*We conducted 76,800 tests, recorded 12,486 confirmed COVID-19 cases – Dr. Ehanire
By Ralph Christopher, Abuja
The Federal Government has confirmed that the mass deaths recorded in Kano State in April may not be unconnected with the ravaging Coronavirus (Covid-19) disease.
These facts were disclosed on Monday in Abuja by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, while speaking during the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 pandemic daily press briefing.
According to him: “With regard to unexplained deaths in Kano which occurred in April, the team confirmed from graveyard records, that a total of 979 deaths were recorded in 8 municipal LGAs in the state at a rate of 43 deaths per day, with a peak in the second week of April.
“By the beginning of May, the death rate had reduced to the 11 deaths per day it used to be.
“The verbal autopsy revealed that about 56% of deaths had occurred at home while 38% were in a hospital.
“With circumstantial evidence as all to go by, investigation suggests that between 50-60% of the deaths may have been triggered by or due to COVID-19, in the face of preexisting ailments. Most fatalities were people over 65 years of age”.
Dr. Ehanire however commended Dr. Gwarzo, Prof. Nasidi and members of the team, especially the contingent from Irrua, Edo State, that went to Kano State for diligently carrying out the assignment and achieving targets.
“It is gratifying to note that they all returned safely and had no incident of contracting the infection. I also commend His Excellency, the Governor of Kano State for his support to the team throughout,” he said.
Also, the Minister revealed that last Saturday marked 100 days since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Nigeria, pointing out that “In that period, we have seen a lot and learned a lot about this novel virus, about which so little was known at inception.
“I used that occasion to give a live update on our Nation’s response on the Federal Ministry of Health social media platforms”.
According to him, “In these 100 days, we have tested over 76,800 persons, recorded 12,486 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 35 States and FCT, successfully treated and discharged 3,959 persons, but sadly lost 354 Nigerians, most of whom had underlying illnesses.
“Our response during this period has been focused and targeted; at the initial phase, on screening travelers at Points of Entry, testing for virus importation, tracing their contacts and isolating positive cases.
“Since our entry into community transmission phase, we have begun more aggressive tracking and testing and increased our laboratory network capacity from 5 to presently 30 molecular laboratories, with a plan for at least one laboratory in every state.
“This way, turnaround time is reduced to a minimum and case finding and management will run smoothly.
“Management of infected cases is being reviewed and improved, with revised Clinical Guidelines to be published in accordance with the learnings and evolving dynamics associated with COVID-19 and global best practices.
“This includes new discharge protocols, treatment regimen for asymptomatic or symptomatic cases with various clinical conditions.
“We continue to collaborate with States and the FCT with regard to their management of cases with provision of commodities, training and other technical support where needed.
“The 2-day Webinar held on the 3rd and 4th of June on the effect of COVID-19 on health and care management of the elderly, was conducted in collaboration with the West African Health Organization (WAHO), and took a critical look at various aspects of the impact of the disease on the elderly, who are usually at higher risk of infection.
“The outcome of the webinar provides grounds for policy direction for care of the elderly during and beyond COVID-19.
“The general recommendation is that senior citizens are vulnerable and should stay at home most times and wear a mask once outside their home.
“This morning, the Federal Ministry of Health received the report of the Ministerial Task Team that went to Kano, to support the COVID-19 response with commodities, training, technical and confidence building measures.
“The visit was extended to fact finding excursions to offer support to five other states.
“With the observations and recommendations from the three week assignment, the committee developed a Strategic Incident Action Plan to strengthen coordination capacity of the health workers and improve community engagement in line with our response plan.
“While over 150 health workers had been infected at the time of their arrival, there was no report of an infection among health workers who had received training on infection prevention and control, thus restoring confidence. The intervention of the ministerial task force has been a game changer for Kano and some northern States”.