… Prioritises test for high profile citizens
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says it expects number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the country to keep rising.
NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, stated this today while speaking as guest on a television programme.
According to him, there is hope that Nigeria would be able to manage the situation and reverse the trend.
“We have crossed the hundred mark and the reality is that there is a virus circulating in our midst and that is why Mr President came up yesterday to speak to Nigerians. In the short term, we do expect the numbers to keep rising but we also expect that we will be able to get on top of this and that is why some measures were needed and we met with Mr President,” he said.
He also confirmed that number of cases had risen to 111, adding that NCDC is following up with no fewer than 6,000 people suspected to have had contact with the 111.
“These few weeks will help our teams, the Lagos State team to have access to the contacts that are living around Lagos and FCT. We are following over 6,000 contacts of these 111 confirmed cases across these two cities. Every time we have a new case, we add about 50 to 60 contacts that we then have to follow every single day for 14 days. We can’t do this if we don’t have access to these cases, so this is really one of the reasons why Mr President took this very difficult decision,” Ihekweazu added.
Similarly, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) prioritises COVID-19 tests on high profiled Nigerians who demanded for it, but asked ‘ordinary’ citizens who also requested for same to strictly follow its case-definition rule for testing.
This situation has left many unattended to.
By NCDC’s case-definition rule for undergoing testing for the COVID-19, for anyone to be tested for the virus, the person must have travelled into Nigeria from a high risk country, or must have had direct contact with a confirmed case. This is in addition to requirement that the person must have had visible symptoms of COVID-19 before requesting for testing.
Although many of the high profiled persons who have been attended to by NCDC did not show visible symptoms of the virus, they, along with their families, staff and close allies have been tested, while many ‘ordinary’ Nigerians who may have also travelled to high risk countries or had contact with confirmed cases are being asked to wait until they have visible symptoms of COVID-19 before their samples can be taken.
An epidemiologist who preferred to remain anonymous said NCDC did not have enough reagents to go round, hence he advised people to adhere strictly to the case-definition before being qualified for testing.
“However, there are occasions where we get directives to go take samples of a high profiled person, his family members, staff and close allies. We can’t say no because that is the order from above. And you know on many occasions, we end up wasting the reagents we do not have because these people may not really meet the case definition. For instance,
in the case of a popular musician and his girlfriend, the agency wasted 33 reagents because it tested 33 persons around Davido. Although his girlfriend tested positive, the other persons all tested negative. These people did not meet our case definition, but what can we do,” he said.
He also emphasised that in an ideal situation, what NCDC does is that when Nigerians call the toll free lines, they are asked whether they have travelled to high-risk areas; if they say ‘yes’, they are asked if they are having symptoms.
“For those who reply in the affirmative, we try to find out which kind of symptoms they have. If this doesn’t meet the symptoms we are looking for, we tell them to access healthcare in any government hospital near them. If they had a contact with confirmed cases as well, we also ask the same questions. Once the person meets these case definitions, we come over to take samples,” he added.
This goes against the backdrop of recent social media reports that many Nigerians who have requested for tests could not have it before going home to their families.