From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government is set to roll out Rapid Diagnostic Test-Kits (RDTs) in five tertiary health institutions in Abuja.
This followed the success recorded in using RDTs to test National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members in their camps.
The RDTs typically give test result within a maximum of 30 minutes, unlike the PCR machines that can take between 24 to 72 hours or more to diagnose COVID-19 samples.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said this at Monday’s media briefing.
According to him, this would be done next week.
Mustapha said that the current wave of infections is swift and virulent and that no one knows how long it will last.
‘Besides, the facilities available for the treatment of critical cases remain very limited and we do not wish to be overwhelmed. Your best bet, therefore, is to avoid infections completely,’ Mustapha warned.
The SGF said the PTF has identified re-opening of schools, businesses and religious centres without compliance with safety measures had been responsible for increasing number of infections.
He also identified re-opening of airports and increased local and international travels as another source of spread of the second wave of the disease.
‘It is, however, very instructive to stress that factors that have contributed to the rise in numbers from late November 2020 include an increased in local and international travels, business and religious activities, reopening of schools without strict compliance with COVID-19 safety measures.
‘The full import of the fore-going is to press further on the need for us all to elevate the level of our vigilance and compliance with the recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions.
‘The current wave of infections is swift and virulent and we do not know how long it will last. Besides, the facilities available for the treatment of critical cases remain very limited and we do not wish to be overwhelmed. Your best bet, therefore, is to avoid infections completely,’ he warned
Noting that the intensity of the new wave of infection is unlike the earlier one as it is swifter and deadlier, Mustapha warned Nigerians to be more vigilant as the capacity to respond to the speed of the spread might not be sufficient, adding that the best chance for every individual would be to ensure to avoid being infected.
On vaccine acquisition and management, the SGF said the PTF had made progress, noting also that great lessons had been learnt from countries and regions where earlier headstart had been made.
‘PTF has advanced the preparation for the management of all aspects of the vaccines discuss. Particularly, lessons are being drawn from other jurisdictions on the successes and challenges of the vaccine administration,’ he said.
The Director-General of Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, also speaking on the roll-out of the RDTs, said:
‘We are rolling out the use of RDTs in five institutions in Abuja. This will increase access to testing, we then intend to roll out across the country in February. This will make testing a lot more available to hospitals who perhaps health care workers themselves and patients are coming to these hospitals.
‘You will remember that we used RDTs in NYSC camps across the country. We tested people coming in from every state in different states and we found positives among individuals that have reported to NYSC camps from every state in Nigeria. So there is no state that is spared of this virus, we would have been surprised if there were, but our data suggest that we were right in saying that there is COVID circulating in every single state in Nigeria and we all have to continue the hard work we have been doing.’
Dr Ihekweazu, further stressed that the coronavirus was spreading fast, causing mild symptoms in some and severe illness/death in other in the country.
The DG NCDC said that many people have continued to experience fatigue and other symptoms even after recovery in the country, urging people to desist from self-medication.
According to him, in the last four weeks, we‘ve recorded a spike in the number of new COVID-19 cases.
‘We have now reported over 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nigeria
‘This is a stark reminder of the reality we live in now, a virus that has affected over 100,000 lives and led to over 1,300 deaths within 11 months in Nigeria, with millions more globally.
‘We cannot be too careful. The silent face of COVID-19. You can’t tell whether someone has the virus or not, so take protective measures at all times,’ he said.
Dr Ihekweazu also advised health workers to maintain a higher index of suspicion for COVID-19. Noting that if people were unwell they should rule out COVID-19 before treating for malaria.
He said that the country has reached a critical level where the hospital capacity would no longer be able to cope with more serious COVID-19 cases and health workers would be forced to make tough decisions.
‘We need to protect our more vulnerable citizens.
‘We all have to take responsibility – this is not for NCDC, PTF or Government alone.
‘By organising large gatherings indoors, you’re not only putting yourself and guests at risk, but the staff who have limited choice but to serve
“By going to clubs, you’re putting your parents at risk,’ he explained.
Speaking on COVID19 fatigue, he said that while Nigerians may all be tired and fed up, the virus was taking advantage of the fatigue and gaining momentum. By adhering to health measures, masks, handwashing, physical distancing, ‘we can prevent its spread.’
‘Stay at home, avoid large gatherings poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
‘Most important of all, the 100,000 cases and over 1,000 deaths are not just numbers.
‘These are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children, friends whose deaths will be mourned and the pain of their loss deeply felt. The response starts and ends with the people of this country,’ he said.
Dr Ihekweazu said that the agency was committed to going over and beyond, working with other government and private organisations in response to this pandemic.
He stressed that testing remains free in the public health labs, sample collection centres were being scaled up by state governments and other measures.