•Attributes extension to community transmission
•Says Nigeria now has capacity for 1,500 testing a day
•Praises Govs; promises to support states
•Abuja alone has capacity to test over 1,000 daily – NMA
•Testing 1500 people daily not good enough for 200m population — NARD
•We disagree with the president on testing — Laboratory scientists
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Chioma Obinna & Olayinka Ajayi
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday extended for another two weeks the lockdown imposed on the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Lagos and Ogun states to check the spread of coronavirus in the country.
The President had on Sunday, March 29, 2020, in a nationwide address, lockdown the two states and Abuja for the same reason.
In another nationwide address on the issue last night, following the expiration of the initial order, the President said the extension became necessary because the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, informed him that a large proportion of new infections were now occurring in communities, through person-to-person contacts, and stressed the need for Nigerians to pay attention to the danger of close contact between person-to-person.
Buhari said: ”I will remind all Nigerians to continue to take responsibility for the recommended measures to prevent transmission, including maintaining physical distancing, good personal hygiene and staying at home.
Attributes extension to community transmission
”Today, the cessation of movement, physical distancing measures and the prohibition of mass gatherings remain the most efficient and effective way of reducing the transmission of the virus. By sustaining these measures, combined with extensive testing and contact tracing, we can take control and limit the spread of the disease.
”Our approach to the virus remains in two steps – First, to protect the lives of our fellow Nigerians and residents living here and second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners.
With this in mind and having carefully considered the briefings and report from the Presidential Task Force and the various options offered, it has become necessary to extend the current restriction of movement in Lagos and Ogun States as well as the FCT for another 14 days, effective from 11:59 pm on Monday, April 13, 2020. I am therefore once again asking you all to work with government in this fight.
”This is not a joke; it is a matter of life and death. Mosques in Makkah and Medina have been closed. The Pope celebrated Mass in an empty St. Peter’s Square. The famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris held Easter Mass with less than 10 people. India, Italy and France are in complete lockdown. Other countries are in the process of following suit. We cannot be lax.
”The previously issued guidelines on exempted services shall remain. This is a difficult decision to take, but I am convinced that this is the right decision. The evidence is clear. The repercussions of any premature end to the lockdown action are unimaginable.
”We must not lose the gains achieved thus far. We must not allow a rapid increase in community transmission. We must endure a little longer. I will, therefore, take this opportunity to urge you all to notify the relevant authorities if you or your loved ones develop any symptoms.
”I will also ask our health care professionals to redouble their efforts to identify all suspected cases, bring them into care and prevent transmission to others. No country can afford the full impact of a sustained restriction of movement on its economy.
”I am fully aware of the great difficulties experienced, especially by those who earn a daily wage such as traders, day-workers, artisans and manual workers. For this group, their sustenance depends on their ability to go out. Their livelihoods depend on them mingling with others and about seeking work. But despite these realities, we must not change the restrictions.
”In the past two weeks, we announced palliative measures such as food distribution, cash transfers and loans repayment waivers to ease the pains of our restrictive policies during this difficult time. These palliatives will be sustained.
”I have also directed that the current social register be expanded from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million households in the next two weeks. This means we will support an additional one million homes with our social investment programs. A technical committee is working on this and will submit a report to me by the end of this week.
”Security agencies have risen to the challenges posed by this unprecedented situation with gallantry and I commend them. I urge them to continue to maintain utmost vigilance, firmness as well as restraint in enforcing the restriction orders while not neglecting statutory security responsibilities.
Praises Govs; promises to support states
”Fellow Nigerians, follow the instructions on social distancing. The irresponsibility of the few can lead to the death of the many. Your freedom ends where other people’s rights begin. The response of our state governors has been particularly impressive, especially in aligning their policies and actions to those of the Federal Government.
”In the coming weeks, I want to assure you that the Federal Government, through the Presidential Task Force, will do whatever it takes to support you in this very difficult period. I have no doubt that, by working together and carefully following the rules, we shall get over this pandemic.
”I must also thank the Legislative arm of Government for all its support and donations in this very difficult period. This collaboration is critical to the short and long-term success of all the measures that we have instituted in response to the pandemic.
”As a result of this pandemic, the world as we know it has changed. The way we interact with each other, conduct our businesses and trade, travel, educate our children and earn our livelihoods will be different.
