Monday, March 30, 2020
The director general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, says asymptomatic politicians have been allowed to test for coronavirus (COVID-19) because the agency has not been strict enough with its guidelines.
Nigeria has confirmed a total of 111 cases of coronavirus in 12 states across the country, with around 2,000 tests conducted as of Monday, March 30, 2020.
Many people have expressed dismay at Nigeria’s low testing numbers, and this concern has been worsened by the fact that a lot of public officials have been tested even though they were not showing symptoms, a violation of the NCDC’s own guidelines.
According to the NCDC, you can only qualify to be tested (for free) if you meet the agency’s national case definition for COVID-19.
The national case definition is any person (including severely ill patients) presenting with fever, cough or difficulty in breathing AND who within 14 days before the onset of illness had any of the following exposures: history of travel to and more than 24 hours transit through any high-risk country with widespread community transmission of SARS-CoV-2; close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19; exposure to a healthcare facility where COVID-19 case(s) have been reported.
Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, and Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, have tested positive, both without showing symptoms.
Many other governors and public officials who didn’t meet the NCDC’s testing guidelines have similarly been screened with many testing negative, leading to public outcry that influential people are being favoured with scarce resources at the expense of regular people that may need the testing kits more.
While speaking during a Channel TV interview
on Monday, Ihekweazu said it’s hard for healthcare professionals on the frontlines to reject doing a test, noting that many Nigerians, including regular people, have made similar demands to be tested.
“We’ve had to lower the bar in the beginning because the demand was so high and there was a lot of anxiety and fear; so we were not as strict over the last few days in applying these criteria but we have to now.
“What we don’t want is someone that is infectious infecting others because they couldn’t get tested and brought into care. It’s a price to be paid by doing these things,” he said.
The NCDC boss said the agency has now come up with new case definitions that will be applied much more strictly to ensure that only people that need to be tested will be entertained.
“I want Nigerians to understand that when you clog up the system by testing those that are well, those that need it don’t get tested.
“We’re not doing the country a favour because those people that need it, that may be infectious, are out there infecting others and this cycle will continue,” he warned.
He begged Nigerians to continue to work with the agency in its fight against the spread of the coronavirus disease in the country.