Olufemi Atoyebi, Eniola Akinkuotu, Olaleye Aluko, Dayo Ojerinde, Bola Bamigbola and James Abraham
Some professional associations in the health sector on Sunday said Nigeria must step up its testing capacity to successfully battle the spread of COVID-19.
The groups, including the Nigerian Medical Association, the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria and the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, said it was not enough for the federal and state governments to impose lockdown on citizens without ensuring that those who had been infected with the virus were fished out and tested.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, on March 29, ordered lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states to trace and treat people that had contracted coronavirus.
Some state governments, including Osun, Rivers, Katsina and Kwara, on their own also ordered lockdown of their states.
According to www.worldometers.info, as of 10pm on Sunday, Nigeria had tested 5,000 people, while 37,954 persons were tested in Ghana. On the her hand, South Africa had tested 80,085 of its citizens.
The World Health Organisation had, last week said there was an urgent need to increase COVID-19 testing in Africa. It advised that testing must go beyond cities.
When COVID-19 was first recorded in the country on February 27, Nigeria had five centres, where the virus could be tested. The centres were increased to 10 on Friday.
Cases more than what govt recorded – Nurses
Commenting on Nigeria’s testing capacity, the President of the NANNM, AbdulRauf Adeniji, in an interview with The PUNUCH, said COVID-19 had brought to the fore problems in the country’s health sector.
He stated, “The truth is that we are not well-equipped for the virus. Before COVID19 came to Nigeria, the minister (of health) said we were equipped, but it is clear that our infrastructure cannot handle the testing capacity.
“People can have the virus and will not know it and still mingle with health officials and even their families thereby spreading it. We are playing with the tail of a rattle snake in this country.
“What I am saying is that the number of people, who have coronavirus in Nigeria, is more than the number recorded by government.
“The PTF (the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19) should be able to advise government properly on what should be done. The case definition is a problem. People may have it without all the conditions (high temperature, coughing and sneezing) stated. Despite lockdown, we still see people walking around.
People may have COVID-19 and seek herbal treatment – NANNM
“All federal teaching institutions must be able to, by now, test people for it. At least, in each senatorial district, there should be a testing centre.
“People may have it and seek herbal treatment while disobeying social distancing order. The commitment of our health workers is still the grace we have in Nigeria.”
There is under-testing, lockdown not effective – Resident doctors
On his part, the President of the Association of Resident Doctors, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Dr Abbah Ugwu, said the government was not doing enough.
He stated, “We have limited cases because our testing capacity is not enough. We have not tested enough people as in other countries. Government it chasing thousands of people who have had contact with established cases, but I cannot say that the number we have is a true picture of the existence of the virus in Nigeria because we are not testing enough.
“There is gross under-testing of the people so the lockdown is not effective. In other countries, they have started doing house –to-house testing of their people. But it is unfortunate that we are not getting enough information from government concerning the testing capacity we have. Only increase in the number of testing will make the lockdown effective.”
Decentralise testing centres, MDCAN tells FG
Also, the MDCAN advised the Federal Government to redouble its efforts in the fight against coronavirus in the country. It said testing centres should be decentralised.
The MDCAN President, Prof. Kenneth Ozoilo, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Jos on Sunday, said although state and federal governments were doing a lot to stop the spread of the disease, the anxiety among Nigerians was enough reason to test more people to ascertain their status.
He said that a situation where only those who had symptoms of coronavirus were being tested for the disease leaving the healthy carriers would not solve the problem.
Ozoilo said, “You cannot respond appropriately to coronavirus with the lockdown. It’s true we have low figures in the numbers of recorded deaths and infected persons compared with other countries, but we are not testing enough people considering our population.
“The people who are infecting other people are the healthy carriers of the disease. But what we find in our country is a situation where only people who are already sick as a result of the disease are being tested. That means they would have infected so many people before they become eligible to be tested.
“That is absurd and wrong. So, we should be testing both the sick people and any other person that has contact with a suspected person even if he does not get sick”
The MDCAN President, who identified testing centres as crucial in the fight against coronavirus, urged the government to decentralise the centres for the benefit of Nigerians .
Limited testing means we don’t know number of cases – NMA
The President of the NMA, Dr Francis Faduyile, called for increase in the country’s testing capacity for COVID-19.
Faduyile, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the more cases would be discovered if more tests were carried out.
He said, “There is no doubt that we need to step up our testing capacity. Not doing enough tests means we don’t know the total number of cases we have. We cannot plan appropriately to take care of those who are infected and those who have not been tested and do not know their status. Such people are sources of transmission to the general populace.”
Without lockdown compliance full blown transmission imminent – NMA
The NMA president also warned that Nigeria risked full blown transmission of COVID-19 if people continued to flout the Federal Government lockdown order.
Despite the lockdown order, a lot of people are still seen on the streets, especially in Abuja and Lagos where the curve for coronavirus cases has been on the rise.
Faduyile said although economic reality in the country had made it difficult for people to stay at home, it was important to make the sacrifice to stay at home to avert a major health crisis.
He said, “We still have a heightening of the slope and it will take some time to flatten it. That will however depend on how much our people obey the government order on stay at home and the FG’s commitment and intervention to ensure the order on physical distancing is obeyed.
“Economic reality makes people rebuff the order, but if we have a full blown epidemic in Nigeria, we will know why it is important to obey the stay at home order.”
FG to announce new strategies as Nigeria witnesses community spread
In a related development, the Federal Government is set to announce new strategies to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic based on the assumption that the country is now witnessing a community spread, The PUNCH has learnt.
A top source told The PUNCH that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control had been unable to trace the origin of some new cases.
The source, who is a top medical doctor, said, “We are now working on the assumption that we are now witnessing a community spread. We have some patients in quarantine that can neither trace their point of origin nor tell us everyone they came in contact with.
“These are people who have no history of foreign travel. An example is the gateman who tested positive in Kaduna State last week shortly after returning from Lagos.
“We have submitted our recommendations to Mr. President and he is expected to extend the lockdown. We will be announcing new strategies which may include wearing of masks and more stringent contact restrictions.
“Some states may also witness lockdown. Our health system in Nigeria isn’t good but if some states which are less developed than Lagos have high infection rates then we are in trouble.”
Lagos discharges five more COVID-19 patients
The Lagos State Government on Sunday said it had discharged five more COVID-19 patients, who tested negative for the disease.
The state Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, disclosed this via his twitter handle @jidesanwoolu.
He tweeted, “Dear Lagosians, as we commemorate the sacrifice of love this Easter, I bring to you more awesome news from our isolation facilities. Today, five more patients; four females, and one male have been discharged to reunite with their families and the society.
“With the newly discharged patients, we now have a total of 55 people that have been successfully managed for COVID19 at our isolation facilities and discharged to the community. This news, especially on this important day gives me joy and I am sure it does the same to you too.
10 Osun patients discharged
The Osun State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola on Saturday said ten coronavirus patients from the state had been discharged.
Those discharged were among 17 returnees from Cote d’Ivoire that tested positive for COVID-19 upon their return to the country on Saturday, March 28.
Addressing journalists, Oyetola, said 10 out of the 17 patients had tested negative and discharged.
NCDC announces five new COVID-19 cases
The NCDC on Sunday announced five new infections, bringing the number of cases in the country to 323.
The NCDC via its twitter handle, @NCDCgov, said, two cases each were recorded in Lagos and Kwara and one in Kastina.
“As of 09:10 pm 12th April there are 323 confirmed cases of #COVID19 reported in Nigeria. 85 have been discharged with 10 deaths. There are 19 states with confirmed cases in Nigeria.”