Nigeria Braces for the Worst as Covid-19 Cases Skyrocket amid Low Testing Capacity, Shortage of Beds
Despite daily reassuring that the federal government is on top of the situation regarding the management of the spread of the novel Coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, there are strong indications that the curtailment measures may not be enough with the daily increase of Nigerians who have tested positive to Covid-19.
At its daily press briefing, the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on Covid-19 headed by Boss Mustapha, who is also Secretary to the federal government, has always given updates on what is happening around the pandemic in Nigeria, what the government at the national level was doing and some other useful information to guide the people on the best ways to curb the spread of the virus.
Looking at the preparedness of Nigeria, which population is within the region of 200 million people, there is no doubt that, if there is explosion of the spread of the disease, as daily statistics have already shown, then the most populous black nation is sitting on gunpowder.
Boss Mustapha during a press briefing Monday May18 in Abuja revealed that Nigeria’s test laboratories were just being increased from 15 to 26; total tests carried out by then was cumulatively 35, 098. He also said then that plans were underway to increase the number of trained personnel to 11,409 health workers thereby boosting the capacity for case management.
Boss Mustapha, Chairman of PTF on Covid-19
Mustapha, however, revealed that the number of beds available for isolation and case management has just been increased from 3500 to 5000 beds nationwide.
As of Thursday May 21, the total number of positive cases of Covid-19 in Nigeria stood at 7,016 with 1,907 people discharged and a total of 211 deaths recorded after testing 41,907.
The Chairman of the PTF on Covid-19 himself admitted that there is fire on the mountain. He said: “At the commencement of our national response, we informed Nigerians that the Covid-19 pandemic is the greatest public health challenge of our generation.
“We have also seen that though Nigeria’s caseload still lags behind several other countries, our large population and relatively high degree of mobility and urbanization (50%) places us at an increased risk for high transmissibility. Therefore, our consideration of ease of restrictions has to balance lives and livelihoods and the slow and gradually phased approach should be science and data driven.
“The inevitable conclusion of the PTF, is that the fight against Covid-19 is long term as the virus is not likely to go away very soon. This is further underscored by the fact that no vaccine is expected till around the end of 2021. Nigeria is not where we wish to be in terms of control, ownership, infrastructure and change of behaviour. We must do more.
“We have developed a multi-sectoral national response bearing in mind the fact that we were traversing uncharted territories and that there was no cure for the virus”.
Timescape Magazine understands that one of the measures of easing up the pressure on limited isolation centres when the cases continue to increase on a daily basis is to allow only one test for people who have been healed of the disease at the centres across the country. The plan is not to give them a second test so that those who test negative would be discharged as early as possible to give room for more beds for new positive cases.
For Lagos State, the daily increase of positive cases has shown that the state is testing more people than any other state in Nigeria. Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi noted that the state plans home treatment to ease pressure on the inadequate beds.
“We could only pray that we don’t have explosion of positive cases of this pandemic because if we do have, it would be very hard for us to manage it with the capacity we have at our disposal,” Dr. Femi Okin, a medical practitioner in Lagos said .
Dr. Okin told Timescape Magazine that Nigeria’s management capacity for Covid -19 is exceptionally low compared to the country’s huge population.
“How can we be talking of 5,000 beds at this period. It shows that past governments have neglected the health sector and we are now suffering for it. You can see how governments both at the federal and the state levels are hurriedly building isolation centres. Lagos which is the epicenter of this disease cannot boast of 1,000 beds. This is bad. Government is now calling for people to donate their properties for isolation centres,” he said.
To Dr. Tunde Bolarinwa, “Nigeria is gradually going into community transmission of Covid-19. It breaks my heart seeing the daily figures of positive cases amid shortage of beds and testing capacity. For us to be testing 40,000 plus since the index case in February shows that we are very much behind. The government must sit up, while the people must also take responsibility. But I must confess we must expect the unexpected,” he said.
Boss Mustapha, Chairman of the PTF, however, said that the government would not fold its arms and allow Covid-19 to spread unnecessarily.
"The level of compliance has been reviewed and a specific directive has been issued to the security agencies to carry out strict enforcement of all measures. These include the nationwide curfew from 8.00am to 6.00pm; the ban on interstate travels and the wearing of facemasks/coverings in public.
"The security agents are, however, urged to be mindful of the human rights of citizens, while citizens are equally urged to recognize the dangers posed to self, their loved ones and the entire community if they fail to take responsibility."