FG plans 1,500 tests daily, Oyo, Edo decry kit shortage

THE PUNCH Newspaper

• Govt searching for 500 contacts with infected persons, cases reach 140
• People with COVID-19 symptoms not being tested – NMA president

The Federal Government on Tuesday said by next week, Nigeria would be testing 1,500 people for COVID-19 every day.

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, who disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja, said the country, as of last week, was conducting 500 tests per day.

Ihekweazu said this as some states, including Oyo and Edo, on Tuesday complained that they were facing a shortage of testing kits for the virus.

On its part, the Bauchi State Government appealed to the Federal Government to set up a COVID-19 testing facility in the state.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Sunday, as part of efforts to increase contact tracing and treat Nigerians, who might have contracted the virus, ordered lockdown of the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states.

Although Nigeria recorded the first coronavirus case on February 27, the figure shot up to 131 on Monday night amidst complaints that the country was not testing many people with suspected cases of the virus.

Prominent Nigerians, who have been diagnosed with the disease include the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed; his Kaduna State counterpart, Nasir El-Rufai and Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State

Ihekweazu, at the press conference, said the NCDC would only test specific persons whose case definition fitted into that of the centre.

He stated, “As of last week, we were testing about 500 per day, or we had the capacity to test 500 per day. By the end of this week, we will be at 1,000 per day, and next week we plan to take it to 1, 500 per day, just by increasing the number of labs.

“We are managing and improving the supply sides, but at the same time, we need to reduce the demand side to those that really need it. So, in Lagos, there is a big problem with a lot of anxiety and everybody wants to get tested. We need you to help us give this message to people. We have a case definition for COVID-19; either you have respiratory symptoms plus travel; plus contact with a confirmed case or respiratory symptoms of unknown explanation.

“This is an important message because the more people force themselves into being tested the less we have the capacity to test those that really need it. These people that really need it will be transmitting it into the community and more people will get infected.

“So, there is a consequence, not just for you as an individual, but for the rest of society. So, we need to get to those we need to get to. And by testing those that don’t need it, we block the system from those that need it, and the outbreak continues. So, there is a price to pay for testing all these asymptomatic individuals.

FG searching for 500 people

He said “We are following up on 500 contacts across the country. This is one of the reasons the President gave us two weeks to free up the roads and to enable us to have the space to do this effectively. This comes at some pains to many Nigerians in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja but it is a necessary precaution and task.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, at the press conference, said the country received from a Chinese billionaire, Jac Ma, 100,000 face masks, 20,000 pieces of test kits, 9,999 pieces of face shields and 1,100 pieces of personal protective equipment.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, on his part, lamented that the coronavirus pandemic was eating deep into the wealth of the nation.

The SGF said, “Coronavirus is not only a burden on our health but it is also affecting our wealth as a people. We must get to the grassroots to make sure our people are aware of the consequences.

“Coronavirus is real, exists and fast in spread and it is vicious. The earlier we come to terms with it the better for our nation.

“As of today, the cost of crude oil in the international market is $22 per barrel. Other countries are even giving discounts. Our problems are getting compounded but I know with the resolve, tenacity and resilience of Nigerians we will overcome the virus.”

The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar, said food would be sent from the national grain reserves to the affected states during the 14 days of no-movement.

She said a national social register would be used to reach the 2.6m poor and vulnerable households captured in the National Social Register and affected in the three places.

According to her, the register captured 11,045,000,537 individuals covering 2,644,995 poor and vulnerable households, 47,698 communities in 4,946 wards in 453 local government areas in 35 states.

Foreign doctors coming to help us – Foreign Affairs Minister

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, said Nigeria was engaging some foreign countries on technical support.

He said, “We are engaging foreign countries in providing equipment that we don’t have as you know we are in short supply of ventilators.

“A lot of countries we are looking up to for assistance are also facing huge challenges themselves. Nevertheless, they are cooperating with us.

But the Oyo State Incident Manager for COVID-19, Dr Olabode Ladiipo, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the state had not been able to meet the demand for testing.

Ladipo said 50 kits had been expended on COVID-19 cases in the state so far, adding that the state was improvising.
We need 5,000 testing kits

The incident manager stated, “We need a minimum of 5,000 sample collecting kits for COVID-19 in the state to address the challenge. We need a whole lot of aid that we can get from the Federal Government and any other source as a lot of things are coming up. We need to engage in tracking of contacts; quite a lot of things are involved here, so, we need a large chunk of resources.

We are improvising – Ladipo

“Indeed, no amount of financial aid from the Federal Government would be too much. We do not have any testing kits as we speak; we are only trying to improvise.”

He also said, “We had so much issues yesterday (Monday). We are in near crisis. What I have been telling everyone is there is no need to check everyone for now. We have not got anywhere.

“As we do a lot of testing, we see much more. If anybody is feeling unwell, we just advise them to stay at home, take a lot of water, eat properly and then get some rest. On our list now, we have almost 20 waiting to get tested.

