The Federal Government says Nigeria now has the capacity to carry out 3,000 COVID-19 tests daily due to the increase in the number of testing laboratories.
Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said this in Abuja yesterday at the 12th joint national briefing of the Presidential Taskforce Force on COVID-19.
“The bottle neck now is not the testing, but collecting the samples from the right people and getting it into the lab,” he said.
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said: “To ensure maximum utilisation of our increased testing capacity, the case definition and testing criteria have been expanded to include not only contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases with fever and respiratory tract symptoms, but also all persons with fever and respiratory tract symptoms of unknown cause.”
He warned against stigmatisation or social ridicule of COVID-19 patients.
“We don’t want people feeling that this is something so terrible that you should be ashamed of. The population should not drive stigma by wanting to know were those people live so that you can avoid the area. You should take your own measures and not contribute to using that as an excuse to create stigma,” he said.
He also said that the facemasks must be used only in combination with hand washing, physical distancing, and good respiratory hygiene and not as substitute for them.
He said the medical grade facemasks were best reserved for patients and health workers who needed them most, especially with the globally limited availability of the PPE.
While commending Nigerians for their sacrifices and understanding as the government worked towards defeating COVID-19, he said the inconveniences were worth it, especially to stem community transmission.
The national coordinator of the taskforce, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the federal and state governments had agreed on measures to stem the community transmission of coronavirus in the country.
“We all agreed that we needed improve coordination and synergy between the federal and state governments.
“We need to provide a simple message to the communities on the need to protect themselves. We also agreed to have more effective logistics and identified assets that can be used for the purpose of the pandemic and to also work with the private sector to provide a more sustainable arrangement for the health sector in the future as we emerge from this pandemic,” he said.
On the usage of schools for isolation centres, Aliyu said: “If a school is used as an isolation centre, then, obviously after the pandemic, I’m sure that there would be processes in place to clean up such school to be able to function again.”
He said the taskforce had been working closely with the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and with other Islamic organisations in preparation for this year’s Ramadan.
He pleaded with communities to maintain physical distancing and other preventive measures during the period of Ramadan.
He said: “We need to be alive and well in order to be able to pray. If you’re sick, you’ll not be able to pray and neither would you be able to pray if you’re not alive.” Aliyu asked COVID-19 patients not to despair, but keep hope alive.