The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, says most Nigerians do not have enough confidence to test for COVID-19.
Ihekweazu disclosed this on Monday during an interview on Channels Television’s COVID-19 Pandemic Update.
The NCDC boss explained that the lack of trust has posed a serious challenge in the Federal Government’s efforts to effectively tackle the virus in the country.
“People are not coming out in sufficient numbers to get tested for all sorts of reasons. We are working very hard to bring the sample collection centres closer to the patients.
“70 per cent of Nigerians access their healthcare in the private sector, there is a reason for that. We need to work very hard and that is what we are working on.
“We have to work together. It is not a question of blaming NCDC. It’s really thinking like a nurse, doctor or a leader of the state Ministry of Health that what can we do collectively to increase the level of confidence of the services that we provide,” he said.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, has asked Nigerians to wear nose masks as precautionary measures in curbing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking on Monday in Abuja during a briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Ihekweazu said most Nigerians lament that using face masks is stressful.
He, however, noted that wearing face masks is less cumbersome when compared to being on a ventilator.
“Wearing a mask may seem very cumbersome but I promise you that it is less cumbersome than being on a ventilator.
“Over the last few weeks, many of you may have heard stories of survivors but there are many stories that could have been told that you have not heard, stories of those that have passed away,” he said.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says there are possibilities that coronavirus (COVID-19) can be transmitted through the air.
NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, who disclosed this on Monday at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, attributed it to new evidence.
According to him, the disease is believed to only be transmittable through droplets that emanate from the nose and the mouth and fall to the ground.
The NCDC boss said, “Over the past few weeks, increasing evidence has emerged that in addition to droplet infections; we cannot rule out that airborne transmission is also possible as a mode of transmission of COVID-19.
“Understanding the modes of transmission of any new virus is very critical for defining response strategies. For COVID-19, from the very beginning, our understanding based on other coronaviruses that spread was primarily through droplets.”
Ihekweazu added, “Droplets are excretions from the respiratory tracts that can’t stay on in the air; they ultimately fall to the ground after a few minutes.
“However, as we have studied transmission, studied clusters of these infections, we saw increasing evidence from clusters of infections where droplet transmission did not seem to be enough to explain the clusters that we are seeing.
“Diseases that are commonly understood to be spread by what we call airborne infection are things like measles and influenza; that can be suspended in the air and transmit over longer distances.”
The NCDC boss noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has also updated its guidelines with the same position on the mode of COVID-19 transmission.
He, therefore, called on Nigerians to act in a precautionary way and assume that the virus could be transmitted through the air.
Ihekweazu also advised against indoor activities and stressed the need to re-emphasise safety protocols against COVID-19.
On Sunday night, Nigeria reported 571 new cases of COVID-19 from 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The NCDC confirmed that a total of 343 more patients were successfully treated and discharged from various isolation centres in the country.
Since the outbreak of the disease in the country in late February, Nigeria has confirmed 32,558 positive cases of COVID-19 with 13,447 discharged and 740 others dead.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says no state in the country is free from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
NCDC Director-General, Chikwe Ihekweazu disclosed this on Monday during the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
The comment comes even as the NCDC is yet to officially report a case in Cross River state, as of Monday afternoon.
Mr. Ihekweazu was responding to a question about states who were discharging patients and declaring themselves COVID-19 free.
“No state, no single state in Nigeria is COVID-19 free, not one,” Mr. Ihekweazu said. “No country in the world is COVID-19 free. Even New Zealand, that is an island state is still having new cases after a period of not having any.”
He continued: “We can’t separate ourselves from the rest of the country. We live in a context, viruses spread, it’s the nature of them, so right now no state is COVID-19 free. That’s why we have to keep doing this work that we are doing, testing people, finding out if they have it.”
Don’t Be Afraid Of Testing
The PTF also asked Nigerians, on Monday, not to be scared of undergoing COVID-19 tests.
According to PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, it is important for Nigerians to carry out the tests to ascertain their COVID-19 status, especially since the virus is not a death sentence.
“I, therefore, urge Nigerians to make use of these facilities and get tested. Similarly, I implore us not to be afraid of undertaking the COVID-19 test.
“Testing positive for COVID-19 is not a death sentence, but 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,” the SGF said.
