The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said that Chinese doctors, nurses and medical experts would arrive in Nigeria in a few days to assist in the fight against COVID-19, a Punch report says.
The minister said this during a briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja.
Cases in Nigeria have reached 210 as the global figure also surpassed one million marks. He said Nigeria was also exploring the possibility of producing some medical equipment after key stakeholders met in Abuja on Thursday.
He continued, “We are already seeing what may be the indication of community transmission, in that 30 per cent of the cases have incomplete epidemiological information. 51 per cent are imported cases and 19 per cent are through contacts of known cases.
“Directors of the Federal Ministry of Health had discussions with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria to explore the potential for local production of medical consumables such as face masks, gloves, sanitisers and even ventilators.
“This is in view of looming global shortages of medical supplies for the response due to high demands from all countries. Clinical trials and other processes are ongoing to validate various therapeutic for COVID-19 treatment.”
After the briefing, Nigeria recorded 20 new cases: 11 in Lagos State, three in FCT, three in Edo State, two in Osun State and one in Ondo State.
Ehanire said he had been notified of medical supplies from China courtesy of a group of Chinese companies working in Nigeria.
“A special cargo aircraft shall leave Nigeria in a few days to collect the items which include Personal Protective Equipment and ventilators.
“Of great interest is that an 18-man team of medical experts from China, including doctors, nurses and medical experts shall come along with the flight to assist us,” he said.
The minister said more cases might be detected during the remaining days of the lockdown window, calling on officials to speed up their work.
He said, “We are using the small window of opportunity remaining to intensify investigation to identify causes and sources. This is one of the purposes of the lockdown of the two states (Lagos and Ogun) and the FCT.
“Lagos and other parts will need to speed up their activities to detect and isolate COVID-19 patients.
“We expect to see an increase in cases during the lockdown as a measure of improvement in case finding. If all measures and social distancing are followed, the incidence of positive cases can be controlled.”
However, at the briefing, NCDC Director-General, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the major focus of the government was to increase capacity for testing more samples in the next few days while also lamenting limitation of finance, infrastructure and human resources.
He said, “We are not just limited by funds and infrastructure, but the biggest limitation is human resources; the people that are already trained in bio-nuclear diagnostic testing. This is not something you can take up people and ask them to volunteer and go into the laboratory and start testing.”
Ihekweazu noted that so far, Nigeria had tested samples from about 4,000 people, with more laboratories being added to the existing ones.
He added, “Today, we have tested about 4,000 people and we will continue to drive up this number. We have fulfilled every requirement for a test so there is nobody that has come forward (without being tested).
There has been some delay but every single sample that has come forward has been tested.
“Ibadan and Abakaliki test centres have been activated already. Today (Friday), we are activating the second laboratory in Abuja to support everyone around the area. The next town is Kano; between Sunday and Monday, it will be activated for the northern part of Nigeria.”
“Some public sector organisations that have private-sector affiliations like the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Fund Authority are working with us on the proposal to increase laboratory locations in Nigeria. There is a lot of work going on in the background to increase our testing capacity.
The NCDC DG debunked the insinuation that high-profile people were being favoured in the testing procedure, saying case definition was being followed strictly.
Ihekweazu said in terms of contact tracing, the NCDC had identified about 6,700 contacts cumulatively.
“Some of them have graduated out; when you follow a contact for 14 days and he does not become ill, we graduate the case out of the contact list.
As of yesterday (Thursday), we have followed up on 71 per cent of that,” he said.
He noted, “We will never deploy a test kit until we validate it. That process is ongoing. We are still using the kits we had before the donation from Jack Ma came in.
“Once we are sure that they (the kits) will provide answers equivalent to the test case we have, then we will deploy them.”
On the need to increase testing, Ihekweazu said the mobile testing centres currently being used in South Africa would soon be in use in Lagos and Abuja. He, however, explained that they were only going to be used to collect samples.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has said the Federal Government in collaboration with the foreign missions and that embassies are taking steps to effect the evacuation of Nigerians in the Diaspora amid the global coronavirus pandemic.