SATURDAY, 6TH JUNE, 2020: Realizing that a good percentage of critical mass of stakeholders and public of Federal Ministry of Health and Nigerians are users of Twitter and Face Book, the Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire decided to seize the opportunity of 100 days of CVID-19 in Nigeria, which actually occurred the day before (5th June, 2020) to connect with and update this vital stakeholders and public with the responses of his Ministry’s team and to answer burning questions and inquiries from them. Index case of COVID-19 in Nigeria actually occurred on 27th February, 2020.
From 16.03 hours, emerging from another engagement, Dr. Ehanire came into the setting for the Social Media engagement with apologies to those who may not know why he was held up from coming to a programme which his Director of Media & Public Relations and Aides have sensitized the social media users to begin by 16.00.
The live social media engagement was novel and the Honourable Minister began by updating with a speech which reminded the audience that the the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was recorded in Nigeria on 27th February. 2020 and that in the very eventful 100 days since then, Nigeria has recorded 11,844 cases of COVID-19 in 35 States and FCT. Of these, 3,696 persons have been successfully treated and discharged, and we have sadly recorded 333 deaths.
Dr. Ehanire also briefed on the response by his Ministry: “In the past 100 days we have consistently striven for the best outcomes for the citizens of Nigeria, while preparing for the worst-case scenario. Nigeria has significantly scaled-up testing capacity, surveillance, community mobilisation, coordination, contact tracing, community awareness and other factors.”
Employing bullet points to itemize the achievements of Federal Ministry of Health during the last 100 days of responding to the pandemic, the Honourable Minister of Health revealed that the Ministry achieved the followings and more for the Health Sector:
- 6,650 total bed capacity for the management of COVID-19 cases;
- Deployment of Rapid Response Team has increased from 15 States to 34 States;
- Vigilant monitoring of international borders at land, sea and air points of entry (POE) by the Division of Port Health Services;
- Deployment of Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (NFELTP) graduates to support the fieldwork in the emergency operation centres (EOCs);
- Development of risk communication strategies;
- Development of a health sector response action plan;
- Creation of a Ministerial expert advisory committee;
- Development of standard operation procedures (SOPs), protocols and guidelines in collaboration with partners for: mental health; decontamination and burial; occupational health and safety especially for staff in isolation centres;
- Training of 170 master-trainers on infection, prevention and control (IPC), who have now trained over 16,000 personnel;
- Efficient distribution of key personal protective equipment (PPE) in all states and federal health institutions;
- Special Ministerial Team deployed to Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Bornu, Gombe, Katsina States to support response efforts;
- Activation of ambulance services including capacity building in Kano and spreading nationwide.
Dr. Ehanire also mentioned that the parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) have brought all their expertise to bear in responding to the pandemic. He said: “I would like to highlight achievements of 4 of our parastatals in this presentation:
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) and the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).”
The Honourable Minister added that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), under whose mandate many of the outbreak response measures fall, has recorded laudable milestones such as:
- Activation of the National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) at Level 3, to coordinate the health sector response and publication of daily situation reports, to make data available to Nigerians;
- Scaling-up from 2 molecular laboratories at the beginning of the pandemic, to 30 laboratories which have a combined minimum capacity to carry out 35,000 tests daily;
- Deployment of National Rapid Response Teams (100) totalling over 100 personnel to the 35 States and FCT with confirmed cases, to support capacity strengthening of State RRTs, as well as outbreak investigation and response activities;
- Development and dissemination of guidelines based on emerging evidence on case management, infection prevention and control, use of masks, risk communications and other key areas of the response;
- Through the World Bank funded REDISSE project, development of a support package for every State in Nigeria, worth 100 million naira each;
Establishment of supply chain for laboratory supplies.
The Honourable Minister also expressed the observation that since this Coronavirus Disease is novel to the world, research has been an integral part of the COVID-19 pandemic response in Nigeria, as in other countries. Research institutions under the Federal Ministry of Health have been hard at work. He disclosed that the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) has:
- Maintained a supply chain of locally manufactured commodities including hand sanitizers, which are key to supporting disruption of the transmission;
- Initiated locally conceptualised clinical trials;
- Articulated a contextual scientific framework for validating and evaluating claims of local and international phytomedicinal products purported to cure or manage COVID-19;
- Released regular evidence-based advisories on quality of products used for COVID-19;
Use of the Surveillance Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System (SORMAS) for surveillance in all 36 States and the FCT, creating an efficient and automated process for data collection and analysis.
Even when the social media engagement was meant to be very brief, Dr. Ehanire still took time to explain more to his audience the role of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) which earned the nation international commendation for the work of the that organization - NIMR in genetic sequencing of the index COVID-19 case.
The institute, the Minister said, has also provided laboratory back up for Lagos State and established a drive- and walk-through testing centre, as well as a do-it- yourself swab sampling for COVID-19 test in Lagos.
Other achievements of NIMR include which the Honourable Minister itemized include:
- Production of Viral Transport Medium (VTM) for COVID-19 sample collection;
- Conducting clinical trials with Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH);
- Laboratory experiment on COVID-19 vaccine production;
- Development of point of care COVID-19 PCR testing and RNA extraction kits;
- Community assessment of sero-prevalence of COVID-19 transmission;
It was as if Dr. Osagie Ehanire was using the social media engagement with Twitter and Face Book users to rehearse response update of Nigeria to COVID-19 when he would also not spare reporting on the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) which he disclosed has set up an innovative model and protocol for Community based case management of covid-19 positive cases with little or no symptoms, using boarding house premises of community schools.
On efforts to ensure that essential and Routine Health care delivery are retained, the Honourable Minister said that FMoH is working with its Departments of Hospital Services, Public Health and Family Health to ensure that essential and Routine Health care delivery are retained and RMNCH+N and immunization and other emergency services do not suffer a breakdown. He added that FMoH has continued to engage and support States, by paying on the spot visits, to share in their COVID-19 response activities. “We also continue to urge healthcare workers to maintain a high index of suspicion when treating patients.”
Dr. Ehanire rounded up his speech with appeal to the public: “We advise all citizens to please use a face mask when leaving their houses, wash hands regularly, use sanitizers and observe physical distancing. Please adhere to advisories and continue to take precautions as we forge ahead together in the fight against COVID-19.”
Questions for which answers and clarifications were sought as well as suggestions by the critical mass of stakeholders and public of Federal Ministry of Health and Nigerians through Twitter and Face Book dwelt largely on the address of update by the Honourable Minister which were diligently and patiently answered and attended to.
By Olujimi Oyetomi
Director, Information, Media & Public Relations,
6th June, 2020.