COVID-19: Expert warns about impending increase in cases in Nigeria


Former Dean, Faculty of Public Health, Professor Olufunmilayo Fawole has warned of another impending increase in COVID-19 cases in the country, just as she called for public health measures to be put in place following the increase in the infection cases in the last few weeks across Europe.

Fawole, who spoke at the 2021 distinguished alumni lecture of the Ibadan College of Medicine Alumni Association (ICOMAA) Worldwide entitled “COVID-19 Response in Nigeria: Testing, Surveillance and Maintenance of Essential Health Services” said that the increase in the number of cases in the last few weeks invariably have a way of going around the world.

The don stated that cases of COVID-19 are still more than is picked up through surveillance in the country, adding “the cumulative test positivity rate based on our surveillance data is less than 10 per cent, but our serological survey show that as much as 23 per cent of the population has antibodies for the virus for example in Lagos.”

Fawole in an overview of COVID-19 testing across the country said the infection burden continues to be under-detected and decentralisation surveillance at the state and local government levels remain a challenge.

According to her, Nigeria needs to continuously invest in data systems and setting up regional mechanisms for procurement and surveillance validation of test results so that the next outbreak of disease, which is a natural phenomenon, will not meet Nigeria unprepared.

She said key learning from a study that looked at COVID-19 testing, surveillance and essential health services was the importance of Nigeria leveraging its existing system, adopting technology-based solutions and an integrated disease surveillance system in responding well to future outbreaks.

The don added that “we need to strengthen sub-national surveillance teams and capacity; we know that some states are doing well. States like Lagos, Ogun, Kano and FCT are exemplary, but some states were in denial for a long time.

“We need to strengthen and promote public–private-partnership; intensify risk communications so that people will come for testing and will institute prevention measures. Also, we need to strengthen electronic surveillance and roll out rapid diagnostic kits (RDTs), including its domestic production.”

Given that pandemics like COVID-19 ends up causing disruption to essential health services, Professor Fawole said there was the need to develop clear guidelines to promote these essential health services during a crisis and to disseminate such a guideline across all levels.

She said for future pandemic preparedness, essential health services to be prioritised also need to be defined alongside a dedicated resource envelope for emergencies as well as a committee able to maintain these services at all levels of the health system during any crisis.

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