He argued that “we live it in a context where viruses spread, and can only start talking about any state or community being disease-free when we have an effective tool to fight that disease, and that is when we have a vaccine.”
This comes as the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19 stated that the declaration of Nigeria as polio-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO) was indicative that the most populous black nation could overcome the novel coronavirus and other infectious ailments.
Speaking during the daily briefing of the task force in Abuja, Ihekweazu insisted that “we cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of the country”, stressing that “even New Zealand that is an island started having new cases after a period of not having any.”
He asserted: “Right now, no state is COVID-19 free. That is why we have to keep testing people. That is why prevention is better than cure. If you cannot prevent, you detect. That is why we need to scale up our lab testing.”
Ihekweazu noted that the PTF team, made up of NCDC and the WHO representative, visited Plateau, Edo, Lagos and Akwa Ibom to assess their preparedness and control, adding that they had worked very hard to help every state grow its capacity.
He deplored the flagrant disobedience to the COVID-19 protocols by Nigerians.
Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, reiterated the restriction on inter-state travels.
Lamenting that the people were not taking the pandemic serious enough, he added that the community transmission of the sickness was on the rise.
Aliyu then canvassed increased testing in the states, stating: “There is no shame in having positive results in your state. It is much better to know the level of COVID-19 infection in your state, as denial will only make the issue more difficult and will put both the citizens and health workers at risk.”
In his remarks, the task force’s chairman, Boss Mustapha, said, “our failure to take responsibility threatens the gains we have recorded, which is not good for our large population.”
However, the NCDC has unveiled a brand new Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine procured from the £661,000 UKAid funding commitment that the British government made to the Nigerian branch of WHO this year.
The facility, which is the most accurate laboratory method for detecting, tracking and studying the coronavirus, is to enhance the nation’s capacity to carry out at least 3,000 tests daily.
The machine was presented to Ihekweazu and the Immunisation Team Lead and current Officer-in-Charge of WHO Nigeria, Dr. Fiona Braka, at the Central Public Health Laboratory (CPHL), a campus of the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, in Lagos on Sunday.
According to the Press & Public Affairs Officer of the British Commission in Lagos, Ndidiamaka Eze, the UK government and the Federal Government had been “collaborating closely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria since January 2020.”