on Friday, Nigeria’s health minister, Osagie Ehanire, joined other members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to provide updates on steps the country is taking to combat the pandemic. Below are the six most important things he said:
1. Number of cases will continue to increase
Nigeria is nowhere yet at the finish line in terms of the number of new cases, according to the Minister. But if people strictly observe social distancing and other measures put in place such as hand-washing, things will get better.
What he said: We are already seeing what may be the indications of sustained community transmission in the sense that 30 per cent of the cases have incomplete epidemiological information; while 51 per cent are imported cases and 19 per cent are contacts of known cases.
We are using the small window of opportunity remaining to intensify investigations to identify cases and their sources. This is one of the purposes for which the lockdown of two states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was proclaimed by the President. These areas, especially Lagos, are primary epicentres. But also other parts of the federation will need to speed up their activities to detect and isolate COVID-19 patients. During and following the lockdown, we expect to see an increase in cases as a measure of improvement in case finding.
If all the social distancing and other measures are adhered to, the incidence of positive cases can be controlled.
2. Nigeria is ramping up testing
The country is working very hard to increase the number of coronavirus tests being carried out in the country. The Minister has noted this before, but he also noted that new milestones have been reached.
What he said: We have tested nearly 3,000 samples so far and we are working hard to scale up our capacity in a targeted approach.
Coronavirus treatment centre accreditation committee was inaugurated yesterday by the Honourable Minister of State for Health and (the committee) has begun developing an accreditation checklist, as well as a protocol for the management of isolation centres.
We are compiling a list of trained workers in the health sectors to man the centres as they become operational.
3. COVID-19 might be good for local innovation
The Minister said the country was looking inward in order to produce essential medical kits required to combat the pandemic.
What he said: Directors of the Federal Ministry of Health had discussions with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the Manufacturer Association of Nigeria to explore the potential for local production of medical consumables such as face-masks, gloves sanitizers and even equipment like ventilators. This is in view of the looming global shortages of medical supplies for response due to high demand by all countries.
4. No cure yet, but research is ongoing
Yes, chloroquine has been touted as the drug that might be quite useful in dealing with COVID-19, but nothing has been confirmed yet. In Nigeria, doctors are also still trying to figure out how to treat patients.
What he said: Clinical trials and other processes are ongoing to validate various therapeutics for COVID-19 treatment.
5. China is lending a helping hand
The country responsible for most of Nigeria’s recent infrastructure projects, China, has also been visible in the fight against COVID-19. According to the Minister, China is sending doctors and (more) kits to support the government’s efforts.
What he said: I have been notified of gifts of medical supplies from China, courtesy of a group of Chinese companies working here in Nigeria. A special cargo aircraft shall leave Nigeria in a few days to collect the items which include commodities, Personal Protective Equipments (PPE), and ventilators.
Of great interest is that an 18-man team of medical experts, including doctors, nurses and public health advisers shall come along with the flight to assist us.
6. COVID-19 is a disaster, but life continues
While it might seem like COVID-19 is the most important health challenge right now, Nigeria still has to deal with other types of medical emergencies. The Minister reminded the medical community about that on Friday.
What he said: I must, at this juncture, commend frontline health workers who are doing a great job in case identification and management. As we prepare to contain COVID-19 outbreak, we must not lose sight of other health challenges in our country. Routine healthcare services must continue in all hospitals. Only a wing of tertiary centres need to be put to use for infected patients.
I also urge all states to find more beds for isolation and treatment, and this may include renting hotels. It is important that we do not drop but continue our services, including maternal and child health and immunisation. I shall communicate this to the commissioners of health of the states. I shall also instruct all federal health institutions to this effect and for them to work with state officials.
Those who have to deal with coronavirus patients are, as I said, to commit only a wing of their hospitals. And to this purpose, they have all been supplied with starter-packs of Personal Protective Equipment and consumables.
I want to remind you all again that all these efforts will not be effective if we do not cooperate fully with the government. We recognise that the lockdown may be difficult and inconvenient, but it is necessary for the good of us all.