In a bid to scale up aggressively the number of Covid-9 test conducted in the country, the federal government has set a target to test 2 million Nigerians in the next three months.
This comes the United States has indicated that it will send Ventilators to Nigeria, to enable government strengthen capacity to fight the pandemic.
The Director General of the Nigeria Centre of Diseases Control NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu who spoke on the new testing target on Tuesday said the plan entails ramping up testing up to 50,000 per state within the period, and that the collaboration of state governments and citizens would be critical.
“This is a very ambitious target, we are working hard with development partners to equip our labs to be able to do this, it’s going to cost us a lot of money and we need collaboration of every one”, he said at the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on covid 19.
“We need Collaboration and cooperation of every state government in Nigeria, every dept of public health and citizens in the state.”
The DG added that there is also a need to build on the supply side to see that the samples come in.
Admitting that the country was lagging behind in number of tests conducted compared to other African countries and needs to catch up, Ihekweazu noted that a major way to stop transmission of the Coronavirus disease is to increase testing. He said this had necessitated the laboratory strategic group responding to the outbreak in the country set up the target which is in line with president Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to embark on aggressive testing and contact tracing in his last nationwide broadcast.
“The only entry point to control this is through testing because of the number of asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic, we can’t understand the size of the problem is we do not test. We are lagging behind and now we must catch up.
“The laboratory strategic group that is responding to this outbreak has set itself a target of testing two million per in the next three months”
“Over the next few weeks I will be engaging aggressively with every state, as we increase capacity to test and send in samples,” he said.
The DG further highlighted non-essential inter state travel as a major factor fueling the transmission of the virus. He said inter-state travel is counter productive and therefore urged every citizens to limit travelling and adhere to other preventive measures.
“The president highlighted the need for aggressive testing and contact tracing , one of the key things that will enable us do this is to avoid non-essential travel, that is really that is a very difficult thing to do. I’ll like to remind everyone that this virus doesn’t fly on its own, it is carried by us,
“We have 32 states with atleast one confirmed case in Nigeria. We need to try hard to adhere to these measures, people travelling for non essential reasons is counter productive.
“Therefore I reiterate that we limit this or avoid it all together unless its a matter of life and death to travel. Non essential trave is really a big challenge for us and this how the disease is spreading.
“By discouraging inter state travel,our aim is to limit transmission to state that has not reported any case, there are four states case with no confirmed case in Nigeria.
“Our goal is to avoid a single case in any of those states and keep states with no states with few cases exactly that way” he said.
Meanwhile, American President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the United States will send Ventilators to Nigeria, an offer he made during a telephone conversation with President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday.
Also disclosing this at the PTF daily briefing, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed
said, ” President Buhari today had a phone conversation with President Donald Trump of the United States.
” The conversation bordered on Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic” he said.
Nigeria currently has only 500 Ventilators which is considered insufficient to deal with the ravaging pandemic
Trump had during the conversation assured that the United States stands in solidarity with Nigeria and promised to make the Ventilators available to help in the battle against Coronavirus.
At the briefing, Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) urged citizens to show more responsibility and adhere to government directives especially as the country begins a gradual, phased easing of the 4-weeks lockdown.
“The phase we are entering is a serious phase and this is the time for all of us to take personal responsibility,” he urged.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government will send a 9-man delegation to Kano States to ascertain the increasing number of ‘unexplained’ deaths in the state, which spiked to nearly 700 in the last one week as speculations link the deaths to the COVID-19 even as the virus is reported to be spreading fast in the communities.
Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire who equally spoke at the briefing noted that government will also be sending ambulances to support Kano.
Ehanire said there is national concern about the sharp increase of COVID-19 positive cases in Kano concentrated in 7 municipal Council areas and also about certain so-called “unexplained” deaths.
“The authorities have explained that the latter were not out of the ordinary. His Excellency the Governor of Kano is well known for his interest in the good health of the people and will receive a high-powered 9-man delegation sent to Kano by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) on a fact-finding mission and to offer support to the COVID-19 response in Kano,” the Minister noted.
He said further that the multidisciplinary technical experts, will assess the needs and the design for on-site capacity building for State teams and advise on the state response and preparedness plan. He stressed that the ambulances to be deployed urgently to Kano will support the State on provision of emergency patient transport services, as the State goes on lockdown, adding that these steps will support the efforts of Kano State.
He also said the Ministry of Health has set up an Ministerial expert advisory committee, made up of eminent Nigerian virologists, public health experts, Infectious disease and diagnostic experts and others, to study the evolution and development of the COVID-19 outbreak and the responses in Nigeria and advise on the national strategy and action plan, using lessons learned as along, and those learned from strategies in place across the globe. “This will help us to identify and adopt the promising strategies and align our plans with best practices and advisories,” the Minister said.
The Minister announced that as of today, 28th April, 2020, 1,337 people have been confirmed to have COVID-19. 255 persons have been successfully treated for COVID-19 and discharged, and sadly, 40 deaths have been recorded.
“The concern at these figures is understandable but not altogether unexpected. They are evidence of improved testing, but also stronger signs of community transmission. The highly propagated social measures like distancing and postponement of all non -essential travel have had only limited success; they must therefore also be a reminder that we need to redouble our efforts to comply with advisories, more especially as restrictions have been eased. Much more stringent compliance will be required,” the minister said.
He stressed that arresting the spread of this virus requires individual and collective effort even as he reiterated the public health advisories, particularly during the Ramadan. He advised the elderly and anyone with pre-existing medical conditions (hypertension, TB, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes cardiovascular disease) not to attend gatherings and should avoid receiving non-essential guests at this time.
He also urged Nigerians to stay at home, avoid large gatherings especially during iftar; Practice physical distancing by strictly maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) between people always; use non-contact greetings, such as waving, nodding, or placing a hand over your heart
and use masks or face coverings over your nose and mouth.
He said that the Federal Ministry of Health, through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control is continuing with expansion of the molecular laboratory network, and collaboration with the private sector in this and other regards.
He explained that the announcement of new measures for non -pharmacological intervention by President Muhammadu Buhari, will allow FMoH additional time for contact tracing and testing. We implore citizens to wear face masks or face coverings at all times when leaving their homes, as required for individual and public safety.
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