The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, has said about 40 health workers in the country have tested positive for coronavirus.
Ehanire, who stated this during the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 media briefing in Abuja on Thursday, urged all health workers to remain vigilant.
Also, the Chairman of the Lagos State branch of the Medical Guild, Dr Oluwajimi Sodipo, said three members of the association at the Alimosho General Hospital and the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, had tested positive for COVID-19.
Sodipo, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, said the three doctors had been admitted to different isolation facilities in Lagos for treatment.
He said the medical conditions of the three doctors, who had been exposed to COVID-19 cases, were stable.
Sodipo said this as the Nigerian Medical Association stated that its members had been complaining about a shortage of personal protective equipment in hospitals.
This, it said, made doctors and other health workers contract COVID-19.
The health minister had on Wednesday said the Kano molecular laboratory suspended testing because some of its workers tested positive for the virus.
But at the PTF media briefing on Thursday, Ehanire lauded all COVID-19 frontline health workers.
He, however, advised them to be cautious and use the PPE to guard against infections.
He stated, “Please do not treat any patient without using the PPE. Frontline health workers must undertake refresher training at intervals. This warning has become necessary due to the number of health workers who have tested positive for COVID-19. They are over 40 now and they have been quarantined. Remain vigilant in the line of duty and maintain a high index of suspicion for COVID-19.”
The minister added that 13 laboratories in the country had the capacity to test 1,500 samples per day.
He, however, said they were testing an average of 600 samples per day because the samples had to be collected and sent to the labs.
He said factors such as surveillance sample collection and mode of transportation would be improved to increase the tests being conducted in the country.
While stating that the NCDC had released tracing guidelines to all states to aid findings, Ehanire said that Nigeria had its style of testing people and would not deviate from the guidelines.
He stated, “Contact tracing is key to containing the infection. As persons are confirmed positive for COVID-19, we trace all contacts they had in the preceding 14 days. This is a tedious and meticulous activity for which the cooperation of the public is always sought. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has finalised contact tracing guidelines with all states to actively aid case finding.”
He said initially Nigeria was sending samples to South Africa because of a shortage of reagents.
The minister stated, “Our first option at the beginning was to send our samples to South Africa until we started getting our own reagents and we got the necessary training to be able to do our own testing. Between then and now, we have had 13 laboratories and excess capacity for the laboratories that are functioning.”
He also explained why Nigeria was not doing mass testing as Ghana and South Africa. Ehanire said, “Our own strategy is to be careful with the reagents by using smart testing. It means testing only in the areas where we can get the yield. Some other countries do blanket testing where you can just drive in and give your sample. Some later learnt that the yield was too small and that they were wasting cartridges.
where you can just drive in and give your sample. Some later learnt that the yield was too small and that they were wasting cartridges.
“The reagents are too expensive so they learnt the hard way but we did smart testing in the first phase. Now that we are looking at community transmission, we test people who have symptoms. We have a country of nearly 200 million so we should be ready to cater for them. We have a different approach that will not allow us to compete in testing.”
We can’t make testing mandatory – NCDC DG
Also at the briefing, the Director-General of the NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said Nigeria would not compete with Ghana and South Africa in terms of number of people tested for COVID-19. Both countries, with lower population than Nigeria, had tested more people than Nigeria and recorded more cases.
Ihekweazu said, “No country can make testing mandatory. We have a good strategy around testing. The number has always been thrown at us; Ghana, South Africa (testing more than Nigeria) but we are not playing a numbers game. These are human beings and before you go and test anyone, you go through a risk assessment.”
We have tested 10,000
The NCDC boss also said so far, Nigeria had tested up to 10,000 people after reviewing its strategy in the past few weeks.
He stated, “Up till recently, we had 5,000 tests, but in the last week, we went from 5,000 to 10,000. If you imagine from the beginning of the outbreak till last week, we had tested 5,000, then last week, we tested another 5,000 and we are going to continue scaling our testing rapidly.”
On the reports of multiple deaths in Kano State and increase in the number of cases in the state, Ihekweazu said efforts were being made to verify all the claims.
“We are all worried and anxious about the incident in Kano but just like a crime scene investigation, it takes time. When we got to Kano, we heard there had been a few deaths, we tried to verify what we were doing, to see whether what was being reported was the case or not.
NCDC, Kano probing multiple deaths
“That is what we are doing at the moment. We have a team working with the Kano State Government to make sure what is being reported is actually the case.
“Then we carried out a control measure to see if it was COVID-19 or something else. But generally, what we saw was unlike in Lagos that had gradual increase in number of cases. Kano cases increased rapidly. It is not a simple thing to manage. We sat down a whole night trying to reorganise how they were working.”
Ihekweazu said his team had just returned from field trips to states such as Imo, Anambra, Rivers, Delta, Oyo, Ogun, Katsina and Kano.
Lockdown impact will determine extension – PTF
While responding to a call by the Nigeria Labour Congress not to extend lockdown in some parts of the country, the coordinator of the task force, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the best advice would be given to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) based on achievements of the past four weeks.
He said, “On the issue of the NLC writing against extension of the lockdown, the PTF takes its responsibilities seriously. We know that we are in a challenging time and how difficult it is for people to stay at home.
“We will be looking at all the evidence in terms of the impact of the lockdown over the last four weeks and balance it with other issues before we make our recommendations to Mr President. Whatever recommendation we make will be in the best interest of Nigerians.”
NLC kicks against lockdown extension
The NLC had, earlier on Thursday, called on the Federal Government not to extend the lockdown.
It warned that doing so might cause social unrest in the affected states and the Federal Capital Territory.
In a letter addressed to the PTF chairman and signed by the congress president, Ayuba Wabba, the NLC also frowned on the method employed by the FG in the distribution of the palliatives to all Nigerians affected by the pandemic.
The union also said, “While we understand the public health imperatives for extending the lockdown in some parts of the country, it is also very important to underscore the fact that the states currently under total lockdown are the economic and administrative nerve centres of Nigeria.
“This is very dicey. As much as it is important to keep many Nigerians from dying in the hands of coronavirus, loss of income and the accompanying destitution can also be a pathfinder for numerous other sicknesses and deaths. This is the time to play the balancing game.
“The truth is that our economy might relapse into a prolonged coma if the current lockdown in the nation’s nerve centres goes beyond the current extension.”
NCDC, WHO deploy 17 personnel in Kano
The NCDC and the World Health Organisation have sent 17 persons to Kano State to support the fight against coronavirus in the state.
Aliyu, during the presidential task force media briefing, said, “The PTF has directed and, in line with the directive, the NCDC has already deployed at least 17 persons, including seven from the WHO, in Kano to deal with the current issues that have arisen.”
Kano tracing 266 contacts, lab yet to resume testing
The state task force on COVID-19 says 266 contacts of cases are currently being traced in the state.
The Coordinator of the state Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Tijjani Hussaini, disclosed this in an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday in Kano.
He said there were 426 suspected cases of COVID-19 in the state, while 266 people who had contact with the suspected cases were being followed.
Hussaini stated, “As of yesterday (Wednesday, April 22) the state had 426 suspected cases while 266 contacts were being followed or traced.”