Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has disclosed that Nigeria now has the third-highest number of confirmed cases on the continent, just after South Africa and Egypt.
NCDC Director-General Chikwe Ihekweazu made this disclosure at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force.
Ihekweazu further disclosed that 812 healthcare workers have been affected by the virus; 29 of them work with the NCDC.
He assured that, as the lockdown easing continues, the centre will further strengthen the public health response.
He also described as irresponsible journalism a national newspaper’s report quoting the NCDC as saying that the sources of 7,276 COVID-19 cases are unknown.
The paper said the revelation was contained in the COVID-19 Situation Report 92 of the NCDC made public.
Ihekweazu said: ‘So, as we go further in the easing of the restrictions, I just want to remind all of us that the easing of the restrictions doesn’t mean the easing of the response. In fact, the response is being strengthened. The public health response is being strengthened as the measures restricting certain movements are being used.
‘So, I really wanted to just spend today to reflect on some numbers with you because crossing that 10,000 mark was quite a significant event, I won’t call it milestone and every night when we work very hard to bring out those numbers, sometimes numbers begin to feel like what they are. You forget that there are people behind each number.
‘So, it’s very important for us to remember that these are people and at the NCDC we engage with these people almost every day same as the state governments across the country. And when you engage with these people it means a lot more to you than just the numbers. So, really as we report on this every day, let’s remember that these are people, each single number there represents an individual with a brother, sister family, village, community.
‘The second thing I’d like to say is something around the provenance of those numbers. So, we’ve reported since the beginning of the outbreak on the likely exposure, right now cummulatively just two percent of cases have a travel history, in the beginning there used to be 80 to 90 percent, at some point it was 100 percent when everybody came back from some country or the other. Twenty three percent of patients of new cases are contacts of existing patients.
‘So, these are people that have been found through the public health response, their contacts are there where you test some contacts you find more cases at the moment.
‘At the moment 75 percent of people have an unknown source of their illness. What does this really mean? It means that Community transmission is happening. It means that you cannot link your exposure to one particular person or one event. And this is normal of a respiratory virus for which 80% of people are insymptomatic.
‘But what it does not constitute is fraud. So for a newspaper to present this figures as fraud is irresponsible journalism at the very least. We have been very proactive in making sure every Nigerian is informed, the team works very hard every day. We come here to represent to tell you what these numbers are. So, at least we expect responsible reporting of what these numbers mean and at least check with other countries what proportion in the US, in Japan, in China during committee transmission. Can you identify a known source for? Our percentages are no different than reported anywhere else in the world. So, how does this represent fraud? So we need to really understand what these numbers mean?
‘We’ve had 299 deaths so far representing a case fatality ratio of about three percent, now each of those days that are very painful and we report them because it’s important to count these things. But also we always remember and the SGF of our said is here severally these are people some of them we know and so many and privilege position have come to know through the course of their illness. So, we know them and we remember them every time we go out in the morning to work harder the next day.
‘We now have the second highest number of confirmed cases on the continent just after South Africa and Egypt. It means that there’s an added responsibility for us to work harder every day.
‘We’ve increased our testing capacity, we have now tested over 65,000 samples and increase our lab network 30 having those activated a lab in Bauchi and one new one in Abuja and each of these are not numbers. There’s a lot of work behind every new lab activated means equipment have been procured, people have been trained, people have travelled to make sure this things happen, state governments have invested. So, when you just hear a new lab activated, it’s not just a number. It represents the collective efforts of a country trying to respond to Public Health Emergency.
‘Another number that is important: sixty percent of our cases are in 20 local governments and we published this local governments with the new regulations, with the new easing of restrictions. So, this will now define our response even further, out of 774 local government If we have 60% of cases in 20 local governments in these are we will focus a lot of our efforts on those 20 while not forgetting that we need to prevent spread to others.
‘We’ve deployed 37 rapid response teams with over 450 people that have left their homes for weeks on end, supporting the response across the country. These are not just numbers thy are people that have left their own families and are working hard to work, to support the response and make sure things get better.
‘We’ve had 812 healthcare workers infected. They’re not just numbers, 29 of these work for the Nigeria Center for Disease Control they are people I know they have families, wives, children about eight of them right now are in the Idu Treatment Center.
‘So, they’re not just numbers, they people and the matter and we must remember.
‘We’ve distributed over 40,000 pieces of complete PPEs and we continue to do this by this weekend a new Consignment will be going out to every state every FMC in the country. So they are not numbers. These are life-saving Commodities.
‘So, finally, what are they dressed you? Over 150 Jingles have been developed and aired, different languages different formats and we’ve sent over a hundred million text messages through the support of MTN, Glo, 9 mobile and all the big circles.
‘So, that’s just a little bit of a reflection of what these numbers mean behind all these numbers are peopl, efforts, are organizations responding to this outbreak but the most important number that we will also focus on in the next few weeks from the public health side is to keep pushing to test more to establish where we are in the outbreak in order to guide the response.
‘So, this is my bit for you, today. To always reflect when you see the numbers what those numbers mean and remember look for explanations. Sometimes the use of strong words like fraud really comes to the heart of many thousands of people working on this response across the country.’