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Friday, October 30, 2020

Nigeria might be exposed to COVID-19 explosion in low testing states – NDDC

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has warned that the country may experience an explosion.

A few days ago, the NCDC listed nine states that have tested the least number of samples for COVID-19. Among the states are Taraba, Adamawa, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Kebbi, Zamfara, Jigawa and Yobe.

Describing a second wave of the virus as inevitable, the NCDC urged states to thread on the side of caution by ramping up testing. It also implored institutions – both public and private, especially banks and religious institutions – to insist on the implementation of safety protocols and measures, even as the economy, air spaces and schools are opening up.

NCDC Director-General Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu stated these in Abuja during a television programme.

He said: “The data is what it is. We are having fewer cases reported than we had in April, May and the numbers are what they are. The states where we are most comfortable with are the states like Lagos, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Kano and Borno. This is because they are testing a lot and not finding as many as they used to find.

“A few months ago, we used to have a test positivity ratio of up to 20 per cent to 25 per cent in Lagos – that is 20 per cent of all the samples we collected were positive. Now, that figure is down to five per cent. So, we are happy with the progress made in Lagos.

“In some other states, they are not testing enough, because they are not finding cases. It becomes impossible for us to say whether that is a reflection that there are really no cases or it is just a reflection that they are not testing.

“We have been reaching out to states to let them know that the national curve that we show every day is really a reflection of several sub-national curves. Some states have reacted positively and have started testing more.

“A perfect example of that is Plateau State. Initially very slow, but now they have started testing more and have found more cases which is a good thing. Now, they know where they are. Many states, unfortunately, haven’t learnt from that and are not testing and finding enough. I’m worried that we might find an explosion in those states that will then affect the rest of the country again.

“Ultimately, the sample collection and mobilisation efforts within states have to be driven by states. Until they see the benefits of testing more in order to define for themselves where they are, we will be in this position of not having a full certainty of where we are in the trajectory of the outbreak in Nigeria.”

The NCDC boss added: “All of us are trying to avoid the lockdown not just in Nigeria but across the world. Countries are working very hard to find ways to avoid a lockdown because we have all seen what it can do to our economy. The impact of this outbreak on the Nigerian economy will be felt for years to come.”

So, we have to try to avoid that scenario again. Avoiding that scenario means moving away from almost a government-led response to where everyone takes a little bit more responsibility.

“As we move towards reopening our schools, there will be increased opportunities for transmission because students will come together. We know that we’re opening our air space, and have opened ourselves up to some increase in infection. Therefore, we carried out the very stringent mitigation measures – testing before and on arrival.

“We see a lot of easing up on insistence on these measures by institutions that have the capacity to insist on it. Let us forget about the people walking on the streets, but let us talk about banks. If I go into a bank now, I see fewer people wearing a mask, yet there is a manager in that bank that can insist that these measures are carried out. If you go to our religious places, the people are not wearing masks anymore, yet there is a pastor or somebody in-charge that can implement this.

“The second wave is not inevitable but we can avoid it. It can’t be done by government lockdowns, but it can only be achieved in a sustainable way if we come together as a society.”

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