On the 27th of February 2020, Nigeria confirmed its first case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). One hundred days after, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has reported 11,844 confirmed cases and 333 deaths. Additionally, 3,696 people have been treated and discharged successfully. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected over 100 countries across the world. Over 6 million people have been affected, and the number of deaths has exceeded 300,000 as at the 6th of June 2020.
As Nigeria’s Public Health Institute, NCDC continues to work alongside other agencies under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Health, in leading the public health response to the outbreak. In addition, the agency has played a key role in the multi-sectoral response, within the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF-COVID-19), established by President Muhammadu Buhari.
One hundred days after the first case, we remember all Nigerians who have passed away from the disease. We commiserate with their families and friends who have had to deal with the difficulty of losing loved ones at this time.
To ensure a well-coordinated emergency response, NCDC activated a Level 3 Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) on the 27th of February 2020. Prior to this, the National EOC was in alert mode; monitoring the spread in other countries, carrying out risk assessments and strengthening Nigeria’s preparedness. During this time, NCDC developed technical guidelines, response plans and trained health workers across the country. The National EOC includes representatives from the Federal Ministry of Health, other sister agencies and partners.
Prior to the confirmation of the first case, NCDC supported four laboratories within its molecular laboratory network to activate testing for COVID-19. Since then, the number of laboratories has increased to 30, with a combined minimum capacity of 10,000 tests daily. The goal is to expand to at least 10 more laboratories by the end of June, leveraging on Gene-Xpert capacity for Tuberculosis diagnosis.
The safety of health workers has been at the forefront of Nigeria’s response strategy to COVID-19. Since the first case was confirmed, NCDC has supported the training of 13,000 health workers in infection prevention and control (IPC) as well as case management. In collaboration with the Departments of Hospital Services and Food and Drugs of the Federal Ministry of Health, NCDC has also ensured that health workers are provided with the required personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce the risk of health workers’ infection.
As part of its mandate, NCDC has provided support to all states in Nigeria. Over the last three years, in preparedness for major outbreaks, the agency supported the establishment of State Public Health Emergency Operations Centres in 23 of the 30 states in Nigeria, without polio or public health EOCs. These EOCs have served as the coordination hub at the state level since the first case was confirmed in Nigeria. The NCDC has deployed its highest number of rapid response teams – with 37 teams across 34 states and the FCT. The extent of this response has been supported by the deployment of additional surge teams from the Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (NFELTP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC). NCDC continues to support every State with medical supplies, transportation of samples, training of health workers, risk communications and other response activities.
The NCDC launched the #TakeResponsibility campaign which has formed the cornerstone of public health messaging. This is done by leveraging on social media, mainstream media and other avenues to encourage Nigerians to take responsibility for protecting themselves and loved ones and preventing the spread of COVID-19. Over 150 jingles currently air on radio and television, reaching communities across the country. With the support of Nigeria’s telecommunication companies, over 100 million text messages have been sent out since February 2020 reminding Nigerians about measures that can be taken to protect themselves from COVID-19. The NCDC continues to work closely with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, as well as the National Orientation Agency to educate Nigerians on how to protect themselves.
A key strength of Nigeria’s response has been the strong collaboration among Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, as well as with partners. As part of the global and regional response, NCDC has received guidance and support from WHO, Africa Centres for Disease Control and the West African Health Organisation.
The response to the pandemic has not been without challenges – global competition for access to reagents and medical supplies limited the initial testing capacity of the molecular laboratories. Today, the Presidential Task Force paid a visit to the National Reference Laboratory in Gaduwa, Abuja, in recognition of the role the apex laboratory is playing in response to the pandemic. Strengthening laboratory capacity nationwide and increasing access to testing is a major priority for Nigeria’s response, in the coming months. The NCDC continues to work with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Medical Laboratory and Science Council of Nigeria and other partners to carry out laboratory-related research and validation, as Nigeria scales up its testing capacity.
Since the first confirmed case was reported one hundred days ago, several health workers have been at the forefront. We remain grateful to State Task Forces, Emergency Operations Centres, Rapid Response Teams, laboratory scientists and all health workers who continue to work very hard for national health security.
The NCDC remains committed to working under the supervision of our parent Ministry, the Federal Ministry of Health, and in collaboration with other Ministries, Departments and Agencies through the PTF, to scale up Nigeria’s response. Our strategy is to ensure more people are tested, contacts are traced early to prevent further spread and confirmed cases are treated.
In the absence of a vaccine, Nigeria and the rest of the world must depend on public health, social measures and supportive management of confirmed cases. We urge all Nigerians to take individual and collective responsibility by adhering to public health advice such as;
• Frequent hand hygiene through hand washing or use of alcohol-based sanitiser.
• Use of face mask in public places
• Observing physical distancing of at least two metres