COVID-19: As Nigeria marks 1 year of index case, NCDC calls for continued adherence

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has called for continued adherence to public health and social measures as the country marks one year of the first case of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The NCDC Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Abuja.

Ihekweazu said that with over 150,000 cases reported since then, the country’s response had been led by science.

According to him, it was also driven by the power of coordination, collaboration, and solidarity across the Federal and State Governments, partners, private sector, and citizens.

“Prior to the confirmation of the first case in Nigeria, NCDC with support from its partners began preparedness activities.

“The NCDC began working with the states and hospitals to map out and establish isolation and treatment centres for managing COVID-19 cases.

“In addition to this, NCDC began training of health workers across the states on case management, infection prevention control (IPC), surveillance, risk communication and other areas of epidemic preparedness and response,” he said.

Ihekweazu said that the agency also began to preposition medical supplies such as personal protective equipment to all states. Importantly, he said the NCDC developed preparedness guidelines and plans that incorporated an all-inclusive ‘One Health’ approach.

“In the last one year, NCDC has been working under the Presidential Task Force on COVID19 (PTF-COVID-19) chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha.

“This has enabled a multi-sectoral response to the pandemic, which has affected multiple facets of Nigeria’s economy,” he said.

The NCDC director-general said that the agency had led Nigeria’s public health response to the pandemic. These, he said, include establishing and scaling up capacity for COVID-19 testing, surveillance activities, developing public health guidelines, as well as providing technical support to the states.

“The pandemic also provided the opportunity to rapidly scale up Nigeria’s public health infrastructure. “One of these is the establishment of more than 70 public health laboratories across the country, with at least one public health laboratory for COVID-19 testing in each state,” Ihekweazu said.

He said in 2020, the country truly united in solidarity against the virus. According to him, the impact of this had been obvious from small personal gestures such as sharing foodstuff to collaboration on research and innovation – to regional and pan-African collaboration.

“In spite of the best efforts of the government, it will take time to vaccinate everyone against COVID-19. “We must keep adhering to the public health and social measures that keep each and all of us safe. “This means physical distancing, wearing face masks, practicing hand and respiratory hygiene, and avoiding crowded indoor places,” he advised.

Ihekweazu said that the recent report of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) cases in Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo was a reminder that outbreaks would continue to emerge.

“This emphasizes the need for continued investment in health security at the national and state levels.

“We are grateful to health workers across the country, including State Public Health Teams for their hard work, commitment, and dedication in the fight against COVID-19.

“We also thank our partners for their supports. Finally, we thank the Federal and State Governments for their leadership and investment in health security,” he said.

The NCDC chief said that sadly during the pandemic, many lost their loved ones and means of livelihood. The economy had equally been affected.

“However, we must remember our resilience and strength as a country. We cannot afford to give up now and must continue to Take Responsibility – whether as individuals, organizations, or governments,” he advised.

Ihekweazu said that as the sister agency, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) was prepared to lead the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines in Nigeria. He said that NCDC would work in solidarity with them to ensure a successful campaign.

“As the country’s public health institute, our focus remains to contribute to stronger health systems to serve Nigerians into the future,” he said.

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Ogbonna Ugorji

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