Boss Mustapha, chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, PTF, at the Monday briefing reviewed the gains of the first two weeks of the partial easing of the lockdown and said it was a success.
Within this period he said the COVID-19 laboratories have been increased from 15 to 26 across the country. Nigeria’s testing capacity tripled from 50 to 154 per a million, leading to the testing of additional 15, 558, making a total of 35, 098 since the first case was reported. This is still considered very low in a population of over 200 million people.
Chikwe Iheckwazu, director general of Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, said Nigeria’s testing capacity had increased to 1, 500 daily. Recently, Kano State claimed that it now has the capacity to test 400 patients daily. Lagos State was also said to have capacity for 500 tests daily. What this suggests is Nigeria may be testing below her installed capacity at the moment, may be due to the shortage of testing personnel or paucity of suspected patients to be tested.
Mustapha have got his figures totally wrong because the NCDC confirmed it tested 1375 samples on May 17, a day before the PTF briefing. The testing capacity of a country is seen as crucial to the effective management of the pandemic.
Mustapha revealed that Nigeria had increased trained personnel to 11, 409 but he was not specific on the new numbers.
The government also procured and distributed more personal protective equipment and ventilators during the period but again Mustapha was silent on the number.
Though the number of infection cases are galloping across the country, the SGF said the doubling number of the virus in the country has slowed down from five days to 11 days. What this means is that the cases doubles now every 11 days; while previously, it doubled every five days.
On May 4 when the lockdown was eased for two weeks, the number of cases in the country were 2802. On May 18 when Mustapha released his figures, the number of cases were 6, 172, an increase of 3.370 new cases in 14 days.
The number of bed spaces for isolation and case management increased within the two weeks from 3, 500 to 5, 000. This is no cheering news. As at May 18, Nigeria had 6, 175 cases, out of which, 4, 340 are still active across the country. What this means is that out of the available capacity of 5, 000 bed spaces, 4, 340 are occupied, leaving only 660 spaces. With the cases doubling every 11 days, it means that Nigeria should have 12, 350 bed spaces by May 29. The PTF may not have looked at this gloomy probability, or may have chosen to underplay the coming crisis in the management of the pandemic.
The good news is that the PTF reported an increase in the efficiency of identification, testing, isolation and evacuation of confirmed cases. It also reported a “progressive improvement” in capacity of the health system to respond to the pandemic.
On the downside of the partial easing of lockdown, Mustapha reported mixed outcomes. Objectives were met but there was widespread non-compliance.
The PTF rightfully noted Nigeria’s “increased risk of high transmissibility” and advised the government accordingly. It candidly admitted that Nigeria is not ready for full opening of the economy because of the high risks. The next two weeks will allow more companies and institutions to comply with the protocols for re-opening of their businesses.