Mustapha also reacted to the arrest of two foreigners by the Nigeria Immigration Service, noting that the PTF is aware of the possibility of illegal entry into the country.
While commending officials of the service for their prompt response, Mustapha explained that the feat was achieved following their vigilance on the nation’s borders.
“The PTF is also not unmindful of the possibility of imports, especially through our land borders. For this reason, our men and women of the Nigerian Immigration Service remain vigilant and this has resulted in the apprehension of two foreigners who tried to enter the country illegally over the weekend. This commendable effort is appreciated,” he said.
Not Taking Responsibility
The PTF, at the Monday briefing, also decried the lack of public adherence to government measures designed to halt the coronavirus pandemic.
National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said, based on observations from a national sensitization program, many Nigerians are “letting down their guard.”
Dr. Aliyu noted that despite the increase in cases and the likelihood of contracting the virus, many Nigerians were paying less and less attention to health guidelines.
He added that the PTF will continue to collaborate with security agencies and state governments to ensure the guidelines are obeyed while enjoining citizens to play their part.
“Some of the observations that have arisen from these activities (the national sensitisation program) include the fact that Nigerians have continued to show persistent and remarkable lack of compliance to COVID-19 prevention protocols, which is quite worrying,” Dr. Aliyu said.
“In the cities where adherence to these protocols was high in the first two weeks of the ease of lockdown, progressively, over time, citizens are letting down their guard and this remains a great concern.
“There is partial to total noncompliance with facemasks and physical distancing protocols by the public. Many Nigerians only use face masks to avoid security agents, where enforcement exists or where they are told to do so.
“There is also significant disbelief in the danger and impact of COVID-19. In parts of the south-east where we did a recent survey, 60 per cent did not believe that Covid was an issue at all. We clearly are not taking the pandemic seriously enough.
“There are also many myths that also continue to exist within the social media platforms, ranging from conspiracy theories to get-rich-quick to claims of treatment of herbal concoctions, all of which appear to be putting our sensitisation efforts at risk.”
Dr. Aliyu continued: “Now, you are more likely to contract COVID now if you go out and don’t observe the strict measures that we recommend far more than when this problem started three months ago, simply because of the numbers we are currently having.”
He also lauded state governments who have been diligent in reporting positive cases, noting that “there is no shame in having positive results in your state. If we do not know the true state of the pandemic in your state, you are putting the lives of your citizens on the line.”
Nigeria has reduced the number of tests conducted on persons infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) before they are certified to have recovered from the disease.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, disclosed this to Channels Television on Thursday.
While responding to some questions during an interview on Sunrise Daily, he explains that recovered COVID-19 patients are now discharged from the isolation centres after their first negative test.
“So, the discharge criterion at the moment is a single negative test in Nigeria,” the NCDC boss disclosed.
He added, “We used to do two negative tests – 48 hours apart – but because of challenges of bed space capacity, we reduced that to a single negative test then discharge the patient to another one week of home isolation … that’s the policy at the moment.”
Dr Ihekweazu reacted to the allegations that the NCDC has refused to release some patients from its isolation facility after they recovered from the disease.
He also faulted the claims that he directed that COVID-19 patients should not be taken to isolation centres if they do not show symptoms of the disease.
According to the NCDC boss, the agency does not manage any patient but support clinicians in various states with guidelines.
He stressed that the decisions on the management of COVID-19 cases were left for the state authorities to take.
On how long infected patients stay at isolation centres, Dr Ihekweazu said, “The average duration of hospitalisation that we have found has been 10 to 11 days, although some have said that they have been discharged on the fourth day (a few people).
“There are also extremes that have stayed over 30 days; I think the longest that has been discharged in our record right now is about 38 days.”
“We have patients that have stayed longer than that and that number will change once they are discharged. The average duration of hospitalisation is 11 days to be precise,” he added.
One of the biggest challenges confronting Nigeria’s war against the COVID-19 pandemic is the limited diagnostic infrastructure in the country, according to the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre For Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu.
The NCDC boss attributed the challenge to decades of neglect.
Dr. Ihekweazu stated this during his appearance on The Platform on Saturday.
He was responding to a question, posed by Convener of The Platform, Pastor Poju Oyemade.about what he considered the most difficult challenge in managing the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
“We haven’t paid sufficient attention in the 60 years of our independence to building a diagnostic architecture across the country and COVID-19 is the most obvious example of this. But there are many more examples that we face every day,” Dr. Ihekweazu said.
