By Chijioke Okoronkwo
Abuja, Sept. 17, 2020 The National Economic Council (NEC) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), have agreed to further strengthen COVID-19 response across the states.
NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, virtually briefed State House correspondents after the virtual NEC meeting presided over by Vice Presdient, Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday.
The virtual meeting was anchored from the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Ihekweazu said the meeting was an opportunity to brief the governors on the state of the pandemic in their various states as they had done well in health security, preventing and detecting new cases among other areas.
“We agreed on several measures to strengthen the response further; one of this was to set up fixed sample collection sites in all the states.
“So that going beyond the outbreak response, there will be fixed sample collection sites where people can go to when they think they have COVID-19; mostly likely within the hospital premises and have access to testing.
“This will make it a lot easier for people to walk in and request a test.’’
He said that members acknowledged the increase in staff capacity among healthcare workers on infection prevention and control.
The director-general said that the governors were briefed on access to personal protective equipment, reagents commodities and the maintenance of a supply chain to all the states in Nigeria.
Ihekweazu said that the governors also expressed satisfaction with the work NCDC and the Federal Ministry of Health had done.
He said that the impact of the pandemic on other healthcare services was also discussed.
“At the peak of the outbreak, we saw a reduction to access to other healthcare services—immunisation services, family planning, cancer care, routine health services all went down.
“So, over the last month, we have seen a pick up on this services; we will continue to encourage people to come forward for their health services; doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, lab scientists have all been trained and retrained on how to protect themselves and how to protect their patients.
“We noted a stablising of the pandemic across the country; this is a good sign; but also noted that with the reopening of the aviation industry.
“With the reopening of Airports, potential reopening of schools, we will likely have a resurgence of case; so, we have to be prepared for this and we have to mitigate the impact of this.
“We cannot lock the economy down again; so, we have to find a way to strength the use of the measures that we have; and this is how will work collaboratively with the states to make sure that we are able to do this together.’’
According to him, it is no longer going to be government led response.
He said it had to be a response driven from the bottom-up, from users, individuals and organisations.
Ihekweazu said that the vice president, who is the chairman of NEC, and the Minister of Health warned against complacency.
“We must not look at the curve and think we have come out of this; this virus will remain with us unit we have a vaccine and until we have distributed that vaccine across the country.
“Until we get to that situation, we have to keep doing the work that we are doing.
“We all agreed that maintaining health security will remain at the centre of the work at every state;
“So, every state government agreed to strengthen their state’s epidemiologist team, strengthen their public health department in order to focus on the response while we reopen the economy.
“So, we have to do both things in parallel; so, every member of NEC committed to doing both; one, strengthen the public health response while reopening the economy,’’ he said.