Test, Treat, Trace and Isolate, FG’s structure to response- Dr. Ehanire

Dr. Ehanire Osagie, Hon. Minister of Health

The Federal Government has revealed its structure of response to COVID-19, which is TEST, TREAT, TRACE, and ISOLATE. The idea is to test people based on set criteria such as travel history, contacts or symptoms or clusters for the best prospects of high yield, then place those with positive test in treatment and isolation; trace all their contacts and quarantine them for 14 days.

This was revealed by the Honorable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, today 23rd April, 2020, as he disclosed that 873 people in 25 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had been confirmed to have COVID-19 from 9,522 tests. He said the 91 additional confirmations are as follows: 74 in Lagos, 5 in Katsina, 4 in Ogun, 2 each in Delta and Edo, 1 each in Adamawa, Kwara, Oyo and FCT. He stated that 197 persons had been treated for COVID-19 and had been discharged while 28 deaths were recoded.

The Minister said that, the high number of new cases was a manifestation of more efficient testing and ongoing community transmission. He further stated that the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health and Nigeria Center for Disease Control had continued to support preparedness and response to COVID-19 in all States and the FCT. He added that Rapid Response teams were working closely with State Emergency Operations Center to strengthen operations.

The Honorable Minister informed that NCDC has the capacity to test 1,500 samples per day in 13 laboratories across the country; however he said “we are testing on average of about 600 samples per day because that is all the samples collected and sent for testing”. He hinted also that “Factors implicated in the process may include surveillance, sample collection and mode of transportation, which can be improved to increase operational efficiency”. This intensification of efforts could be seen especially in Lagos where there are improved logistic management increased sample collection and reduced turn–around time, he added.

According, to Dr. Ehanire, efforts are ongoing to further increase testing capacity and accredit more laboratories stating also that a robust sample transportation infrastructure was in place to promptly convey samples to any of the activated 13 laboratories. This would mitigate the need for urgent establishment of a PCR laboratory, as well as valuable time and personnel needed to priorise case findings.

Further speaking, Dr. Ehanire emphasized that recommended global best practice is to admit persons who test positive for COVID-19 into designated accredited treatment facilities to contain the spread of the virus and ensure prompt management of cases to avoid complications. He revealed that there are persons who had tested positive for COVID-19 in Nigeria and are not in any designated accredited isolation centers. This the Minister added, is a significant threat to public health and national security as FMoH cannot account for such all persons and ascertain the containment of their infection. He encouraged States to ensure all persons tested positive to COVID-19 be admitted at designated centers.

Health Minister advised that contact tracing is the key to containing the infection “as persons are confirmed positive for COVID-19, we must trace all contacts they had in the previous 14 days”. He stated that, this aims to arrest transmission by corralling positive cases and potential cases before further transmission occurs, saying also that NCDC had finalized contact tracing guidelines with all states to actively aid case finding.

In view of the clamour of increased testing, Dr Osagie Ehanire said, “we must not lose sight of the ability to isolate and treat all persons found to be positive for COVID-19,” He said “challenging are persons who have mild or no symptoms, who test positive. These persons currently make up majority of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria, they are not unwell but are infectious, and must be referred to isolation and treatment centers with accredited infection prevention and control (IPC) protocols”.

The Minister of Health applauded health workers of the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic; he assured them that government will provide them with necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). The minister urged them to take precautions for their own safety by not treating patients without using adequate PPE. He advised frontline health workers take refresher training on IPC. This advice is due to the number of health workers who had tested positive for COVID-19 or been quarantined in the last 2 weeks due to exposure.

Dr. Ehanire reminded citizens to use the mask or face covering when leaving their homes, practice hand and respiratory hygiene, physical distancing and avoid mass gathering and non-essential travel. He reminded further, “if you suspect you or anyone around you may have COVID-19, call the toll- free NCDC number 112 or 0800 9700 0010. Informing also that resources and real time information could be found on the social media handles of FMoH and NCDC, the FMoH website and the NCDC COVID-19 microsite covid19.ncdc.gov.ng

In his speech, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, stated, The highly infectious nature of COVID-19 if not well managed in purpose-built facilities and specialist, pose a lot of danger not just to the medical staff in such hospitals but also to other patients and loved ones at home. We therefore appeal strongly to operators of private medical facilities wishing to continue to treat COVID-19 cases to apply to the Federal Ministry of Health urgently, for accreditation.

Enefaa Bob-Manuel
DD (Information)