COVID-19, NCDCBy Chioma Obinna

By tomorrow, it will be 14 days since President Muhamadu Buhari declared lockdown in Lagos State, Ogun State and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja to check the spread of COVID-19 and as well as flatten the curve of the infection.

But since the lockdown, the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria has continued to rise, according to experts’ prediction.

As of Thursday, April 9, 2020, Nigeria had recorded a total of 288 confirmed cases, 57 discharged from isolation and after recovery and seven deaths. Sunday Vanguard spoke to Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, on the gains and a number of issues bordering on containment efforts in Nigeria. Excerpts:

Experts predicted that Nigeria may experience the worst-case scenario from next (this) week and called for preparedness. How prepared is Nigeria in terms of facilities and equipment?

We know from experience in nearly all countries across the world that COVID-19 is transmitted from one person to another. This has affected the health system, the economy and the means of living of millions of people. This is why we urge Nigerians to adhere to the measures that have been put in place. Avoid unnecessary movements and travels at this time, wash your hands with soap and running water regularly, avoid contact with sick people and, if a lockdown has been instituted in your city, please adhere to it. These are difficult times, but these measures are our window of opportunity to control this outbreak.

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There is increasing demand for medical equipment, laboratory reagents, personal protective equipment and other response commodities across the world. This is rising with the increase in cases in more countries. As the demand rises, supply is affected. With leadership from the Honourable Minister of Health and Presidential Task Force, we are working very hard to ensure that we have the required supplies in our treatment centres and laboratories.

The lockdown expires on Monday. How do you assess the exercise and are there gains recorded so far?

Given the transmissibility of the virus that causes COVID-19, the lockdown and social distancing provide an opportunity to reduce the risk of spread. It is still too early to say, but we know from projections that implementing measures such as movement restriction, closure of large gatherings and others provide an opportunity to flattening the curve.

 

Do you think that with the rate of discharges in Lagos as the country’s epicentre, we are out of the woods?

We have adhered to the World Health Organization, WHO, treatment protocol for case management. It is still too early in the outbreak to comment on the low fatality rate in Nigeria. We are very grateful to health workers at our treatment centres who are working very hard, in difficult circumstances. We know from evidence that most people who die from COVID-19 complications are the elderly or have underlying health conditions.

Recently, plasma of recovered patients was used to treat a positive person. Is NCDC looking in that direction?

Treatment centres across the country are working hard to ensure that validated, safe and effective methods are used for treatment. We are guided by science and evidence in responding to this outbreak.

Some states have made wearing of face masks compulsory, others are considering it. What is the national policy on face mask production and wearing?

According to the World Health Organization, medical face masks should be worn primarily by people who show symptoms of COVID-19, health workers and people who are taking care of people with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility). We are working on providing national guidance for this. Notwithstanding, it is important to remember that with the global shortage, we must prioritise medical face masks for health workers at the frontline.

Vanguard

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