COVID-19: NCDC reassures Nigerians, 11 suspected cases test negative

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Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says result of the 11 suspected cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) tested in Nigeria is negative.

Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director General of NCDC, confirmed this on Thursday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Ihekweazu reassured Nigerians of their safety against COVID-19, following rumour of a confirmed case in Lagos, South-West Nigeria.

The tests were conducted by the NCDC National Reference Laboratory and Virology Laboratory at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).

“Four laboratories in Nigeria have the capacity to test for the coronavirus. These laboratories are within the NCDC laboratory network and are in contact 24/7. If a new case is confirmed, it will be reported accordingly.

“We are in close communication with the Lagos State Ministry of Health and other states, and will inform the public once there’s a confirmed case in Nigeria.

“We urge Nigerians to disregard rumours and discourage further spread.

“When a high-risk traveller with symptoms arrives in the country, he/she would be taken from the airport to an isolation centre and samples would be collected immediately for testing.

“If confirmed, appropriate management will commence but if negative, he/she would still be monitored for 14 days and retested.

“When a high risk traveller that is not symptomatic comes into the country, the person is advised to stay at home for 14 days and report immediately if he/she develops symptoms.

“Furthermore, his contact details are obtained and an official is attached to him/her to monitor him daily for 14 days to see if he develops symptoms.

“If he develops symptoms within 14 days of arrival in the country, samples would be collected from him for confirmation.

“If confirmed he/she goes into our isolation centre where he would be managed appropriately,”  the NCDC boss explained.

He described a high-risk traveller as someone who has had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case or was travelling from China, particularly Wuhan.

The NCDC boss noted that the Chinese authorities have intensified measures to prevent exportation of COVID-19 such as screening travellers leaving China.

“In Nigeria, the NCDC conducts daily epidemic intelligence gathering to monitor the spread of the outbreak.

“The Government of Nigeria through NCDC is working very hard to be better prepared in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

“The NCDC in collaboration with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) has reviewed strategies to work together in the 36 states of the federation and the FCT to ensure that Nigerians are well informed.

“Besides, the NCDC has just concluded a training of case management physicians from the five states with international airports in Nigeria; namely Kano, Enugu, Lagos, Rivers and the Federal Capital Territory.

“This is to build their capacity to manage severe respiratory disease cases.

“Furthermore, the NCDC has revised the national case definition in line with changes in the epidemiology of the outbreak.

“With ongoing local transmission in countries outside China, the focus had been expanded to include travelers from other countries.

“…With the support of World Health Organization (WHO), NCDC would carry out a two-day simulation exercise to assess its capacity to respond in the event of an outbreak.

“This process will allow for a review of existing gaps and rapid implementation of interventions to fill these gaps,”  he explained.

The NCDC Boss said it was important for Nigerians to understand where they fit in national preparedness for infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

He added that health security is a collective responsibility for all Nigerians, including individuals, healthcare workers, government and the private sector.

He, however, appealed to Nigerians to stay away from fake news, as it causes panic, harm and leads to waste of resources.

Ihekweazu therefore advised Nigerians to share only information from verified sources, while the NCDC would continue to keep them informed.

Amaka E. Nliam