• Saturday, May 25, 2024
businessday logo


COVID-19: FG disturbed over failure to achieve 1% testing targets

Osagie Ehanire

Federal government on Tuesday expressed concerned about the decline in the testing rate in several States of the federation, as only Lagos and the FCT met the testing target of at least 1% of the population.

Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, speaking at the national COVID-19 briefing in Abuja, revealed that Plateau, Rivers and Gombe have reached over 50% of target, while 25 states are yet to reach 25% of their population.

The Minister revealed that the country has continued to work with World Health OrganisationWHO, to assure Nigeria’s access to the vaccine as soon as it becomes available.

He disclosed that the Ministry of Health is preparing to sign a Memorandum of understanding with a first line Pharmaceutical company in Nigeria, on a Public/Private partnership to set up a modern vaccine production Company in our country and work towards licensed indigenous production.

Ehanire while noting that the country’s concern is heightened by several emerging factors that challenge whatever gains Nigeria may have made in recent months, added that “ We do not have the confidence to draw firm conclusions on our status, till this situation improves”

He stated that there was an inevitable need to reopen air travel, to stimulate economic activities, the imminent reopening of schools and Youth Service, again necessary for restoration of social order

He however expressed fears that with recent global experience links with spikes in covid infection rates in most countries, the effect of recent social agitation and unrest, with attendant disruption of services and widespread breach of all infection prevention protocols, the growing lackadaisical attitude to covid19 and disregard for safety and simple infection prevention and control measures, may combine to hurt the country unless something is done.

“Preliminary reports show that contact tracing and case finding have declined in states with a consequent reduction in the number of persons tested.

He therefore , renewed calls on states and stakeholders to step up testing capacity, to help identify positive cases for Isolation or treatment and protect the rest of the population, which is the duty of ggovernment.

“I wish to particularly emphasize the need to protect the elderly and vulnerable, who are the most affected in fatalities. In this connection, the Ministry of Health will next week launch an advocacy campaign in which a representative of the Hon. Minister of Health will visit hotspot States that require encouragement, to discuss their specific needs and challenges and find ways of stepping up sample collection for testing.

“I have also directed the Department of Hospital Services to work with NCDC to design criteria and a strategy for sentinel surveillance with sample collection at Out-Patient Units Federal Health Institutions and their outreaches, to augment the work of State aauthorities.

“This should improve the test volume, considerably.

The Minister said the PTF has set up stringent criteria and measures, to limit COVID-19 importation, but added that “nevertheless, 18 travelers out of over 78,000 arrivals, were found to be covid positive at the second testing in Nigeria.”

Ehanire who also noted that this is a relativelysmall number, said it could increase with rising volume of flights.

“Moreover, it is estimated that traveler compliance with 2nd testing after arrival, is significant, which is a challenge we are responding to in innovative ways, as we work constantly to improve the arrival processes for better protection of citizens.

“To improve function at international air and sea Points of Entry, the Division of Port Health Services has been directed to work with NCDC, Ministry of Health Planning Department and relevant Agencies of the Ministries of Aviation and Interior and Transportation, to bring up a new design of structures and protocols that will enhance its ability to function more efficiently and effectively and ensure reduction in the risk of importing Infectious disease, especially covid19, by promptly identifying, isolating and processing suspected cases before they enter the country.

“While we still evaluate the impact of recent unguarded mass gatherings in various parts of the country as a risk factor for spreading COVID-19, my concern is that we may find a spike in confirmed cases, with the widespread disregard for preventive measures associated with large gatherings and movements.

“We must take collective responsibility for each others actions, if we are not to experience the upsurges in new cases experienced in many other countries, and a throwback to conditions worse than the present.

“An appraisal of Nigeria’s position in the global Covid19 space has been prepared by the Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19 and will be discussed at PTF, before release to the public.