Nigeria must improve capacity to test for coronavirus

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Nigeria must improve capacity to test for coronavirus

–Faduyile, NMA President


The Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning on Twitter during the week appealed to US billionaire, Elon Musk, to assist Nigeria with 100 to 500 ventilators for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Following public criticism, the tweet was deleted and the ministry apologised for it, describing it as regrettable. President, Nigerian Medical Association, Dr Francis Faduyile, talks about the issue, state of medical equipment in Nigeria and the fight against COVID-19 pandemic with SIMON UTEBOR

The Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, went on the social media to beg a United States of America billionaire, Elon Musk, for ventilators to tackle COVID-19. What do you think about that?

 

We must realise the situation in Nigeria. Nigeria is a country that produces nothing in terms of medical equipment. Now the medical equipment that is produced is in short supply to even the countries that are producing them. For example, we have seen President Donald Trump directing the GM Motors to stop the assembly of production of cars and be producing ventilators. And these ventilators are needed in a very critical way for the treatment of those who have respiratory difficulty during COVID-19 infection. So if Nigeria cannot get any supply even from countries that are producing because they are in dire need of them by themselves, I think it is not inappropriate if they have or they know anyone who has these ventilators in large quantities to plead with him to give to Nigeria so as to take care of its citizens. I think there is nothing too bad about it.

Nigeria is a big country; why can’t the country get ventilators from other sources instead of begging an individual even though the tweet has been pulled down?

You know that in the last few years, a lot of manufacturing companies actually relocated from Nigeria to neighbouring countries and I can tell you also that Nigeria has never in recent times ventured into manufacturing of medical equipment largely because the budget set for health has been very paltry and that has stunted the growth of health in this country.

So, many of the equipment that should have been hitherto purchased and supplied are not because the carrying capacity of our health system is so weak and there is no company who may want to venture into production that may have a break-even price, so, this is one of the reasons why I think we do not have any company in this country producing any medical equipment. Even for face masks, no company is manufacturing them in Nigeria. If you remember, a plant to manufacture syringes and needles was established in Akwa Ibom State some months ago. I doubt if it is still working in that capacity because if we don’t have stable electricity and raw materials needed to produce in large numbers, it may be difficult to continue production.

How much does ventilators cost that Nigeria cannot purchase it, instead of begging an individual to help us?

It is not that Nigeria cannot afford it; even countries where they are manufactured have demands that are more than the carrying capacities of all their companies. For example, if all the companies that produce ventilators in China, can make 10,000 in a month, hypothetically, and China itself needs 20,000 in a month, it means all the ones that have been produced will be used to service the country. Therefore, if Nigeria had all the money in the world, it might not be able to get any. And that is the problem. In America, they are looking for ventilators anywhere in the world, so there is nowhere you can see ventilators and it is because the companies that are producing them cannot take care of their local needs, let alone demands from other countries.

Are you satisfied with the way COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic is being handled in the country so far?

We need more of public education; many people in the public are still within the state of disbelief or denial or uneducated about COVID-19 in this country and I think it is good for us to ensure that we do that.

Many people believe that the figure being bandied about regarding the number of COVID-19 cases may be false after all becaue many people are not being tested, what is your take on that?

We need more of public education; many people in the public are still within the state of disbelief or denial or uneducated about COVID-19 in this country and I think it is good for us to ensure that we do that.

Many people believe that the figure being bandied about regarding the number of COVID-19 cases may be false after all because many people are not being tested, what is your take on that?

That is the fallout of the last problem I mentioned. Once you cannot test all the people that need to be tested, we may not get the number of infected persons and as I tell you, the number we have may not be representative of the number of positive cases in the country and that is dangerous for the effective containment of the virus in the country.

What can the government do now to ensure that many people do not get infected?

We have stated some things or some basic facts before that in everything, prevention is always better than cure and we must do everything to prevent community transmission within this country otherwise, we are going to have big problems. So, we expect the country to ensure that we lock down effectively. I stay in Abuja and I can tell you that the way we are going about the lockdown is not the most ideal. I can’t blame the people because a lot of people rely on daily income and it will be difficult for them to stay indoors without having palliatives. Secondly, we need to also ensure that we clean up everywhere that may be a trunk of infection so that we do not transmit it. It is important that we do everything to stop community transmission because of our peculiar way of life in Nigeria. I pray it does not get into the communities and I pray it does not get more complicated. 

Lastly, the scientists should talk more about the process of getting treatment in Nigeria because we have observed that most of those infected in the country have more of mild/moderate infection. We just pray that we can look at the things that are making us more resistant to the infection.

 

-Adapted from The Punch Newspapers, Nigeria

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