Has COVID-19 curve been flattened here?
This is against the backdrop that Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), though agrees with the Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the control of coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), which said that the nation was flattening the curve of the disease considering the consistent drop in number of reported cases in the country. The NCDC boss, however, warned that although the country has recorded a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases, it is not yet celebration time as Nigeria has not tested adequately and therefore risks a resurgence.
Ipso facto, the reduction in the number of cases may be linked to the view that the number of tests being done has declined. Another important indicator is the test positivity ratio nationally. According to Ihekweazu, the country recorded a 36 per cent decline nationally in August, compared to July, while the positivity ratio dropped from 20 per cent in June to seven per cent in July.
Notwithstanding, Lagos and Kano states, as well as the FCT can confidently celebrate a decline in cases, because they have tested high numbers. On the flip side, available reports show that there are not enough data from Taraba, Adamawa, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Kebbi, Zamfara, Jigawa and Yobe states. Hence, the NCDC could not ascertain that Nigeria is flattening the COVID-19 curve. Essentially, using science, data and experience, the NCDC cannot reach a generalisation whether Nigeria is flattening the COVID-19 curve or not!
So, from the scientific angle and looking back at our National Response, the reported progress should be taken with cautious optimism until the nation does enough testing. So, Nigerians should continue to be on guard because the reported COVID-19 curve that is ‘flattening’ is not evidence-based. We need to remain cautious because the virus has many lives. In words of the PTF on COVID-19 Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha; ‘‘this positive development shall be taken with vigilance and cautious optimism. This is based on the fact that we are convinced that we have not tested enough, we have only recently reopened our international flights and that nations that had opened up their economies have done a re-think following the resurgence of the cases in their countries.’’
Therefore, the states that are not testing enough should up the ante for the nation to have a scientific COVID-19 reality-check curve. Similarly, the federal and state governments should continue to invest robustly in healthcare facilities, especially COVID-19 testing capacities, which we still lack.
Also, with the resumption of local international flights, the authorities should give priority to Port Health Services, particularly in ensuring that all arriving international passengers are tested for COVID-19.
Again, the NCDC and PTF appear to have withdrawn their civic education and media campaigns even as economic activities have fully resumed. This is not a positive development, because the battle is not over yet. Hence, public health advisory and sensitisation campaigns to encourage personal hygiene, including wearing of face masks; hand washing regularly with running water; practising physical distancing; avoiding crowded places; and staying away from offices, markets, places of worship and social gathering, if sick should continue.
At the individual level, it is our collective social responsibility not to dump; rather keep to the COVID-19 prevention protocol as advised by NCDC and PTF on COVID-19 to reduce the community transmission, because the borderless and classless COVID-19 is an equal opportunity killer. This way our collective effort at minimizing effects and curtailing transmission will surely yield positive results.
Finally, the Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Healthcare Professionals (JOHESU) are part of our frontline workers; and they have been part of the nation’s staying power in the fight against COVID-19. We salute their commitment and dedication, despite the poor welfare and working condition. As a matter of fact, they have been ‘fighting,’ without enough weapons and shields; and have remained on the winning side; upholding their sworn allegiance to the Hippocratic Oath, a professional ethical commitment to saving lives.
At this juncture, we appeal to our frontline workers not to have compassion fatigue in the marathon fight to combat COVID-19 pandemic. They should rather train their minds to remain steadfast and finish creditably on the positive side of history. Thus, this newspaper salutes JOHESU for suspending its seven-day-old warning strike to “sustain” the running of Nigeria’s public health systems.
Let us keep our eyes on the ball as a nation in order to conquer COVID-19 as we did with Ebola; and stand tall as a nation. Together we can flatten COVID-19 curve in Nigeria but then we should continue to be vigilant at all levels. There is still no sense in which we can claim that the curve has been flattened, after all.
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