“You know, when you see people with a diagnosis of malaria and typhoid as one entity and all sorts of dubious diagnosis being shared around the country, the underlying challenge is exactly the same as what you are seeing now with COVID-19.”
For the NCDC boss, the failure in providing diagnostic infrastructure is not down to one sector or the government, it is a collective failure.
“When I say “we”, I am not just talking about the Federal Government; I am talking about all of us – private sector, public sector. We have failed to build diagnostic infrastructure,” he said.
The emergence of COVID-19 in the country and its spread may have exposed the failings of the past but it is also helping to change the situation with the government and stakeholders racing against time to implement measures against it.
“Now we are scrambling, and, yes, we are building rapidly, we are scaling our labs every day… We are quickly ramping up our testing,” Dr. Ihekweazu said, adding, “Really, the size and scale of Nigeria is our biggest strength but also a big challenge”.
Lessons To Be Learnt
According to the NCDC DG, other challenges affecting the fight against the raging pandemic which has infected more than three million people globally, killing nearly 300,000 include the way the Nigerian health system is structured; “the separation between the states and federal (government) – who to do what.”
He said, “I think there is a lot of lessons to be learned after this (pandemic) around the fragmentation of our health system and how that provides a challenge when you come to an outbreak and you really need a commander in a controlled environment with clear leadership across governments to drive the response.
“There is (also) a challenge around just the logistics and the supply chain issues; how do we get things, first, into the country and secondly how do we get them across the country on time to the patients and our hospitals that need them.”
Leadership In A Crisis
Since February 27, when the first COVID-19 case in the country was concerned by the NCDC, the pandemic has spread to 34 states and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, infecting a total of 2,170 people and killing 68 people.
Despite the spread and the challenges Dr Ihekweazu identified, he is optimistic about Nigeria’s progress and the level of leadership displayed in confronting the pandemic.
He said, “What I have experienced over the past few months since I started working on this, is really incredible.
“I have seen leadership at the Federal Government side, at the PTF, among the governors. I have attended meetings of the NGF, spoken to many of our governors – the Governor of Lagos State, the Governor of Kano State; it is incredible, the amount of leadership that comes out in a crisis.”
The NCDC DG praised health workers who he said are literally working 24 hours “at great risk to themselves and their families” to save lives.
He urged them not to give up and to persevere through the challenging time as Nigerians are counting on them.
Also, he gave the assurance that concerted efforts are being made to ensure all health care workers are protected and properly equipped.
“From the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and all our partners and the Federal Government, the Presidential Task Force; we are working extremely hard to see that everyone has the personal protective equipment that they need,” he said.
Although Dr Ihekweazu believes it is too early to determine what the final outcome will be for the country and if the current case-fatality ratio for COVID-19 which he says is relatively low will be sustained, he is optimistic that Nigeria will end in a better place as long as the country unites to confront the pandemic.
He said, “We have to work together. The Federal Ministry of Health and its leadership, the Minister; everyone has come together and now we have to build on that momentum and make sure we don’t fragment the response. We (must) keep it to one response as we have always done in a crisis and not think of it as different pathways to answering the goal.”
He added, “Our principle, it has been and will continue to be is that we must stick to one response and make sure that we align and work together even though our structure of government sometimes leads to various influences coming into our response.
“Once you are in a crisis, when you are at war, you can’t have several commanders, you can’t have several inputs of ideas; we have to have one unified response and that is the responsibility of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control under the leadership of the ministry with the Presidential Task Force giving us strategic directives and guidance.”
The Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has reacted to the proposed NCDC bill by the House of Representatives noting that he personally believes that the time of crisis is not the time to draft a bill.
Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu said this on Thursday in Abuja while responding to questions from journalists at the Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19.
The NCDC boss said, although the bill shows that the lawmakers are concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to find solutions, the bill need requires consultation to be able to serve Nigeria both in present and in the future.
“To be honest I saw the bill just like everyone else, circulating on social media. I take it in a good way. I think the members of the House of Reps and everybody is concerned about the situation and what we have found ourselves in. They are doing their very best to come up with the only solution they can come up with which is creating new laws.
