Say country’s sampling system has collapsed
By Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
A renowned molecular biology laboratory expert, Dr Casmier Ifeanyi on Monday cautioned Nigerians against jubilating over a statement credited to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 that the country was gradually flattening the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, Nigeria was not yet out of the woods.
Last week, the PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, hinted that Nigeria was beginning to flatten the curve with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, even as he warned against complacency to avoid a second wave pandemic.
Flattening the curve refers to community isolation measures that keep the daily number of COVID-19 cases at a manageable level.
Ifeanyi, who is also the Secretary-General of the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, AMLSN, debunked the claim.
In a chat with Good Health Weekly, he argued that from all the parameters for measuring the gains of the COVID-19 response so far, it was premature to say that Nigeria was out of the woods.
“While the other parts of the world are talking about the resurgence of second and third waves of COVID-19, it’s sad that a country which has not tested up to 700,000 out of about 200 million population is claiming to be already flatting the curve.
“Such a claim is laughable when you just resumed international flights and allowed students to go back to school. The claim is not in line with experiences from other parts of the world.
“This is a global pandemic and as long as other regions are not out of the woods, it would be misleading to convince the world that Nigeria is flattening the curve.”
According to Ifeanyi, most of what is been done in this part of the world as regarding COVID-19 response is largely copy and paste due to reliance on modeling from another part of the world.
“For us, the managers of COVID-19 should hold on as the economy and educations begin to open up before claiming that we are flatting the curve. Because we have moved from 500 cases a day to less than 200 consecutively for some days now, doesn’t mean that we are out of the woods because our testing capacity has significantly reduced.
“You have done less than 600,000 tests and you want us to believe that you have flattened the curve of a global pandemic? It’s laughable.
“Our testing volume doesn’t meet the recommendation, what we are suffering from is apathy in sampling, the sampling system has collapsed.”
He said initially the system was booming but he blamed the managers of not managing the situation well as a result of which some of the volunteers have backed out. “Nigeria has over 20,000 private laboratories with over 4,000 duly registered but they fail to ride on it,” he avowed.
On the reopening of schools and other public places, Ifeanyi noted: “Most countries have gone back to lockdown because of re-opening of school or economy. South Africa opened up their businesses and now they are back with worse cases.”
He warned that “if we do not have experience with the full opening of various sectors, it will not be appropriate to say we are flattening the curve because we now have international flights from countries that are experiencing a second wave why some countries have ban flights from such countries.
“I think the managers should have a rethink, we cannot say it’s safe yet we are not out of the woods. It is wrong timing to say we are flattening the curve when we have not done enough scientifically.”
In its own response to the claim, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, challenged the Federal Government to produce evidence that the country was indeed flattening the curve.
In a chat, the President of the NMA, Prof Innocent Ujah, said the country is doing fewer tests now even as he argued that the determinant is the number of tests done.
“We need to know how many tests are done before we can say the curve is flattening. This is science, not speculation. There has to be evidence,” he remarked.
“If we know how many tests that are being done, and the number that is positive out the tests done, that is what will help us determine if we are flattening the curve or not, he remarked.”