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BusinessDay

Defying lockdown, Coronavirus spreads unrelentingly in Nigeria, amidst poor testing capacity

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Coronavirus spread in Nigeria is beginning to defy the lockdown in key cities as government officials worry over the gross capacity gap in testing the population.

Since the first case of the virus was reported on February 27, Nigeria has now recorded a total of 493 cases, 362 of that number coming after the lockdown was first imposed on March 30.

From Feb 27 when the first case was recorded in Nigeria, it took 28 days for the total number of cases to reach 51. In one day alone yesterday, Nigeria registered 51 new cases of Coronavirus

There are now more cases from community spread according to data available to BusinessDay, with the virus now rampaging silently through homes and communities across the country which was unprepared and has been slow in responding. It is in the area of testing that Nigeria’s shambolic healthcare state has become more obvious.

Not more up 10,000 testes have been conducted for the Coronavirus in in Nigeria with a population of over 200 million. That’s one test in 20,000 persons.

Ghana with a population of 30 million has tested over 45,000, which means Ghana has tested one of every 666 persons.

In South Africa with a population of 57 million, more than 100,827 have been tested, a ratio of one test per 565 South Africans.

BusinessDay learnt that doctors at the frontline of the fight against the deadly Coronavirus in Lagos say the rate of community spread of the virus in Africa’s largest city has risen to become the primary source of infection.

“At the beginning we were dealing with a ratio of 80-20, 80 being those with a travel history while only 20% of the cases fell into the category of community spread. Today, that number has exceeded 45%”, said one doctor.

According to him, “one thing positive is, most of the cases doctors are seeing are people who are a lot less ill, they are being taken in not because they are ill but so they can be isolated to curb the spread of the virus. But it also means there are many who have the virus and may not know and this is promoting the spread especially because we are doing adequate testing.”

According to the Physician, “initially, the people who were coming in with the virus were predominantly people with travel history, people in the upper social class. Today, that is changing. We are now seeing people without travel history and irrespective of social class, they are now presenting the symptom.”

The physician said some of these people are those “who have not been flagged, that is they have not traveled recently, and have no connection with any-one who has traveled. In a way, people you cannot really account for.”

This could mean “we may be on the verge of a real outbreak,” the doctor said.

According to one of them, “the outbreak has truly exposed Nigeria’s health system for what it is and what I have seen is the stark unpreparedness of our health system – the people, the infrastructure and process – to handle an emergency like this one.”

Nigeria is in its third week of lockdown and while the government is expected to begin to relax the restriction in twelve days, the health workers spoken by our reporters said care must be taken to ensure that the gains already secured are maintained.

They suggested a gradual relaxation that may still see places of worship as well as cinemas as well as parties and large conferences and other similar large gatherings still being prohibited