In this interview with a group of journalists recently in his office in Abuja, the Medical Director cum Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Medical Centre, Jabi, Abuja, Prof. Saad A. Ahmed said that strict adherence to the advice of experts would go a long way to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
With the continued and rapid spread of this virus Sir, does it mean that Coronavirus can’t have a cure?
Having been ravaging the whole world at the moment, this virus is new; and of course, like anything new, it will take a little beat time for people to fully understand and also get the right cure and all that. At the moment, most of the efforts are toward its prevention. It is a pandemic, having affected most countries of the world; and right now, everybody is doing what he can, to see that those countries are protected and Nigeria is also facing this particular challenge and at the moment, we are fighting a number of cases reported in Abuja.
Using contact – tracing to identify those infected, do you think much can be achieved through that?
Contact – tracing is one of the ways to identify those infected. The challenge is that, some people that have come, maybe from those countries that are affected and have not actually alerted the authority or self – isolate themselves and thereby mixing with others unknowingly and later you find them having the disease. The moment you find out that they have the disease, then you have to trace those he came into contact with. The Nigerian Council for Disease Control, NCDC is doing a great job to identify those who travelled to those countries, ensure that they are self – isolated and quarantine and treat those that already have the disease.
Do youhink that shutting down public places will go a long way?
Shutting down public places will decrease the number of cases. Shut – down means that people should stay at home. Those in essential duties, like the medical and health workers and the security agents aren’t inclusive. When people are at home, they are actually in a way, self – isolated. So if anybody has, at least those he will transmit it will be quite limited. So you should be able to now tackle it at that stage. NCDC has numbers with which to reach them, if anyone has syntoms; they can call NCDC and get necessary attentions, because they go to anywhere you are, check the results and once it is positive, they send an ambulance, take the patient direct to the quarantine centre.
Do you think the rich and the poor will receive equal treatment?
Yes. This is public health emergency and there is no discrimination in the medical cycle. When you are called, you go straight and attend to such person without knowing him. I don’t have any cause to doubt the capability or capacity of the NCDC in carrying out their duties. I don’t think that such thing can happen.
Can you throw more lights on the pandemic?
Coronavirus, like I said, the current trend that we have, that is COVID19 is actually one of the Coronaviruses and there are more. The recent Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS is also a Coronavirus. This is a new trend that is on board now. So those that get infected, the virus usually stays around the nose, mouth area. And of course when you sneeze cough, you shake people, they can get infected and any other person that comes can easily get it and therefore, we have to prevent it.
Abuja is one of those areas that has it. If anyone is going out of Abuja, he has to isolate himself. Among the syntoms are coughing, fever, sour throat. When you have any of these syntoms, you call NCDC for test. If you aren’t negative, they will send you to the quarantine side. Those who couldn’t get call across to the NCDC, it will be risky visiting hospitals, because you will be exposing the virus to others. Here, we take time to screen our visitors. Isolation, as I said earlier is another way of curtailing it. Once you are suspected of it, you take the person to an isolated place, call the NCDC for a test.
Sir, with only three testing centres for this virus that is spreading rapidly, do you think that the government is doing enough to be compared with what is obtainable in other countries?
I think that the challenge we have at the moment, if you go to the UK, they are facing similar challenge. I think the government is doing what it can to control this disease at the moment. There might be some issues here and there, but for my own assessment, I think that the NCDC and the Federal Ministry of Health are doing enough to curtail the spread. Like in every process, you will always find some faults here and there. But we expect that with daily reviews, it will be addressed. The testing sites are expanding now. Of course it used to be two, but now they are three now and I am sure that we can have much more.
How many people on your opinion should be allowed in a gathering?
What is recommended is ten. We are looking at something less than ten. We have even cut our clinical activities. Even the clinic attendants, they have been cut down. We have now moved into time appointment. This means that if you are given 9AM appointment and if you miss it, the next person who comes by 9:15AM will see a particular doctor. So this reduced the number of patients we have.
To tackle this effectively, where would you want government to improve upon?
As you can see now, people are moving about, doing their businesses. If there is a way to force people to stay at home, of course you can use some period to get food and what have you. Even now that they have not been going to work, they are actually going outside. If the situation can be reviewed, it will help a lot. Health facilities, if you look at isolation centre, like the one here is in Gwagwalada; the number of cases they have there is quite limit. I don’t know if it is10 or 20. It is around that. From the look of things, they might get overwhelmed and when they get overwhelmed, what happens? So some isolations need attentions.
Consumables have skyrocketed. Most things we use in the hospitals that was sold at N3,000 and N500 are now being sold at N45,000 and N8,000 respectively. We are killing our clinical activities and most of the money comes from the public fund. By the time your IGR is going down, how do you get these supplies?
Saying that the isolation centre in Gwagwalada may soon be overwhelmed, it was suggested from House of Reps before they shut down that some of the colleges of education be used as isolation centres as students are not in the school. What is your view on that?
Well I think it is something to discuss by the state ministries of health. Every state is making efforts in this regard. I know that the one in Gwagwalada was initiated by the Federal government, but the FCT is actually having an isolation centre in Karu. I know that every state seems to have isolation centre.
Is there going to be positive result toward stopping the virus?
We have stepped up our prevention mechanisms; we will be able to bring it down. If you did watch what happened in China where this thing started, they put in all measures and for some time, they haven’t recorded new case. With the controlled mechanism, we shall achieve that.
With the way things are going now, what would be your advice to Nigerians?
Let them strictly adhere to expert and medical advice; support the government in this struggle; help the health workers, by staying at home. Once you stay at home, you are saving llife, because you are not transmitting the virus. Stay at home and be safe. To prevent yourself from this virus, you should form the habit of washing your hands regularly with soap and water; use sanitizers; avoid gathering of more than 10 people and strictly adhere to other advice from government, experts and stay at home.