“We have got about 132 through contact tracing. The kits that the National Centre for Disease Control gave us were in a pack. Once we can’t get more, we went round to get the components and put them together for use. We have not had any other positive case.”

A member of the NCDC media team, Emeka Oguano, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said many people had a wrong notion about criteria for testing.

According to him, the fact that someone exhibited symptoms for coronavirus does not mean the person has to be tested for it because, in normal sicknesses, such symptoms are also exhibited.

He said, “Mere having cough and sore throat does not mean that you have coronavirus. What if you only have common cold? People neglect other possible illnesses they might have (when they have coronavirus symptoms). The criteria are that if you have travelled within the past 14 days or you are in close contact with a confirmed case and you develop these symptoms, you will be tested.

Makinde’s cabinet members in self–isolation

Also, there were indications on Tuesday that the majority of the members of the state executive council were in self-isolation following the result that confirmed that Makinde tested positive for COVID-19.

Ladipo, who disclosed that the testing kits sent to the state had since been expended, said, “We have advised all of them (Makinde’s) cabinet members to go into isolation.”

Although the total number of Governor Makinde cabinet members and aides in self- isolation could not be ascertained as of the time of filing this report, it was gathered that a senior cabinet member, who submitted her sample for diagnosis, tested negative.

People with COVID-19 symptoms not being tested – NMA president

The Nigerian Medical Association President, Dr Francis Faduyile, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said Nigerians was not testing enough number of people.

He said many people who required COVID-19 test had not been able to gain access to it because there was no synergy between the Federal Government and states.

Faduyile said some patients, who required the test because they had shown COVID-19 symptoms, had approached him to assist them to get a place where they could be tested.

He said, “We have not been able to have a harmonious working relationship between the Federal Government and states in our effort to fight COVID-19. This is very unfortunate.”

Delay testing portends danger, NMA warns

“The inability of our people to get tested at the right time portends danger for our society and efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus. Once we cannot test and ascertain those who have the virus, those who are not confirmed but who have the virus will cause rapid community transmission of the disease.”

“We are not privy to what the ministry has and we don’t know how the kits are distributed to test centres across the country. I don’t think it is good for the system.”

The NMA president said the configuration of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 was not in order because it was bereft of medical personnel capable of leading the fight against the virus.

He added, “It is important that stakeholders should form the core of the technical team working on COVID-19. This is a medical issue; it is an issue that requires medical personnel to be at the forefront of the fight so that they can galvanise ideas.

“It is unfortunate that the Ministry of Health and the Federal Government have not been able to get those people, rather, they put politicians in the Presidential Task Force.”

Man laments delay in wife’s treatment

Also, a middle-aged man, in a video that went viral on Tuesday, expressed frustration over the delay his wife experienced in getting treatment for COVID-19.

The man, whose wife was said to have been taken to an isolation centre in Lagos State, told an unidentified broadcast journalist nearby, “My name is Olamiju. What the hell are they doing here? She hasn’t seen a doctor since morning. She hasn’t seen a nurse. She hasn’t been fed. And you’re telling me that I should not take her out.

“Let her go and die in her house. Simple. I don’t care anymore. For the fact that Nigeria has coronavirus does not mean you should just be left around and then nobody treats you; nothing happens. I am going to call everybody I know in Nigeria now.”

Several Nigerians were outraged over the delay, even as a relative of the aggrieved man, @adukegold_, took to Twitter to seek intervention.

@adukegold_ said, “This is my uncle at the isolation centre @NCDCgov @segalink @jidesanwoolu please help us respond to his case.”

A popular social media activist, Segun Awosanya, otherwise known as Segalink, later responded, saying, “Hi Distinguished, do note that your uncle’s wife is being attended to. I just finished speaking with him to confirm this.

“He will also give feedback of his experience as things develop. This happened in Yaba for those saying it was in Benue. Let us always get our facts right.

“The @NCDCgov is doing its best to monitor the reports and it will lessen the burden if we allow objectivity to reign supreme. Things are no doubt imperfect but a lot is being learnt as we proceed.”

But the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, at a press conference on Tuesday, said the mode of operation at the isolation centre was different from that of a hospital ward.

He said it often took a few days for patients to adjust to life at the centre. The commissioner stated. He stated, “It takes a few days for the patients to get accustomed to isolation centres and that is why it is called isolation.

“For about one or two days, patients will always complain on social media that nobody is doing this, ‘I haven’t seen anybody.’ That is not correct. They are just not accustomed to seeing people for few minutes a few times a day. It is totally different from a normal ward.

“After about two days, the patients become accustomed to that and then they settle down. They start interacting with other patients in the ward, they make friends and if you have listened to the testimonies that have been released, they thank the government.

“They make a lot of good comments, they are happy that they are well and they have finally understood what isolation means.”

No enough testing kits in Edo, says health Commissioner

The Edo State Commissioner for Health, Mr. Patrick Okundia, lamented lack of sufficient testing kits for suspected coronavirus cases.

Okundia, who stated this in an interview with The PUNCH, said the state had only one molecular machine in the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital which was inadequate for the state.

