Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has blamed delayed COVID-19 testing as being responsible for some of the fatalities recorded so far.
It stated that COVID-19 cases in the country has risen from 442 cases on April 16 to 17, 148 cases on June 16, adding that citizens have a choice to make in helping to curtail the spread and impact of the virus in the country.
The Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the COVID-19 pandemic and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, made this known on Monday at a briefing of the task force.
While urging Nigerians to make use of the facilities and get tested, Mustapha said: ‘I implore us not to be afraid of undertaking the COVID-19 test. Testing positive for COVID-19 is not a death sentence, but a failure to test, especially when symptoms are evident, could result in death as it may be too late once the symptoms become full-blown. The loss of any Nigerian is not only painful but most avoidable provided we seek help early.
‘As we pursue the Community Engagement and Risk Communication Strategy, the PTF has identified lack of information about case definition protocols, location of testing centres, inability to reach call centres, etc, as obstacles to getting needed help. The PTF has therefore directed that more awareness be created on the location of test centres and how to get tested especially when you fit the case definition. The call centres are also being re-energized for responsiveness.
‘Our messaging on risk communication and compliance by the public will also receive very strong attention. We must develop a national wave of awareness creation to drive home our objectives.’
The SGF recalled that at the beginning of June the PTF announced a one month period for the implementation of the second phase of the eased lockdown and that the task force has continued to monitor developments nationwide in order to make informed decisions at the end of the month.
‘We have exactly eight days to that point of decision. While pursuing that line of action, the PTF will like to re-echo the WHO advisory to countries and their citizens not to equate any slow-down in numbers accompanied by loosening of restrictive measures to translate to a reduction in the dangers faced by humanity.
‘However, we are not deluded that we are getting enough samples to test. I wish to remind all our citizens that the best strategy remains to test, detect, isolate and treat. That has accounted for the massive expansion in the laboratory network and testing centres,’ Mustapha said.
He said that the PTF has also continued to watch developments from other jurisdictions especially those that have similar climatic and demographics with the country.
He said: ‘Here Brazil is of particular interest. You would have observed that the number of confirmed cases in Brazil has risen to 1,084,833 thus becoming the second-highest in the whole world and reporting over 50,000 deaths. In Africa, WHO has reported that South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and Ghana have proportionately been the most affected countries on the continent of Africa.
‘All these, combined, represent a serious wake-up call for us all to be responsive and to take full responsibility. Our failure to take responsibility threatens the gains we have recorded which is not good for our large population.’