By Sola Ogundipe, Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
Since Nigeria confirmed the first case of Coronavirus (COVID-19), there have been speculations about the country’s preparedness to combat the dreaded disease.
While the Federal government claimed readiness for the outbreak that has spread at least 75 countries as of March 2, 2020, observers say that the country is only preparing and not prepared.
Good Health Weekly spoke to the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Adeleke Olorunmimbe Mamora, who reiterated that the country was ready, but no one should expect a perfect situation in times like this.
How prepared is Nigeria to handle coronavirus?
We are prepared but you don’t really expect a perfect situation; there is no perfection about these things.
If there are areas we need to strengthen our preparedness, we are willing to do so immediately.
We have about three centres where coronavirus can be tested and diagnosed – in Edo State, Lagos and Abuja. We have one of the networks of laboratories in Abuja.
As regards the complaint by the Italian index case, the kind of comfort people expect varies under given circumstances.
If you have someone that is used to a 5-star kind of treatment and now you put that person in a 3-star hotel situation, of course, the reaction may be different but the most important thing is that the necessary quality care the patient should have is being received.
Attention should be on the quality of care because the goal of management is to get the patient well, and if the patient is getting a better base on the management, that is the most important thing. And it is just for a while; if there are lapses we will look at them and rectify them.
If we are prepared, how did we miss the index case at the point of entry?
One thing I must stress is that people must avoid fear; panic and hysteria because there is a lot of misinformation on social media, to create fear and panic in the minds of people. The virus is new and information about it is coming out every day.
People should keep to personal hygiene with respect to handwashing, limiting handshake and hugging, people coughing should self-isolate and report to doctors, keep away from the crowd, again, don’t forget coronaviruses belong to the category of common cold, and cancer, malaria among others.
Individually, these diseases kill more people, and the case fatality is very low. Yes, we are worried about the loss e of one person, but the number of people killed by malaria is far more than what coronavirus will do.
We are concerned because it is more or less a pandemic now because it is happening in many countries at the same time; the major concern is the ease of spread, not the outcome that is critical. Most of the people that died from it were people in very ill condition or old people.
The scare going on should be avoided at all costs; let people keep to the basic personal rule of hygiene and respiratory hygiene.
People should keep travel advisory, and if you have travelled to the high-risk area, engage in self- isolation for 14 days so that you can see what happens.
it is not the time to be going around meeting people when you don’t know what might happen.
We cannot carry out laboratory tests on all the passengers at the airport because in that case, we will not be prudent with the available reagents, it is people with a high index of suspicion based on symptoms or travel history we focus attention on.
Why do we have more attention at the airport?
Talking about the borders, we are essentially worried more about the airport because we strongly believe that if anybody is going to come in with the virus, they are likely to come through the airport, and that is why we are focusing more on our functional airports in Lagos, Kano, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, that didn’t mean we excluded land borders, we are saying the chances are very low for people coming through.
The concentration of attention is much at the airports where we do the screening. If somebody is carrying the virus and does not show symptoms, the travel history suggests that it is when we pay more attention and do further interrogation.
But we need the cooperation of the general populace to be able to achieve a good outcome in terms of surveillance and response.
Again, the transit is more in Lagos and Abuja. They are critical entry points where necessary measures are activated because we have forms that have been designed, and when people fill the forms, they tell us their travel history that can make us suspicious, then there is a slip which they fill and stamp and unless this is presented, that passenger can not exit the airport because we don’t want a situation whereby the passenger fills the form and does not submit it.
What is your advice to Nigerians?
This is the time for fact and not fear, people must follow the advisory issued by the federal ministry of health regarding what to do, which include personal hygiene in terms of handwashing with running water and alcohol-based sanitiser, you must do this regularly because the tendency of contact it through hands is very high.
Again, when you cough or sneeze, the basic rule is to cover up your nose with a handkerchief; if you have running nose and you want to blow it into a handkerchief, keep it, and dispose of properly immediately.
If you are having a fever, don’t self-medicate. Let a doctor see you, don’t engage in any self-medication, don’t find excuses for your symptoms. Let the doctor determine what to do.
Such people should avoid crowded areas, and if you have a certain symptom, stay at home so that you don’t become a risk to others.
If you see anybody with that symptom, maintain a distance so that you will not be prone to picking up whatever it may be. Helplines are available to call for complain or seek information.
The likelihood of patients dying is very low and let there be no stigmatisation, it is not expected of anyone.
People will recover when they test positive, people that should be more careful are the elderly and people with certain health conditions.