According to him, the state does not have the other rapid test kits.

He said, “There are two types of testing facilities. The main testing machine is molecular PCR machine and we have only one in Edo State which is in Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital.

“We don’t have the other Rapid Test Kit, but the information is that we can hardly use that to confirm any case of coronavirus, so we don’t recommend that at all. So far in Edo State, w have about 32 cases that have been tested and out of that we have two confirmed cases.”

He stated further that “the testing kits we have are at Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, I cannot tell you the quantity now. Definitely they need more testing kits because they take more cases from outside the state.”

Osun three new cases move to isolation centre

In a related development, the Osun State Government on Tuesday said there were three new cases of coronavirus in the state, making the total number of cases in the state five.

The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Ismail Omipidan, told one of our correspondents that the three cases of COVID-19 had been moved into an isolation centre.

Although details of the new cases were not made public, some sources claimed they were from the 120 returnees from Cote d’Ivoire, who arrived the state on Friday and were kept in Isolation in Ejigbo town, other sources claimed one of the new cases came from Ile Ife.

Ismail Omipidan, said, “I can confirm the three new cases have been moved to an isolation centre. We are using this medium to appeal to our people to cooperate fully with government and adhere strictly with all what government want them to do to prevent the spread.”

When asked for the details of the new cases, Osun State Commissioner for Health, Rafiu Isamotu, simply said, “they are returnees.”

55-year-old man tests positive in Bauchi

Also, the Bauchi State said a 55-year-old man had tested positive for COVID-19.

The Deputy Governor, Senator Baba Tela, who disclosed this on Tuesday, during a press conference in Bauchi, said that man had contact with one of the earlier two positive cases.

Besides the state governor, his 62-year-old friend has been diagnosed with the virus.

The deputy governor disclosed that essential drugs had been procured for case management and treatment.

He, however, said that the distance between Bauchi and Abuja was an impediment to quick response to test.

We need testing facility – Bauchi

The deputy governor stated, “We are calling on the Federal Government to help us in the area of testing because the more we test, the more we are certain that we have or we don’t have cases. If we don’t test, we obviously have a problem.

“There is no testing facility here in Bauchi. All the samples that we take here, we have to take them to Abuja. To even get the containers that you will carry the samples in is a big problem to us. Sometimes, we carry 20. If we are lucky, we carry about 30. That is not enough.

Meanwhile, the Bauchi state government on Tuesday, imposed lockdown on the state for 14 days to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The Secretary to the Bauchi State Government, Sabi’u Baba, in a statement, said the lockdown would begin at 6pm on April 2.

Lagos doesn’t have patients who require ventilators – Abayomi

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Abayomi, said the majority of the COVID-19 patients receiving treatment at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba had symptoms of illness.

Abayomi, at a briefing on Tuesday, said out of the 88 confirmed cases recorded in Lagos, 66 were due to transmission within the state while 15 were discovered from a vessel manoeuvring off the coast of Lagos.

I’m not aware of Kyari’s location – Lagos commissioner

Abayomi also said he did not know if the Chief of Staff to the President was in Lagos.

Recall that Kyari, who tested positive to coronavirus last week in a statement on Sunday said he would be in Lagos this week for further tests and observations.

Abayomi said, “I’m not aware of Chief of Staff itinerary so I don’t know where he is, we chat on Whatsapp but I cannot tell where he is from our chat.

“We are exchanging information but I haven’t asked him about his location. He seems well and happy ad we are exchanging information on strategic issues. It has been a long time we talked about his health, I presume he has made a full recovery.

‘We have excess testing capacity in Lagos’

“We still have excess testing capacity; we have three reference laboratories – One each at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, and the Lagos State Level 3 Biosafety Laboratory.

“Each of those facilities is testing up to 50 daily, if you add that up we have 150 tests per day and we are increasing that capacity by the day. Hopefully, we will be able to get to 200 and soon we might be able to get to 300.

The Commissioner said the testing kits donated by China’s richest man, Jack Ma, to help fight coronavirus were still in the possession of the Federal Government.

Cases rise to 140

COVID-19 cases in the country rose to 140 on Tuesday evening.

The NCDC on Tuesday, night said eight new cases had been recorded bringing the total number of cases in the country to 139.

The centre, however, did not include one case which the Bauchi State Government earlier on Tuesday said tested positive.

“As of 08:00 pm of March 31, there are 139 confirmed cases of #COVID19 reported in Nigeria. Nine have been discharged with two deaths,” the NCDC said on its twitter handle, @NCDCgov.

With the latest cases, Lagos now has 82 cases; the FCT, 28; Kaduna, three; Oyo, eight, Osun, five and Ogun, four.

Enugu and Edo have two cases each, while Ekiti, Rivers and Benue have one case each. Bauchi has three cases.

Nine patients have been discharged with two deaths recorded.

Olufemi Atoyebi, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Tobi Aworinde, Dayo Ojerinde Wale Oyewale, Sola Shittu, Abiodun Nejo, Armstrong Bakam, Chidiebube Okeoma and Bola Bamigbola


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