Highlights Of Response By Honourable Minister Of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire To Questions From Journalists During The Presidential Task Force On COVID-19 Press Briefing Held On Monday, 17th August, 2020
Q. Is Nigeria already attaining the 2 Million COVID-19 test mark?
The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said that the question of two million tests is an aspiration that the WHO recommended for the country because our population is 200 Million. According to him, every country “should aspire to test 10% of their population and ten percent of our population is two Million and it’s aspirational that we want to get that figure with every method we have.”
Explaining further, Dr. Ehanire said that at the beginning we didn’t have many reagents; not many laboratories, but now we have a lot of them; a lot more than at the beginning. As we are expanding the sites, although you can’t have a laboratory in every town, we have in almost in every State now, but the strategy is to expand the sample collection sites. But, because we have good reasons to also worry that COVID-19 which moves with human beings must have moved into many rural areas and small cities and the need to be ready to attend to citizens in those areas is becoming clearer every day.
The Minister further stated that Federal Government is working with the State Governments to make at least one general hospital, if not one Primary Health Care Centre available for COVID-19 tests and treatment the minimum per Local Government Area; and if it’s a large LGA you can have more than one, so you can collect samples, not only that, the additional advantage of being able to have a holding room for those who are already showing symptoms or distress and we also talked about being able to provide oxygen concentrators and ambulance services and in some places community treatment and isolation centres. So, we are expanding the reach of clinical management of COVID-19 as we have said, to do everything we can to reduce the fatality rate to less than 1%, so that’s why these are very important; and we hope with that, we can reach the two million in a short time. It may not be the time we promised but we are definitely going there, it is feasible. The whole system is evolving; this is a large country and is evolving very systematically and we are not slowing down in the way we are approaching that.”
On the question of low cases of COVID-19 being currently recorded:
The Honourable Minister admitted that, it is true that low figures of COVID-19 cases are being recorded in some places. “Yes, you are correct that in some places, the figures have turn out to be low, there has been a lot of very diligent testing and case findings going on, in Lagos, you know they have a high burden and in Kano, they also have a high burden but we have also worked very diligently there, but we have very experienced people there who are also doing case tracking hence the low figures we are observing.” By the time sample collection centres are spread to all Local Government Areas, and we are able to collect samples and test, then we will know whether it’s a standard phenomenon or its just temporary, and also the need to send experts there to go and verify and work with the States’ Government to see whether the processes are as well as expected. So, the validation will need to be conducted before we can begin to say yes, it is levelling out. We don’t want to be too optimistic”, he said.
On the protocols for testing and being pronounced free of COVID-19:
The Honourable Minister said that at the beginning, the lesson was that you have to test negative twice within 48 hours, so if you test negative, you have to wait for 48 hours but this is a new virus; novel corona virus and it was found that actually after 48 hours or about 14 days, as a matter of fact, some studies said after about ten days, the virus is no longer active and you should begin to test negative. “If you don’t test negative, you might still test positive but it does not mean that the fragment of the RNA in your system does not mean you are infectious.” So, from general studies, “If after ten days, we try to use ten days or fourteen days depending on the way you look at it, to assume that at that point, even if you can still find fragment of the RNA samples in the molecular test, you can discharge because that is not infectious, therefore, you can discharge after that period of time. It helps also to free bed space; some people may still test positive but they are not infectious. So the rule of thumb now is that after 10 - 14 days you can discharge somebody provided they have no clinical symptoms, they must be clear of clinical symptoms, they must be well enough and meet all the criteria for wellness before you can let them go.”
Compiled by Blessing Egbo
Olujimi Oyetomi, Director, Information, Media & Public Relations.