…Says number of cases outweighing capacity of isolation centers

The Federal Government may be considering other ‘inconvenient’ options for isolation as states across the country are fast becoming overwhelmed by the tremendous rise in new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) infections.

Therefore, it is becoming increasing difficult for the government to sustain its policy on institutional isolation of all the cases, whether they be asymptomatic, mildly symptomatic or severe.

Recall that few days ago, the Federal Government complained that it is running out of spaces for treating COVID-19 patients and is seriously considering the option of treating patients from their homes.

Speaking during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, on Friday in Abuja, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said:

“We have a big challenge across the country right now especially in Lagos, Kano, and Zamfara. There are a few states where the number of new cases are outweighing the capacity to continue implementing our policy of institutional isolation of all the cases, whether you are asymptomatic, mildly symptomatic, or severe. This is the current policy.

“Right now, the reality that we are facing is that the implementation of that policy is very difficult. Yesterday, we confirmed 158 new cases in Lagos. It means that by today if we are to follow that policy, Lagos has to find 158 new bed spaces in a single day. And I can tell you for free that this evening we will have another set of new cases confirmed in Lagos.

“This is the reality and no country has found it easy across the world to increase the hospital space capacity by 300, 400, or 500 percent, which is what is required in response to this outbreak using the current policy.

“So, we are considering other options and over the next few days we will share this options with you. This is not because these are options we will like to consider but are options that we are forced into considering. The reality is that at the moment a good number of all our patients are not in the institutions in the isolation centres because we are struggling with capacity across the country.

“I really empathise with states government that are working so hard not only to provide the facility, but also to feed, provide security, basic infrastructure etc.

“I was in Kano last weekend and went around the new treatment centre that everybody was rushing to get ready. But it is not simple and there is no simple solution to this. The Federal Government, the States Government and everybody is struggling with how to rapidly increase capacity to provide venue to care for 300 or 400 new patients that we are confirming every day.”

He added: “Concerning Lagos State producing reagents, it is not a competition because Lagos is part of Nigeria. If they produce anything in Lagos, we will be happy and use it to strengthen the national response.

“For test kits, we have plus or minus about 30,000 at the moment. We have a supply chain that is established, so test kits are not what you buy in the millions and keep in the warehouse because they are subject to environmental conditions and all sorts of issues.

“We have planned for 2 million test kits over the next 3 months that are already in the procurement process, not only from the Federal Government but with all our UN partners that are coming to the table to support us.”

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, added: “Our ideal is still to identify all positive cases and isolate both the symptomatic and asymptomatic, to safeguard the health of the rest of the population as well as provide care to the symptomatic.

“This includes our efforts at intensively building the expertise of critical care doctors and nurses, to utilize ventilators and other appliances being allocated to intensive care hospitals, nationwide. The sustainability of the strategy may be challenged as time goes on by the evolving realities across the country.

“As for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), we are making sure that every state gets according to the cases that they have or that they project that they will have. Even when we hear that they are running low in certain areas, we just rush things in very quickly in order to make sure that they do not have shortages or fall into a situation where they have to be putting themselves at risk.”

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