Nigerian Doctors’ Statement: “Easing the Lockdown is Premature”

Nigerian Doctors’ Statement: “Easing the Lockdown is Premature”

Four days after the presidential address that announced that the lockdown will be eased to allow skeletal commercial activities, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has issued a statement expressing concern over the government’s decision to lift the stay-at-home order.

In a memo dated May 1st, 2020 that was signed by the president of the Association, Dr. Francis A Faduyile and the Secretary, Dr. Olumuyiwa P. Odusote, the Medical Body decried the decision to lift the lockdown, calling it premature.

Below is the statement.

“As the incidence of the COVID-19 hits 2000th mark by this weekend just seven days after hitting 1000th mark, it figuratively tilts the epidemiological curve towards an upward spike. More so, the revelation by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) that the nation lacks for bed spaces in Lagos worsens this frightening scenario. The confusing situation in Kano is neither unraveled nor resolved. At the same time, some States continue to live in the delusion of zero COVID-19 incidences.

At the point we are today, the Nigerian Medical Association unequivocally states as follows:

The easing of the lockdown even in phase is very premature. Nigeria should learn from her neighbor Ghana where the same action produced a 100% increase in infection rate in just a week. Instead, the Association believes that agencies of state should intensify efforts through mass enlightenment campaigns beyond current attempts to explain the dangers inherent in easing the lockdown prematurely in the face of rising infection rates; and also for the palliatives to reach the needy. We appreciate the efforts of state and non-state operators on their efforts so far, but urge them to do more.

The Association bemoans the rather meddlesome pronouncements by some state actors on the management protocols for COVID-19 in the country. In particular , we view the directive by the Bauchi State Governor for the use of a specific drug in the treatment of positive cases as improper and unethical. Medical doctors have the prerogative to use whatever treatment regimen they… therefore, implore our leaders to desist from distracting our time tested doctors and health workers. Instead, they should encourage them through the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), incentives and communication tools to interact with peers within the country and overseas as it is customary in the world of medical science to arrive at the best possible intervention for their patients.

With 113 Healthcare Workers (HCWs) in Nigeria reportedly infected with COVID-19 in the course of discharging their duties, NMA reminds all doctors and HCWs not to let down their guards in adhering strictly to Infection Prevention and Control Protocols. The Association re-emphasizes that all HCWs should wear proper PPE before attending to any patient as every patient is a potential COVID-19 patient. Furthermore, the Association notes with dismay the delay in distributing the available PPE to all public and private hospitals to prevent, detect and treat more patients as it ought to, and pray that the burgeoning bureaucracy is not a clog to the wheels of progress in this regard.

We wish that the “panel of experts” recently inaugurated by the Federal Ministry of Health is empowered to immediately commence their work of thinking, analyzing, collating and disseminating the most relevant medical information that informs the best management of our COVID-19 patients. Science and knowledge must inform policies and politics. We appreciate the FMOH for finally listening to the plea we made several weeks ago.

We wish the nation and our people the safety and protection from COVID-19 while praying the authorities to continue to carry out all necessary and more invigorated knowledge-based interventions a zero COVID-19 Nigeria.”

Many Nigerians have expressed the same sentiment especially regarding lifting the lockdown, following the news that Ghana’s infection rate increased by over 25% in one day after the West African neighbors relaxed its lockdown. The surge resulting in the infection of over 2,000 people in Ghana has forced the government to reorder a lockdown.

It is seen as a deadly gamble to ease the restrictions when the most affected states in Nigeria lack the capacity to contain the eventual consequences.

Lagos has the highest number of cases in Nigeria with 1006 as of Friday, with many contacts to trace. The director of Nigerian Center for Disease Control Chikwe Ihekweazu said on Wednesday that Lagos has run out of bed space, even though the State MOH has introduced more isolation centers to the existing ones.

“Lagos is the only place where are struggling with bed spaces for now. We will always tell Nigerians the truth, we are struggling with bed spaces for now,” he said.

The Federal Ministry of Health had on Friday, in anticipation of more cases, appealed to Nigerians to donate unoccupied houses to serve as isolation centers. It is believed that there are more people infected than it appears on the record of confirmed cases, but due the testing capacity of Nigeria that falls below par with other African countries, the figures are yet to be uncovered.

South Africa has tested over 207,530 people, followed by Ghana’s 113,497 and Egypt 90,000. Nigeria has conducted only over 13,689 tests so far which is regarded to be too poor for a country of 203 million people.

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