COVID-19: Federal Government focuses on communities in Nigeria


The Federal Government of Nigeria has said that its next phase of strategy is to focus on the community. This is due to available evidence of community transmission of COVID-19. This was disclosed by the Honorable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire at the Presidential Task Force briefing, today 16th April, 2020, as he confirmed a total of 407 cases of COVID-19. He said 99 patients had been discharged and 12 deaths had been recorded in Nigeria, all with comorbidities. He stated that the 34 new cases confirmed were distributed as follows: 18 in Lagos, 12 in Kano, 2 in Katsina, and 1 each in Delta and Niger States.

The Minister expressed his condolence to the family of the latest fatality, a medical professional and highlighted the risk to health workers in this COVID-19 response by stating that patients with mild symptoms are still very highly infectious, mild symptoms in one person could be deadly infectious in another”. He further stated that, that was why there was a recommendation of the suspension of close contract between grandchildren and grandparents.

Speaking, Dr. Ehanire emphasized that there will be more community testing and social mobilization at the grassroots to ensure physical distancing and advisories on the use of masks or improvised face coverings like handkerchiefs or scarfs over the mouth and nose to reduce risks of transmission. He said the revised case definition includes:

· All patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome

· Contacts of people confirmed to have COVID-19, with fever and respiratory tract symptoms

· Persons with fever and respiratory tract symptoms of unknown cause

Dr. Osagie urged all health workers to adhere to government instructions and regulations by utilizing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), maintain a high index of suspicion for COVID-19 and protect themselves, loved ones and colleagues. He also advised health professionals against private or secret management of people who have COVID-19 outside of accredited health facilities saying “we cannot afford avoidable morbidity and mortality”. He said that private facilities must obtain accreditation to treat this highly infectious disease and that unauthorized practitioners engaging in treatment of COVID-19, run the risk for being shut down for decontamination.

The Honourable Minister commended the Lagos State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as they strive to enhance case findings by conducting house to house and cluster testing based on epidemiological assessments. This strategic scale-up of testing over the next two weeks, will go a long way in detecting, testing and treating people with COVID-19, he reiterated.

Dr. Osagie Ehanire informed that the national testing capacity had been increased to 3,000 per day in 13 molecular laboratories nationwide activated by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC). This he said is to increase the national testing capacity further as he also stated that two more laboratories are scheduled to come online in Borno and Sokoto states. He informed that the state had been supplied sample collection kits and are encouraged to develop innovative methods to improve testing capacity by engaging the private sector to outsource and diversify these collection sites and improve logistics support.

The Minister hinted that the disease had been labeled stereotyped, discriminated against and labeled poorly. Unfortunately, the Minister said, stigma can prompt social isolation of persons or groups and drive people to hide the illness, prevent them from seeking health care immediately, and discourage them from adopting healthy behaviours. He added that this could cause a situation where the virus is more likely to spread and increase the difficulty of controlling the COVID-19 outbreak.

Health Minister advised persons tested positive to COVID-19 enter into accredited isolation and treatment centers for proper management this not only gives them prospects of survival and recovery, but protects their family and friends, domestic and office staff and the community from infections. He encouraged citizens to cooperate with case managers who will meet all expectation of security, privacy and comfort.

He urged citizens not to stigmatize persons who had recovered from COVID-19, stay safe at home, if must go out practice physical distancing, wash hands regularly or use sanitizers and sanitize surfaces thoroughly.

Enefaa Bob-Manuel
DD (Information)
Head Media and Public Relations