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COVID-19: Achievements, lessons learnt and way forward

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[FILES] Health official push oxygen cylinder on a troley to treat COVID-19 patients suffering from acute respiratory challenge at a ward in Lagos State Isolation Centre, Yaba on January 22, 2021.The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Nigeria is increasing rapidly following daily report by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) even as Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital accounted for the highest number of cases in the country.

As the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) continue to make people sick and claim lives around the globe for more than one year now, it has also forced the development of different initiatives to check its spread, while efforts are made to fix many inadequacies in the health and other sectors of the economies of many countries.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illness ranging from common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

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However, COVID-19 is caused by a new strain of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that has not been previously identified in humans, as it was first reported to World Health Organisation (WHO) on Dec. 31, 2019 in Wuhan, China.

Since then, many countries and world bodies have been carrying out research on the symptoms of the disease, ranging from the most common symptoms such as fever, dry cough and tiredness to less common signs like aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, headache, loss of taste or smell, rash on skin, and discolouration of fingers or toes.

Researchers also found difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, as well as loss of speech or movement as other symptoms of COVID-19, and the list continues as more symptoms are discovered.

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Apart from the global research about the symptoms, the fight against COVID-19 has seen vaccine development move at record speed, with more than 170 of such effort on trial.

And as the search continues, the Pfizer and Moderna’s RNA vaccines and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine surfaced, and jabs taken by citizens of many countries around the world to avoid infection.

In Nigeria, the story is the same, as federal and state governments, as well as NGOs and CSOs contribute to fighting the scourge since Feb. 27, 2020 when the index case was confirmed in Lagos.

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The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 was then established by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 9, 2020 to coordinate and oversee the country’s multi-sectoral inter-governmental efforts to contain spread, while the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) educates the public on measures to avoid contracting the virus.

The NCDC has, therefore, continued to preach protocols such as social distancing, frequent washing of hands, respiratory hygiene, environmental hygiene, use of hand sanitisers and wearing of face mask, among others, as the new norm, to avoid the virus.

The Minister of State for Health, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, said COVID-19 would continue to have a significant impact on the way citizens lived in the next few years.

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He said that while the virus raged globally, Nigeria increased its test laboratories from three to 97 and established 131 treatment centres, with 7,040,256 Intensive Care Unit beds.

He explained that 79 of the laboratories are open to the public at no cost to ensure that Nigerians have access to testing when needed.

Incoming international travellers requiring mandatory testing would visit any of the accredited 18 private laboratories of their choice for a test at a fee, he added.

“Put together, the over 97 laboratories have the capacity to test at least 15,000 samples daily.

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“Sample collection centres have been established and are spread across local government areas to lessen travel time for sample collection,’’ Mamora said.

The minister said that Nigeria also trained more than 17,000 healthcare workers in infection prevention and control, laboratory operations, and case management in 2020.

He emphasised good remuneration, fixing of hospitals, steady electricity supply, potable water, the right equipment for diagnoses and treatment as priority areas.

Mamora said “COVID-19 has turned out to be a new dawn for Nigeria’s manufacturing sector, where manufacturers produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), medical aprons, gowns, overalls, as well as gloves, masks, respirators and goggles.”

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Meanwhile, some FCT residents have urged the COVID-19 taskforce in states to be up and doing just like the PTF, while advocating same in local government areas for nationwide coverage.

They made the call in interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Sunday, noting that with active teams across the three tiers of government carrying out continued sensitisation, a lot more could be achieved.

Mr Stephen Okeze, a businessman living in Abuja, said even though radio and television jingles had been on since last year to educate Nigerians about the NCDC COVID-19 protocols, there was the need for increased sensitisation in the states and local areas and communities by community leaders.

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He explained that many rural communities were ignorant of the COVID-19 protocols or would just not observe them, while others were still living in denial, saying there was the need for enforcement.

The businessman added that “if we have taskforce on COVID-19 in states and local governments working like the PTF, where local authorities such as the Emir and Igwe, as well as Muslim and Christian leaders were involved, it would go a long way in checking the spread of the virus.

“People in city centres and state capitals, especially at the federal level are, however, well informed and are doing the needful to some extent by observing the protocols, but I don’t think there is no enough information at the grassroots.”

As a way out, he called on the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to look into the possibility of using its state offices to educate the grassroots on the virus and how to stay safe.

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Mr Ayodele Adekola, also a businessman living in Abuja, stressed the need for all to observe the protocols as the nation await the arrival of vaccine, noting that it was the only way out.

He said “even though it cannot cure the virus, I believe some home remedies such as garlic water, ginger and lemon, can help in boosting one’s immunity.

“The virus is real and killing people everywhere.”

Also on the way out, Miss Hodo Samuel, a civil servant in Abuja, urged government to increase awareness and provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to health workers and the face mask and sanitisers for people both in rural and urban areas.

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She also called for awareness in more different languages to allow for in-depth knowledge of the virus and preventive measures.

However, Mr Isa Ahmed, a civil servant in the FCT, called for another lockdown to curtail the spread of the virus.

He said that if citizens refused to abide by the safety protocols, government should not hesitate to impose another lockdown, noting, however, that palliatives must be provided to cushion the effect of the lockdown.

Ahmed acknowledged the fact that the virus exist and was spreading very fast with everyday contact among people in markets, offices and other public places.

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He added that the consciousness around the country was presently high, unlike three or four years ago, noting that the use of different social media platforms by authorities and others to educate the populace had been of immense benefit, “making almost everyone to be on the same page.”

According to him, another lockdown with support from government will help to reduce the spread of the virus.

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Consequently, it will be fair to acknowledge that in the midst of the COVID-19, many initiatives were developed, especially in the health sector — research, safety measures with hygiene as a major step, while the manufacturing sector also got a boost.

The issues of remuneration to health workers, fixing of hospitals, steady electricity supply, potable water, the right equipment for diagnoses and treatment were also brought to the fore.

Nigerians have also benefited from the daily information put out by the PTF and the NCDC, and are in better position to take informed decisions to take care of their health, among other responsibilities.

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