With a steady rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria, in which Lagos State is the epicentre, the state government yesterday unfolded plans to begin a house-to-house search to identify those suspected of being infected with the virus.
The state Ministry of Health said in a statement that the exercise, tagged the ‘Community Active Case Search,’ which will be phased, will last for two weeks in the first lap, and would cover all the 20 local government areas in the state.
Lagos has 158 of the 288 confirmed cases in the country. Yesterday, data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed that there were 14 new cases of COVID-19 in the country with 13 coming from Lagos.
However, seven more COVID-19 patients were discharged from the Mainland Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, rallying the number of treated and virus-free patients in the state to 39.
But 51 of the infected have been discharged and seven deaths recorded nationwide.
And as the controversy over the visit of the Chinese medical team to Nigeria raged on yesterday, the NCDC dismissed claims by critics of the team’s mission to Nigeria that the medical supplies they brought from China were contaminated with the virus and could aggravate the pandemic in the country, if used.
The federal government had taken possession of the $1.3 million worth of medical equipment and consumables from a group of Chinese companies in Nigeria as part of their contributions towards fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been on the upswing since the index case happened on February 27.
The companies also sponsored a Chinese medical team that arrived in Abuja on Wednesday to install the equipment and train local medical personnel on how to operate it.
But the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) is opposed to the presence of the team and the alleged moves by doctors among them to treat patients in Nigeria, saying it undermines Nigeria’s sovereignty.
The Federal Ministry of Health has, however, given an assurance that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) would ensure the quality of all the medical supplies from China.
NAFDAC has also granted conditional emergency use of antibody and antigen test kits on COVID-19 patients in Nigeria.
The Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, who had tested positive for the virus has, however, fully recovered and now tested negative
Giving details on the planned house-to-house search, the statement quoted the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, as saying at a press conference that officials carrying out the tracing of suspected COVID-19 patients would adorn the COVID-19 outbreak response tags and letters from their local government for easy identification.
He said: “In the coming days, some of our health workers will be moving around in pairs to administer an electronic questionnaire at homes and healthcare facilities to make inquiries about symptoms of cough, cold and fever.
“This is in a bid to intensify our search for possible cases of COVID-19 in different communities across the state. I implore you to give them your maximum support by providing accurate information that would help in containing this pandemic quickly.”
On the allegations that some of the Chinese medical materials are contaminated with the virus, NCDC Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, in an exclusive interview with THISDAY yesterday, faulted the claim, saying they were in good condition.
There has been outrage over the donations, as some Nigerians believed Europe’s COVID-19 cases escalated after countries in the region received medical materials from China.
The critics warned that Nigeria’s number of cases may surge if the medical supplies are allowed into the country.
But Ihekweazu said: “There is no evidence that the kits received in Nigeria are contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19. These medical supplies are very effective when safely used by health workers.”