”To ensure our economy adapts to this new reality, I am directing the Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Communication and Digital Economy, Science and Technology, Transportation, Aviation, Interior, Health, Works and Housing, Labour and Employment and Education to jointly develop a comprehensive policy for a “Nigerian economy functioning with COVID-19.
”The Ministers will be supported by the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and Economic Sustainability Committee in executing this mandate. I am also directing the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, the National Security Adviser, the Vice Chairman, National Food Security Council and the Chairman, Presidential Fertiliser Initiative to work with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to ensure the impact of this pandemic on our 2020 farming season is minimized.
”I want to thank members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for all their hard work so far. Indeed, the patriotism shown in your work is exemplary and highly commendable.”
Says Nigeria now has capacity for 1,500 testing a day
Speaking further, President Buhari said the government had so far identified 92% of all identified contacts, while doubling the number of testing laboratories in the country and raising testing capacity to 1,500 tests per day.
He said also that 7,000 healthcare workers had been trained on infection prevention and control, just as NCDC teams had been deployed to 19 states of the federation.
He said: ”Lagos and Abuja today have the capacity to admit some 1,000 patients each across several treatment centres. Many state governments have also made provisions for isolation wards and treatment centres. We will also build similar centers near our airports and land borders.
”Using our resources and those provided through donations, we will adequately equip and man these centres in the coming weeks. Already, health care workers across all the treatment centers have been provided with the personal protective equipment that they need to safely carry out the care they provide.
”Our hope and prayers are that we do not have to use all these centres. But we will be ready for all eventualities. At this point, I must recognise the incredible work being done by our healthcare workers and volunteers across the country, especially in frontline areas of Lagos and Ogun states as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
”You are our heroes and as a nation, we will forever remain grateful for your sacrifice during this very difficult time. More measures to motivate our health care workers are being introduced which we will announce in the coming weeks.
”As a nation, we are on the right track to win the fight against COVID-19. However, I remain concerned about the increase in number of confirmed cases and deaths being reported across the world and in Nigeria specifically.
Abuja alone has capacity to test over 1,000 daily— NMA
Reacting to President Buhari’s speech on testing capacity last night, President of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Dr Francis Faduyile said: “I cannot say I know if they can test up to, 1500 now but the FCT NMA chairman just informed me that in Abuja here, they can test over 1,000 in Abuja alone. So with that I think we have the capacity.”
Testing 1500 people daily not good enough for 200m population — NARD
Also reacting yesterday, the President Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, Dr. Sokomba Aliyu, said: ”At the moment, the facilities can test 1,500 people per day but if you are to test the 200 million population, that will take how long? As much as I appreciate the efforts of the government on what they are doing, testing 1,500 people per day is not good enough.
”What that means is that also after two good weeks of lockdown, they were only able to test 5000 people. First 1,500 people per day in two weeks should be like 18,000 people, so for how long are we going to be locked down to get the number of people we are supposed to test.
”You recall that WHO had emphasised that the critical and the most important thing to do to break transmission is to ensure that it does not spread and you can only do it by knowing who has it so that you can isolate and treat them, trace their contact but all these boil down to testing.
”I appreciate the President for improving on the testing capacity across Nigeria but it could be better. There is a lot more to be done to reduce the sufferings of Nigerians. Prompt testing and identification of their contacts and treatment will break the transmission.”
In his reaction, National Publicity Secretary of Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, AMLSN, Dr. Casmier Ifeanyin, said: ”On the issue of how many tests we can do per day, while I commend the President for what he has done, I beg to differ with the text of his address that says we can now do 1,500 tests per day.
”We started in the last week in February and between February and the April 12, we were only able to do between 3000 and 5000, what magic wand has happened that can now make us deliver 1,500 tests per day?
”If you listened to the Minister of Health today (yesterday) and the National Coorditor , PTF COVID, Dr Sani Aliu, they talked about how they have increased number of labs to 11, but they were talking about being able to test samples sufficiently to fill those labs, meaning, therefore, that there is a major lag on sampling processes and sample volume. So where is the sample volume coming from that gives us 1, 500 per day? Yes, we may have infrastructure that can deliver 1, 500 per day but that does not translate to the fact that we are now testing 1,500 per day.””