The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 says it is worried about a reduction of sample collection and testing for COVID-19 across the states which accounts for low figures of confirmed cases.
PTF noted that tests had dropped significantly as a result of reduced sample collection in many states, adding that the reasons are not clear in all cases.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said on Monday at the PTF briefing pointed out that one state, for example, tested over 35, 000 in July and just under 20,000 in August, while another state recorded a drop from 23, 000 in July to just under 4, 000 in August.
“These are just examples that show that there is more work to do and many more challenges ahead. There is reason to worry that in states facing election, campaign activities throw caution to the wind and COVID-19 infection increases dramatically, while testing may decline due to frustration.
“I urge authorities in these states to remember the risks of crowding and ensure that government workers can do their work unhindered. I shall commission a study group of the Ministerial Experts Advisory Committee to begin processes to examine this development and bring up new knowledge which can guide response or may have an implication on government decision making,” Ehanire said.
The minister noted that in the past 24 hours, 138 COVID-19 positive cases were recorded in Nigeria, one of the lowest numbers in many months, giving a total of 53,865 positive cases out of 403,347 tests conducted as at August 31.
He explained: “In the same 24-hour period, 199 persons were discharged from hospital, giving us total successful treatment of 41,513 patients. We are beginning to see a situation where the number of those treated and discharged exceeds the number of positive cases detected.
“While these figures may seem reassuring, they may be deceptive, and we cannot assume that the curve is flattening, since we are yet to perfect due diligence on our side.”
On COVID-19 fatalities, Ehanire said with a total of 1,013 deaths recorded so far, the case fatality rate had also dropped slightly to 1.88 percent and that the gradual fall, possibly an indication of improvement in response and treatment strategies to contain COVID-19 and also a common global trend.
“As long as the nation still record deaths from the virus, there is no room for complacency until government meet its goal to reduce fatality rate to less than one percent.
“We are still working on plans for Community Support Centres in small towns and rural areas, where persons who test positive, but risk infecting others due to the nature of their living conditions, are isolated, or the vulnerable who live among infected groups, are removed for a while, for their safety, till the risk is gone.
“Our target is to test two million Nigerians for COVID-19, of which we have achieved barely a quarter and to scale up to four million persons. For this, collaboration with State and FCT health sector structures is crucial. We urge all State organs not to relent in strengthening surveillance and setting up sample collection sites in all LGAs, and even in all wards of the hotspot LGAs,” he said.
Ehanire said that the logistics for sample retrieval and testing must be assured, as the Federal Government makes provision for at least one laboratory in every state, with only Niger, Kebbi and Taraba now outstanding.
He lamented that most of the laboratories were, however operating well below capacity and that plans had been concluded to set up and optimize laboratories in all states.
On the reopening of Lagos and Abuja airports to commercial international flights, the minister urged people to raise their vigilance levels.
“It is our collective interest and responsibility to guard against new cases entering our country undetected. In this regard, we must review our protocols to ensure early detection, isolation and treatment of any positive case.
“While this protocol may cause inconvenience, like delays at the airport, it is a small price to pay for our safely and health, especially for travellers. Our contribution as individuals is simple: to keep each other safe by wearing our masks and observing social measures,” he said.
Ehanire stressed that as the nation strove to tame COVID-19 eyes must be on other diseases that contribute to mortality, especially among women and children in the country.
“Malaria is one of such examples for which government will continue to strengthen routine services in the primary health care facilities.’’