The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, on Thursday, said that over 40 health workers in the country have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), as a result of exposure.
He stressed that it has become critically important for health workers to maintain a high index of suspicion and protect themselves adequately with personal protective equipment (PPE) in the line of duty.
Ehanire, who made this known at the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja, said that: “I applaud our health workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government will continue to provide you with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and I urge you to take all necessary precautions for your own safety.
“Please do not treat any patient without using adequate PPE, frontline health workers must undertake refresher training on IPC at intervals.
“This advice is become necessary due of the number of health workers who have tested positive, over 40 now, for COVID-19 or been quarantined, in the last 2 weeks due to exposure, and therefore not being able to contribute to the health sector effort. I urge you all to remain vigilant in the line of duty and maintain a high index if suspicion for COVID-19.
“We are still on hazard allowance for frontline health workers, as proposals have to be validated by the PTF. They also have to be validated by other authorities like the Minister of Finance etc. Therefore, there are other processes that will take place before it is announced. it is a work in progress and will not be hidden.”
The Minister decried the underutilisation of the ‘excess’ testing capacity of the country, explaining that even though Nigeria has the capacity to test 1,500 persons daily, daily testing still averages around 600.
According to him, “Today Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) laboratories have capacity to test 1,500 samples per day in 13 laboratories across the country. However, we are testing on average 600 samples per day because that is all the samples collected and sent for testing. This means that there is a certain underutilisation.
“Factors implicated in the process may include surveillance sample collection and mode of transportation, which can be improved to increase operational efficiency.
“In fact, we have excess capacity for the 13 laboratories that are functioning, but our own strategy is that of smart testing, that is, testing where you feel you will have yield. We have to be very careful about our reagents.
“We are also trying to use our resources as wisely as possible because we have an estimated population of 200 million people, so we have to be ready to cater for all of them.
“This is where a little investment can help. The results of such intensification of efforts can be seen especially in Lagos where improved logistic management increased sample collection and significantly reduced turnaround time.
“As we further increase our testing capacity and accredit more laboratories, an even more robust sample transportation infrastructure will be in place, to promptly convey samples to any of the 13 labs activated so far.
“Nigeria’s strategy is to admit all persons who test positive for COVID-19 into designated accredited treatment facilities to contain the spread of the virus and ensure prompt management to forestall complications.”