknesses. Fear is the one that can paralyze someone,” the 50-year-old Prelate who doubles as the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Adamawa state further said. 

He is the first known Catholic Bishop in Africa’s most populous nation to test positive for COVID-19 where at least 54,743 cases have been reported, including 1,051 deaths and 42,816 recoveries.

In March, the Vicar Apostolic of Ethiopia’s Gambella Vicariate, Bishop Angelo Moreschi, succumbed to the coronavirus.

In April, the President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), Phillip Cardinal Ouédraogo, tested positive for the virus and later recovered.

In the September 5 press conference at his residence, Bishop Mamza encouraged citizens of the West African nation to continue observing COVID-19 preventive measures.

“I want to advise the general public that Coronavirus is real; there is no doubt about it and there is a need for the public to take the necessary precautionary measures especially the protocols, which include wearing of face mask, washing of hands with running water and maintaining social distance. People should try and abide by the protocols.”

He however expressed caution about the way the pandemic is reported saying, “Yes, it is real, but I personally feel that the effect of Coronavirus has been over-exaggerated in Nigeria and I think the fear that has been instilled into people is too much.”

There is need for citizens to continually adhere to the laid down non-pharmaceutical protocols by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control to curb the spread of the virus in the state and the country at large, the Bishop urged.

“There is an urgent need for government and all citizens to appreciate those putting their lives and that of their families on the line to make sure we are all safe,” Bishop Mamza further said in reference to health workers.

He called on the Federal Government to always go into negotiations with doctors to avoid any strike action which he believes “is not good for the country especially at this critical time.”

“I think Nigerians need to appreciate the efforts of the health workers, those in the front-line collecting samples, those in the lab, doctors, and nurses at various treatment centers, and that is why I feel very sad when I hear that medical doctors will be going on strike,” he said.

“This is not when such should happen,” the Bishop said in reference to the reported calls for a strike by doctors and added, “The government should please attend to the needs of the doctors immediately so that there will be no strike.” 

He went on to call for an immediate upgrade of all health facilities in the country, adding that COVID-19 has exposed Nigeria’s weaknesses and that should be urgently addressed.

“I think COVID-19 has exposed our weaknesses in terms of health facilities in Nigeria; our bad sides have been seen and we have a lot to learn and also improve,” Bishop Mamza told journalists.

He added, “It is God that has been helping us because nobody expected that the virus will be mild in Nigeria and Africa in general, having heard what happened in Europe and other parts of the world”

The move by Bishop Mamza, a member of the Adamawa state COVID-19 Containment Committee, to declare his COVID-19 status was lauded as an indicator of responsible leadership.

The Nigerian Prelate has called on all public officials to be open about their COVID-19 status when they test positive for the virus.

“If you are a public figure, you should know that you have people around you and they need to know what is happening to you. If you get the virus there is no reason to hide it. If you do then it means that you’re not helping the public, yourself, and your family,” Bishop Mamza said.

He expressed confidence that efforts toward a vaccine will bear fruit and that COVID-19 will soon come to an end. 

“We have heard that Russia has gotten vaccines and so many other countries. We hope and pray that before the end of the year the vaccines will be available,” Bishop Mamza said during the September 5 press conference.

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