News Investigators/ The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says it has taken steps to improve capacity for efficiency during gradual easing of lockdown induced by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The NCDC Director-General, Chikwe Ihekweazu, outlined the steps in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Abuja.
He also outlined steps to be taken by Nigerians during the relaxation of the restrictions.
Mr. Ihekweazu said that the NCDC had in the last four weeks strengthened its capacity to confirm cases by expanding to 18 laboratories.
He added that the agency supported states to engage more resources for contact tracing, and ramped up its communications.
Ihekweazu also said that more states had established and expanded treatment centres for management of cases.
This, he said, aligned with the country’s strategy to test cases quickly, isolate and treat confirmed cases to recovery, identify and trace contacts to reduce the risk of further spread.
Ihekweazu, however, acknowledged the challenges of public health system in the country.
“The reality is, for a while, we have under-invested in public health in Nigeria.
“As we re-invest heavily, let’s get prepared as a nation to adhere to all preventive measures, so that we will not overwhelm our health system.
“The easing of the lockdown should not be seen as going back to status quo.
“This will be a new normal with the mandatory implementation of several measures to keep Nigerians safe,” he said.
He thanked Nigerians for sacrifices made during almost five weeks of lockdown.
He advised member of the public to take necessary precautions to prevent further transmission of the virus.
According to him, as Nigeria goes into gradual easing of lockdown, there is need to limit face-to-face contacts as the best way to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
“Physical distancing means keeping a space between yourself and other people outside of your home.
“To practice physical distancing, stay at least six feet from other people, do not gather in groups, stay out of crowded places.
He noted that people could spread the virus before knowing they were sick, saying that it was important to stay away from others even if they had no symptoms.
“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touch his own mouth, nose or eyes,” he said.
He said that, although the risk of severe illness may be different in some people, anyone could get and spread COVID-19.
Mr. Ihekweazu said that Nigerians had a role to play in slowing the spread and protecting themselves, their families and communities.
He urged essential workers, who would resume on the May 4, according to the regulations provided by President Muhammadu Buhari, to ensure strict adherence to directives.
“To prevent infection and reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19, please follow basic hand and respiratory hygiene measures.
“Employees should wash their hands, before leaving home, on arrival at their places of employment, after using the toilet, before food preparation and before eating any food, including snacks or before leaving their places of employment,” he said.
Mr. Ihekweazu called on employers to promote thorough and frequent handwashing with soap and water for, at least, 20 seconds.
He added that employers should make available alcohol sanitisers in office and business premises, especially at all entrances.
“Encourage employees to cover their noses and mouths with tissue when coughing or sneezing.
“Used tissue should immediately be disposed in a covered bin followed by washing of hands. Alternatively, sneeze or cough into a bent elbow if no tissue is available.
“Ensure provision of bins in offices and business premises. Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands to avoid transfer of the virus from surfaces, into eyes or nose.
“Display signage in your office or business premises, reminding staff and visitors to maintain good and respiratory hygiene.
“Employers who feel unwell should stay at home and should not attend any public gatherings. If symptoms akin to COVID-19 develop, call NCDC on 0800 970 00010,” he advised.
The director-general said that offices and business premises should be cleaned and disinfected daily, especially frequently touched surfaces such as tables, door handles, countertops, computers, light and air conditioner switches.