Press Briefing By Hon. Minister Of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire At The Presidential Task Force On COVID-19 Press Briefing On Monday 31st August, 2020
In the past 24 hours, we recorded just 138 COVID-19 positive cases in Nigeria, one of the lowest numbers in many months, giving a total of 53,865 positive cases out of 403,347 tests conducted as of August 31, 2020. In the same 24 hour period, 199 persons were discharged from hospital, giving us total successful treatment of 41,513 patients.
2. We are beginning to see a situation where the number of those treated and discharged exceeds the number of positive cases detected. While these figures may seem reassuring, they may be deceptive, and we cannot assume that the curve is flattening, since we are yet to perfect due diligence on our side.
3. Testing has, for example, dropped quite significantly, due to reduced sample collection across many States, for reasons that are not clear in all cases. One State, for example, tested over 35 thousand in July and just under 20 thousand in August, while another State dropped from 23 thousand in July to just under 4 thousand in August. These are just examples that show that there is more work to do and many more challenges ahead. There is reason to worry that in States facing election, campaign activities cause caution to be thrown to the wind and covid19 infection increases dramatically, while testing may decline due to frustration. I urge authorities in these States to remember the risks of crowding and ensure that government workers can do their work unhindered. I shall commission a study group of the Ministerial Experts Advisory Committee to begin processes to examine this development and bring up new knowledge which can guide response or may have a implication on government decision making.
4. With a total of 1,013 deaths recorded so far, the case fatality rate has also dropped slightly to 1.88%, the gradual fall, possibly an indication of improvement in response and treatment strategies to contain covid-19 and also a common global trend. As long as we still record deaths from this disease, there is no room for complacency until we meet our goal to reduce fatality rate to less than 1%. We are still working on plans for Community Support Centers in small towns and rural areas, where persons who test positive, but risk infecting others due to the nature of their living conditions, are isolated, or the vulnerable who live among infected groups, are removed for a while, for their safety, till the risk is gone.
5. Our target is to test 2 million Nigerians for covid-19, of which we have achieved barely a quarter and to scale up to 4 million persons. For this, collaboration with State and FCT health sector structures is crucial. We urge all State organs not to relent in strengthening surveillance and setting up sample collection sites in all LGAs, and even in all wards of the hotspot LGAs.
6. The logistics for sample retrieval and testing must be assured, as the Federal government makes provision for at least one laboratory in every State, with only Niger, Kebbi and Taraba now outstanding. Most of the labs are, however operating well below capacity. Plans have been concluded to set up and optimize laboratories in all states.
7. As plans for Lagos and Abuja airports to reopen for commercial international flights become reality, we must raise our vigilance level. It is our collective interest and responsibility to guard against new cases entering our country undetected. In this regard, we must review our protocols to ensure early detection, isolation and treatment of any positive case. While this protocol may cause inconvenience, like delays at the airport, it is a small price to pay for our safely and health, especially for travellers. Our contribution as individuals is simple: to keep each other safe by wearing our masks and observing social measures.
8. As we strive to bring COVID-19 under control, we endeavor to keep our eyes on other diseases that contribute to mortality, especially of women and children in Nigeria. Malaria is one such example, for which we continue to strengthen routine services in our primary health care facilities.
9. This morning, we disseminated the report of 2018 Malaria Therapeutic Efficacy Studies (TES) for three artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT), which were tested in Enugu, Kano and Plateau States. These studies are conducted at interval, to detect drug resistance to malaria parasite, early enough to have treatment that works. The findings from the study show the three ACTs to be efficacious against uncomplicated malaria, though there have been reports of malaria parasite resistance to Artemisinin in some Asian countries. No resistance was observed in studies done in Nigeria. It is wise to test all fever cases and be sure it is malaria, and to treat only confirmed cases with Artemisinin Combination Therapies (ACTs).
10. Thank you.