The Nigerian government is rolling out measures to fight off the coronavirus after launching lockdown procedures on 30 March.

The Nigerian Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus has urged state governments to ensure that they have isolation facilities in their localities. These facilities should:

Have at least 300 beds;

And be preferably linked to existing infectious disease centres or medical centres (such as tuberculosis and HIV centres), as this makes it easier to continue to make use of them after the pandemic.

However, any spaces will do, with health minister Osagie Ehanire, saying: “I urge all states to find more beds for isolation and treatment, and this may include hotels.”

Testing

Nigeria’s policy is one of targeted testing. This involves identifying those who are most likely to be infected, namely those who have just come back from other countries and those they have been in contact with.

In terms of contact tracing, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has identified between six and seven thousand contacts cumulatively. The focus of last week was to improve the level of contract tracing, made easier by the lockdown.

With contact tracing, each new case tends to have about 30-40 contacts to follow up. Every contact is followed up with for 14 days.

To date, about 30% of all the cases in the country have been found via contact tracing.

Are the borders open or closed?

To the confusion of many Nigerians who were under the impression that the land and air borders have been closed since March – except in special evacuation cases – information minister Lai Mohammed has continued to advise against unnecessary travel outside of the country. This suggests that there are still people going in and out of the country at this time.

Community responsibility

Efforts are being made to ensure awareness is spread at the grassroots. The Presidential Task Force is encouraging the cultural arm of the federal government to help in spreading awareness of the coronavirus, as it is able to do so through the use of comedy and drama.

On Monday 6 April, Lagos State health commissioner Akin Abayomi urged the community to take ownership, alongside the government, to see a flattening of the the COVID-19 curve in the state.

As of Sunday 5 April, the number of cases per day in Lagos was reducing. In other locations, the norm has been an exponential rise in cases, but in Lagos there seems already to be a flattening of the trend, due to the strategy of increased social distancing.

Coronavirus hotline

There is also a national coronavirus hotline. Statistics from the Lagos centre shows some problems:

80% of calls received are hoax calls;

11% of calls received are welcomed – they are people asking for information;

9% of the calls are received from members of the community who feel that they might have been infected;

And just 4% of the calls result in a red flag. This means that Lagos State dispatches members of the healthcare service to either test the individual or to bring them to health facilities.

Targets for key areas

Health teams in Abuja and Lagos have five key targets:

To ensure the collection of samples happens within eight hours for people with COVID-19 symptoms;

To ensure that the time taken for testing and for the results to be revealed is less than 24 hours;

To test 200 samples per day in Lagos and 100 per day in Abuja;

To isolate patients in less than six hours after they have tested positive for the virus;

And to isolate every confirmed case.

The success of the state healthcare teams will be measured on each of these indicators, and the observations will be used to improve the effectiveness of response.

The secretary to the government of the federation, Boss Mustapha, announced that a report is being compiled on the impact of the lockdown. A full assessment should be ready by the end of this week. This will advise President Muhammadu Buhari on what steps to take next.

Chinese help

One major support that has attracted commentary is the offer by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC). This company is building various railways in Nigeria, including one from Lagos to Ibadan, and another from Abuja to Kaduna.

The offer is to import about 1.3m medical masks, over 100,000 pieces of personal protection equipment as well as 50 ventilators. The company has also proposed, of its own accord, to sponsor public health experts in order to help strengthen public health capacity and advise on processes and procedure.

Although this has attracted controversy, the SGF assured the Nigerian people that this was not different from what all other countries of the world are doing. Countries across the world are seeking assistance and accepting help for the fight against COVID-19.

The professionals invited are public health specialists and medical engineers that will support Nigeria’s capacity to handle the pandemic on an advisory basis.

There will be no case management or interface with patients from them, as they are not cleared to practice medicine in Nigeria. Rather, the experts will simply train the manpower on ground and advice on procedures and methods.

In a suspected jab at the Nigerian Medical Association, who released a press statement condemning the federal government for accepting the offer of Chinese experts, the SGF urged Nigerians to devote more time to dealing with the pandemic and avoid any unnecessary controversy.

International view

Last week, the secretary-general of the United Nations singled out Nigeria, commending its efforts in the fight against COVID-19.

The morning of Monday 6 April saw the launch of a COVID-19 basket fund, a joint effort by the United Nations and the Nigerian government. The funds will be used to procure commodities, including ventilators.

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