The Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, on Monday, raised the alarm that Nigeria had reached a critical level where hospital capacity could no longer cope with more serious COVID-19 cases.
According to him, health workers may be forced to make tough decisions.
- Over $30m loan available to private healthcare providers in Nigeria, other countries
- No, COVID vaccine won’t leave ‘invisible mark’ to be used as ‘immunity passport’
“The country has reached a critical level where the hospital capacity will no longer be able to cope with more serious COVID-19 cases and health workers would be forced to make tough decisions.
Dr Ihekweazu gave the warning in Abuja at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
He also urged those in the frontline to maintain “a higher index of suspicion for COVID-19.”
The NCDC boss added that health workers should not rule out COVID-19 even while treating malaria patients.
“We need to protect our more vulnerable citizens. We all have to take responsibility, this is not for NCDC, PTF or government alone,” Ihekweazu said.
Daily Trust reports that many senior citizens have died from COVID-19 complications in the last few days while many others are in critical condition.
Dr Ihekweazu warned that the virus was spreading fast, causing mild symptoms in some and severe illness/death in others.
He said many people in the country had continued to experience fatigue and other symptoms even after recovery from the virus.
The NCDC DG regretted that in the last four weeks, Nigeria recorded a spike in the number of new COVID-19 cases.
“We have now reported over 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nigeria.
“This is a stark reminder of the reality we live in now: a virus that has affected over 100,000 lives and led to over 1,300 deaths within 11 months in Nigeria, with millions more globally”.
He said those organising large gatherings indoors were not only putting themselves and guests at risk, but the staff who had limited choice but to serve.
“By going to clubs, you are putting your parents at risk.
“The 100,000 cases and over 1,000 deaths are not just numbers.
“These are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children, friends whose deaths will be mourned and the pain of their loss deeply felt.
“The response starts and ends with the people of this country,” he said.
National Coordinator of the Taskforce, Dr Sani Aliyu, said though not a threat, they might be compelled to impose another lockdown because of the rising cases of the second wave of the COVID-19 in the country.
He warned that if they started recording huge numbers of deaths and the health system could not cope, then the task force would be left with no choice but to announce another lockdown.
According to him, the decision for a lockdown is not in the hands of PTF but in the hands of all Nigerians.
“We know the impact it has had on our economy and the country.
“It is very difficult and makes life difficult for everybody.
“But the reason, why we are worried about the numbers, is because at some point if the numbers continue to trend in this way, our health system will get overwhelmed and it is not just about those people that will die from COVID, it is people like you and me that might have underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, malaria and other treatable conditions that may not be able to access health services.
“In as much as I have been told that I am threatening a lockdown, I am just saying the fact that we need to comply with these protocols, make sure we use our masks, physical distancing and hand sanitiser.
“There are countries in the world that are currently open, their airports, businesses are open but they make sure everybody wears a mask and they have been able to keep their numbers down,” he said.
Reviewing the protocols
He added that the PTF was currently reviewing the COVID-19 protocols.
“We have had discussions with state governors including a review of curfew hours particularly to address the issue of nightlife and entertainment, which is also driving the current numbers and once this review is completed, an announcement will follow with regards to the curfew,” he said.
On his part, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, emphasised that facilities for the treatment of critical cases of COVID-19 infections “remain very limited in Nigeria”
He cautioned that the citizens’ best bet “is to avoid infections completely.”
He said the current wave of infections was swift and virulent and no one knows how long it will last.
“In Nigeria, we have crossed the 100,000 cases mark and now rank second in the number of new cases, the 4th in cumulative cases in Africa and 5th in cumulative deaths.
“Last week, Nigeria recorded over 9,000 cases.
“Realistically, if the numbers are estimated and the numbers missed, the numbers would be in a much higher region.
“There is no state in Nigeria that is immune to this pandemic even if reports are not coming out of such states,” he said.
He listed factors responsible for the rise in numbers of cases from November 2020 to include increased local and international travels, business and religious activities, and reopening of schools without strict compliance with COIVID-19 safety measures.
He said the PTF had continued to receive inquiries about the issue of testing before travelling out of Nigeria, noting that the protocol required in-bound passengers to test, not more than 96 hours, before boarding flights to Nigeria.
Mustapha said the pilot exercise on the use of Rapid Diagnostic Test-Kits would be rolled out in five tertiary health institutions in Abuja next week.
School resumption may be extended
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said the earlier resumption date of January 18 was not sacrosanct.
He said: “When we decided on that date, it was just a target towards which we were working.
“And of course, we are giving it a review given what is happening in the country.
“Today, at the PTF meeting, we looked at the rising figures and decided that probably we should take another look at the date.
“The January 18 resumption date is not sacrosanct as it is subject to constant review in view of prevailing epidemiological circumstances.
“We are reviewing it. In view of the rising cases, today we have considered it at the meeting of the PTF and tomorrow, the ministry is going to take it up.
“So, most likely it’s going to be reviewed,” he said.
The Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, said the rising cases of COVID-19 infections and the 18,699 active cases were imposing an enormous burden on the nation’s health facilities.
“Many of the active cases may require care in one of the treatment or isolation centres thus imposing enormous burden on our facilities,” Mamora said.
“In the last 24 hours, 1,024 new confirmed cases were recorded in 17 states with 8 deaths. The case fatality rate stands at 1.36 per cent.
“So far, we have tested a total of 1,025,560 people with a positivity rate of 9.8 percent.
“Our testing rate in the last few weeks has increased as we continue to engage states to scale up their case finding and testing.
“We are working to meet our target of testing two million Nigerians within the shortest period,” he said.