Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government on Thursday gave an indication that it was considering discharging patients earlier than their required treatment and isolation period at the different COVID-19 medical centres.
The Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, made the disclosure at the joint national briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
According to him, this follows the realisation that the country’s isolation and treatment centres have become overwhelmed by the number of persons requiring institutional isolation and treatment.
Dr Ihekweazu said in a bid to decongest isolation centres, the NCDC has begun testing people for COVID-19 only once as against its earlier stance on second testing before discharge.
‘Up till now, we have kept patients in care or advised that patients be kept in care until they turn out to be negative on the test that we are using the PCR tests. New evidence is emerging that even when the test is still positive, in certain circumstances, after that patient has been in care for a certain amount of time, it is possible and safe to discharge that patient to home isolation.
‘So we are looking at the evidence and we might change our guidelines over time. I am sharing this so that we start preparing ourselves for some changes and the directions of how we are planning to go,’ Ihekweazu said.
Speaking more on the discharge criteria, the NCDC DG said this has changed from two tests, 24 to 48 hours apart, to a single negative test.
‘Of course, there will be some exceptions, but in most cases when they test negative the first time, the second test is also negative. Given the pressure we have on bed spaces especially in Lagos, Kano, and the FCT, we made a pragmatic decision to move to one negative test sufficient to discharge people.
‘There will always be exceptions where it is not appropriate and, of course, it is dependent on your being clinically cleared of symptoms. So, if you are still symptomatic, then this does not apply to you,’ Dr Ihekweazu said.