Director General, NCDC Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu

Francis Ezem

The National Centre for Disease Control NCDC has warned that the country would witness an increase in the number of persons affected by the novel Coronavirus, also called the COVID-19, in the next coming weeks and months. This may partly come on the heels of the decision of the agency to embark on an aggressive testing of more persons in order to meet its projected testing of over two million persons in the next three months.

Nigeria had Thursday, recorded 204 new cases of the virus, which is the highest, reported in a day since the NCDC started compiling the pandemic data in February, bringing the country’s total infections to 1,932. According to a tweet by the NCDC, of the new cases, 80 are in Kano, 45 are in Lagos, while 12 are in Gombe.

The NCDC also said that the decision of the Federal Government to opt for a gradual relaxing of the lockdown in Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory FCT, Abuja was a very painful but unavoidable one to prevent other national emergencies.

Director General of the centre, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who spoke on an interview monitored on Arise News Hour, however assured that despite the expected rise in cases of the virus, over 95-98 percent of such persons would survive the ailment.

He noted that the centre in conjunction with the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Boss Mustafa, advised the Federal Government on the need to adopt a gradual easing of the lockdown in order to forestall other national emergencies in the country.

According to him, apart from economic considerations, the government also took other aspects of the country’s national life into cognisance including health, security, insisting that relaxing the lockdown was a very difficult but desirable decision to safeguard other aspects of national life.

“There were reports of pregnant women, hypertensive patients not being able to access treatment because of the lockdown. We were practically meeting every hour, reviewing situations and such happenings and at the end, we arrived at the decision that though this is painful, it remained the best option for the country at that material time given the prevailing circumstances.

“Let me also tell you, coronavirus has for now come to stay with us and so we should prepare our mindsets to live with it, we have to change the ways we do things and live our lives. If I am a taxi driver for instance, I would have to ask myself how many passengers do I need to carry so that I will maintain social distance and protect myself?”, he said.

He also noted that the approaches towards curtailing the spread of the virus, which he described as global, having been approved by the World Health Organisation WHO, and have been uniform across most countries of the word, most of which started with restriction of movement with little modifications to suit individual nation’s peculiar needs like it is being done in Nigeria.

On the claims by some people that they have developed both herbal and orthodox cure for the virus, the DG noted that by the virtue of the training he had as a medical practitioner, such claims should be subjected to scientific tests and trial and only when they consistently give the same result after several trials and not just one isolated trial that one could say that such claims are valid.

While insisting that it would be his utmost joy that a homegrown solution is found to the virus, he however disclosed that there have been tremendous success towards finding a cure to the virus not only in Nigeria but across the globe, noting that the centre would continue to work with its partners, the WHO, the United States of America, other global bodies and even research institutes in the country to find a cure to the virus.

On the statements credited to Governors Ben Ayade of Cross River and Bala Mohammed of Bauchi States, in which the latter was said to have approved the use of Chloroquine to treat the virus, the NCDC-boss called for caution, warning that there is no proof yet that Chloroquine can cure the virus but that it had been used as a trial drug in certain cases, which does not make it proven cure.

He urged governments and agencies at all levels to collaborate with the NCDC towards curtailing the spread of the virus and ultimately finding a cure, arguing that it is a global challenge, which requires that all hands must be on deck.