The Presidential Task Force on COVID-I9 (PTF) has decried the practice of supplying fictitious contacts to Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for samples processing being perpetrated by certain individuals across the country.
Director General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said Monday in Abuja during the PTF briefing that the centre was receiving samples with fictitious names and addresses making it difficult for the states to track down the positive cases for isolation and treatment.
He expressed concern over what he described as the increase in high-risk behaviour by Nigerians which was leading to more transmission of COVID-19 in the country.
Ihekweazu admonished Nigerians to learn from what was happening in Brazil which had the second-highest COVID-19 deaths in the world.
Commenting on the challenges facing the agency and the standard of COVID-19 tests at its labs, Ihekweazu stated, “Samples come to us with fictitious names and we get samples with fictitious addresses, so if the state now has a positive result, they go to look for the person, but can’t find the person.
“So, there are many challenges we have to deal with every day in our country which is reflective of other things but we keep trying to improve this, but in terms of the testing, we are doing the same standard across every lab. There is a very stringent quality assurance process.”
The NCDC boss observed that there were many undetected positive cases in the country, warning Nigerians to take responsibility for their safety by adhering strictly to the corona-virus prevention guidelines.
He added, “We have seen many people pass away. Prominent people have been infected, including four governors who announced they have been infected; so what else is there for people to doubt about the numbers we release.
“For all intents and purposes, we don’t think we are finding all the cases in Nigeria, so there are many more cases out there that we are unable to find.
“I really urge everyone to take those numbers very seriously; behind each of those numbers are people. Each time we announce those results, the next morning, somebody is going to get a result across the country. Every one of them would get a call to tell them about their status.”
Meanwhile the Federal Government has warned state governments that were planning to reopen places that attract large gatherings to shelve the plan.
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, gave the warning during the PTF press briefing.
Mustapha said it was not yet safe to reopen schools, television viewing centers, stadiums and other places where large gatherings could take place.
Last week, Kano State reopened football viewing centers. There were reports on Monday that Cross River State, which had yet to record any COVID-19 case, was planning to reopen schools.
On Monday, Mustapha appealed to state governments to embark on wider community testing and enforce rules on social distancing.
He stated, “We have received reports that some states are contemplating the reopening of schools, television viewing centers, sports stadiums and other places where large gatherings could take place. The PTF re-emphasizes that it is not yet safe to do so and that utmost caution should be exercised. The PTF guidelines should still be complied with while considering decision of this nature.”
Mustapha added that the PTF, through its monitoring, had observed that Nigerians were not observing social distancing, wearing of masks in public places, sanitation and hygiene in markets, motor parks and places of worship
He said, “We wish to re-emphasize that all relaxed measures are still subject to review and advisories issued are for personal and public safety purposes. The breach of the ban on inter-state travels is also a point of concern.”
“The fact that restrictions have been lifted is not a license for carelessness. We may have returned to a new normal but not normal of the past. My appeal as I conclude is that where we are now is about individual and collective responsibility that will determine where we are heading to,” he added.
Also speaking, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, expressed concern that COVID-19 patients who were not seeking treatment on time were dying of the virus.
He said COVID-19 symptoms could start mildly with slight fever, cough, loss of sense of smell or taste, but suddenly escalate to shortness of breath.
The minister added, “Lagos State reports that people who delay going to hospital and treating themselves first at home are the majority of victims, some barely making it to the doorstep of the hospital.”
He also disclosed that the ministry of health had developed three years response to COVID-19 because the virus would not end soon.
Ehanire stated, “COVID-19, will be with us for a long time. We shall keep learning as we go along. Accordingly, the Ministry of Health has developed a Health Sector Response Plan to cover the next 3 years divided into near, medium and long term. This plan therefore should be able to project into the future for at least three years. No doubt, it will require modification.”
By Sally Ahmed