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Radio jingles, television conversations needed to step up preventions on coronavirus— Experts

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As the battle to contain Coronavirus continues in Nigeria, the government has been advised on the need to educate people at the grassroots in the language they understand and make use of graphics to push for preventive practices. This is because many people in rural areas, including low-income earners, are ignorant of the virus and protective measures that can be taken to avoid contracting it.

The health experts also recommend that media houses have programmes that would educate rural dwellers to have regular radio jingles and television conversations with a focus on rural dwellers and low-income earners to prevent the spread of the virus.

Dr. Modupe Akinyinka, a Senior Lecturer and Consultant Public Health Physician at Department of Community Health and Primary Health Care, Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), said the major preventive measures at this stage require all Nigerians, grassroots dwellers and low-income earners to make effort and slow down the epidemic, by refraining from spreading it any further.

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To this end, she explained that everyone should behave as if they have the virus already and stay home for the next 14 days at least; in order to flatten the epidemic curve, that is, reduce transmission rates (aside those on essential services). This will enable the health system to cope with current cases and reduce mortality.

She said: “Also, we must all keep to the guidelines on prevention, such as frequent handwashing with soap and water and strict maintenance of personal hygiene generally. There is equally need to observe social distancing, which means to not congregate at this time and maintain a distance of at least two metres from any other person, especially when coughing. People, especially those at the grassroots, should avoid touching their faces, eyes, nose and mouth, practice good respiratory hygiene and call the designated Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), numbers if anyone has fever, cough or contact with suspected COVID-19 cases.

“Hospitals need to ensure social distancing is in place when attending to patients. We cannot afford to have people with different health conditions congregating, as was previously done. Just one case can transmit to so many vulnerable people, who will then take it home and spread it further. Hospitals also need to have standard operating procedures and health workers retrained on these to ensure we can identify suspected cases of COVID-19, when they show up as some will, in the hospital, and ensure the supply of protective equipment for staff to use as required.

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“Infection prevention practices must be enforced to protect health workers, as well as their patients, with personal protective equipment used as required. Health workers must adhere to universal safety precautions and specific guidelines in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid transmission to them, as they are our soldiers in this war against the virus. We need them to stay healthy, and also to not infect their families.”

Executive Director, Centre for Health, Equity and Justice (CEHEJ) Timothy Adewale said people at the grassroots should obey all directives and instructions coming from the authority and the World Health Authority (WHO) as much as possible.

Adewale said federal and state governments should create socio-economic incentives and palliatives measures at these critical times because they have failed to give needed attention to our health services and facilities before the virus. “For instance, just last month, we talked about the lack of water in our hospitals, even for washing hands. How do we protect our health personnel in times of epidemic?”

He said travel restrictions and closing of airports should have come earlier, in view of the state of the country’s health facilities.

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“Most importantly, do we have solid arrangements on ground to fight the virus before it goes out of hand,” he queried. “Abroad, countries are quickly building new hospitals, with some re-modelling stadium and military vessels for the purpose of supporting the health system. The United Kingdom is already asking for volunteers. The strategy is to contain the virus before it goes out of control.

“It is important at this stage to focus on our health facilities if we must win the fight very soon. We need to equip and prepare hospitals that are yet to put in place adequate measures to prevent and control infections, as this may amplify an epidemic, by spreading the infection to patients, staff and visitors. On leaving the hospital, these infected individuals may boost transmission in the community and thereby undermine government and hospital’s overall epidemic response efforts.

“Hospitals will have to act on policies and decisions made by national and local health officials. Some hospitals may be designated to receive only suspected or confirmed cases of the disease. Ensuring that individual hospital is integrated into the overall epidemic response calls for careful planning by all relevant agencies responding to the pandemic.”

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