The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, has said about 40 health workers in the country have tested positive for coronavirus.
Ehanire, who stated this during the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 media briefing in Abuja on Thursday, urged all health workers to remain vigilant.
Also, the Chairman of the Lagos State branch of the Medical Guild, Dr Oluwajimi Sodipo, said three members of the association at the Alimosho General Hospital and the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, had tested positive for COVID-19.
Sodipo, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, said the three doctors had been admitted to different isolation facilities in Lagos for treatment.
He said the medical conditions of the three doctors, who had been exposed to COVID-19 cases, were stable.
Sodipo said this as the Nigerian Medical Association stated that its members had been complaining about a shortage of personal protective equipment in hospitals.
This, it said, made doctors and other health workers contract COVID-19.
The health minister had on Wednesday said the Kano molecular laboratory suspended testing because some of its workers tested positive for the virus.
But at the PTF media briefing on Thursday, Ehanire lauded all COVID-19 frontline health workers.
He, however, advised them to be cautious and use the PPE to guard against infections.
He stated, “Please do not treat any patient without using the PPE. Frontline health workers must undertake refresher training at intervals. This warning has become necessary due to the number of health workers who have tested positive for COVID-19. They are over 40 now and they have been quarantined. Remain vigilant in the line of duty and maintain a high index of suspicion for COVID-19.”
The minister added that 13 laboratories in the country had the capacity to test 1,500 samples per day.
He, however, said they were testing an average of 600 samples per day because the samples had to be collected and sent to the labs.
He said factors such as surveillance sample collection and mode of transportation would be improved to increase the tests being conducted in the country.
While stating that the NCDC had released tracing guidelines to all states to aid findings, Ehanire said that Nigeria had its style of testing people and would not deviate from the guidelines.
He stated, “Contact tracing is key to containing the infection. As persons are confirmed positive for COVID-19, we trace all contacts they had in the preceding 14 days. This is a tedious and meticulous activity for which the cooperation of the public is always sought. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has finalised contact tracing guidelines with all states to actively aid case finding.”
He said initially Nigeria was sending samples to South Africa because of a shortage of reagents.
The minister stated, “Our first option at the beginning was to send our samples to South Africa until we started getting our own reagents and we got the necessary training to be able to do our own testing. Between then and now, we have had 13 laboratories and excess capacity for the laboratories that are functioning.”
He also explained why Nigeria was not doing mass testing as Ghana and South Africa. Ehanire said, “Our own strategy is to be careful with the reagents by using smart testing. It means testing only in the areas where we can get the yield. Some other countries do blanket testing where you can just drive in and give your sample. Some later learnt that the yield was too small and that they were wasting cartridges
“The reagents are too expensive so they learnt the hard way but we did smart testing in the first phase. Now that we are looking at community transmission, we test people who have symptoms. We have a country of nearly 200 million so we should be ready to cater for them. We have a different approach that will not allow us to compete in testing.”
We can’t make testing mandatory – NCDC DG
Also at the briefing, the Director-General of the NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said Nigeria would not compete with Ghana and South Africa in terms of number of people tested for COVID-19. Both countries, with lower population than Nigeria, had tested more people than Nigeria and recorded more cases.
Ihekweazu said, “No country can make testing mandatory. We have a good strategy around testing. The number has always been thrown at us; Ghana, South Africa (testing more than Nigeria) but we are not playing a numbers game. These are human beings and before you go and test anyone, you go through a risk assessment.”
We have tested 10,000
The NCDC boss also said so far, Nigeria had tested up to 10,000 people after reviewing its strategy in the past few weeks.
He stated, “Up till recently, we had 5,000 tests, but in the last week, we went from 5,000 to 10,000. If you imagine from the beginning of the outbreak till last week, we had tested 5,000, then last week, we tested another 5,000 and we are going to continue scaling our testing rapidly.”
On the reports of multiple deaths in Kano State and increase in the number of cases in the state, Ihekweazu said efforts were being made to verify all the claims.
“We are all worried and anxious about the incident in Kano but just like a crime scene investigation, it takes time. When we got to Kano, we heard there had been a few deaths, we tried to verify what we were doing, to see whether what was being reported was the case or not.