“I take it positively but the bill requires more consultation. I’m personally not in favour of drafting a bill in the middle of a crisis. I think we need to get over the crisis and use the momentum to engage with all stakeholders to come up with a bill that will really serve this country.
“We must think through step carefully and come up with a bill fit for purpose and serves us now and into the future,” he said.
A Bill for an Act to repeal the Quarantine Act, and enact the Control of Infectious Diseases bill on Wednesday passed second reading in the House of Representatives.
The bill which was sponsored by the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila seeks to empower the NCDC and make it more proactive.
Gbajabiamila while leading the debate said the NCDC had very little powers to carry out its mandate even though it is a body with great professionals.
The introduction of the bill has however drawn criticism with many people on social media calling for it to be dropped. As of Thursday afternoon, the top Twitter trend in Nigeria was #StoptheNCDCBill.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has urged Nigerians to be patient with the government, especially the residents of Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) where the lockdown is being enforced.
The NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, made the appeal on Thursday during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.
He stated that although the government was working hard to curtail the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the objective of the lockdown was not to end the outbreak.
Dr Ihekweazu, “The goal of the lockdown is not to get to the end of this outbreak because that is not a realistic goal; the goal of the lockdown was to keep people a little bit apart to stop transmission to some extent.
“The second goal was to enable the public health response to build up its efficiency and that is really what we have focused on in the last two weeks and what we will work very hard on in the next 10 days to make sure that we finalise.”
Although it has not been perfect, the NCDC boss insisted that there were indicators that there have been fewer contacts among individuals by 60-70 per cent.
He stressed that tackling COVID-19 was easier said than done in a complex country like Nigeria which has population density and unique challenges.
According to Dr Ihekweazu, what the health agency is trying to achieve in the short term is not to stop transmission because that will be very difficult to do as no country in the world has achieved that.
He also reacted to the differences in laboratory test results and called on the authorities in various states to mall disputes and face the challenge
“We have a big problem ahead of us … we must focus on the problem at hand and that is really what we are encouraging all of us to do at state, federals.
“We can get ahead of this but we can’t do that if we keep disputing lab results and fighting over details of things that are not really relevant in the big response,” the NCDC boss said.
Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu on Thursday advised Nigerians to expect a change in their usual way of life after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Director-General believes various activities in the country will gradually return to the way they used to be.
Speaking during his appearance on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, he noted the lockdown has affected commercial activities in some places where the lockdown was being enforced.
He said, “Life will never be the same, it will not be the same and Nigerians have to prepare for a different type of life once the lockdown starts and that’s really my big message today; life will not be the same as we knew it before COVID-19 – a lot of changes that we have introduced into the society will have to continue in the short term.”
Dr Ihekweazu noted that states would have their share of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but the NCDC was more prepared for it.
He added that the Nigerian government was making efforts to curb the further spread of the disease, although it has been a tough task.
“We have responded to Lassa smoothly and nobody shut down the country because it wasn’t necessary, the response was fairly efficient.
“Now, COVID-19 is on a much larger scale – at the moment in 22 states but it will grow to every state in Nigeria, there is no reason why it won’t – it is a respiratory virus.”
He also reacted to the differences in the figures of confirmed COVID-19 cases released by the NCDC and the numbers in some states, especially in Lagos and Kano.
Prepare More, Stop Transmission
Dr Ihekweazu stated that the health agency has been working hard to tackle coronavirus while the authorities in various states have their roles to play.
He insisted that Nigeria cannot run away from the outbreak and the NCDC would continue to be transparent with the results, to stimulate more response from various aspects of the government.
The NCDC boss said, “We just activated the lab in Kano a few days ago. So, these are the results of the increased testing capacity that we are providing for the country.
“The tests are fairly robust; I can’t say 100 per cent but they are as close to that as possible. We had the highest number of positive cases in a single day.”
“Since the onset of the outbreak, we are testing a lot more (and) that is beginning to show. It is only so much we can do from NCDC; we are working with the state governments.
“They actually own the response at the state and local levels, and we need all of them now. We really have to face the reality that this is an outbreak, this is a virus.
“It will circulate in Nigeria, absolutely no doubt and our responsibility as a country is to prepare more, to be able to detect, isolate, treat, list contacts, and stop transmission,” he added.