Ogun State Government has requested the Federal Ministry of Health to upgrade the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Isolation Centre at Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, to a COVID-19 Diagnostic Centre. This was recently disclosed by Hon. Remmy Hazzan, Special Adviser on Communications to Ogun State Governor. Nigeria’s population was estimated as 200 million people last year. The country presently has 3 COVID-19 diagnostic centres located in Lagos, Irrua and Abuja.
It would be recalled that a 44 year old Italian male was confirmed Nigeria’s first COVID-19 case on the 27th of February, having transversed Lagos and Ogun States for two days. He arrived the country on a Turkish flight from Milan through Istanbul. 16 million people have been quarantined in Italy to prevent further spread. China remains the epicenter of the epidemic.
Nigeria’s capacity for identification and tracking remains poor, due to inadequate infrastructure and database. Around the world, governments are taking responsibility for inadequacies and beefing up containment measures. Nigeria’s preventive measure has been built around viral messages, many of which have been distorted as internet memes.
Hon. Remmy Hazzan disclosed the infected Italian could not be satisfactorily diagnosed in Ogun State because the State has no COVID-19 diagnostic center. Upgrading the state-owned isolation centre therefore provides a quick-win prospect that could be useful in the containment of the epidemic in Nigeria.
Ogun State in Southwestern Nigeria is among the topmost three industrialized States. It borders Lagos to the south, Oyo and Osun States to the north, Ondo to the East and the Republic of Benin to the west. It is home to a very large Chinese community and investments, including Ogun Guangdong Free Trade Zone; in addition to Chinese involvement in Lekki (Lagos) Free Trade Zone.
Nigeria’s 2,417 kilometers international boundary with Niger and Benin remains porous. Activities across the border with Republics of Chad, Cameroun and the regional waters have not been enumerated. Travels between Nigeria and other ECOWAS coastal States is easier and cheaper by sea than using other means of transportation, often requiring no documentation. Government has not disclosed measures addressing these factors in the COVID-19 surveillance strategy; and infections may actually remain undiagnosed or unreported.
Diagnostic Centres are full-service imaging facilities that provide comprehensive diagnostics to ensure highest quality care. Diagnostic tests make it possible to identify the microorganism causing an infectious disease and to perform susceptibility testing to prescribe the most appropriate treatment. They also make it possible to detect non-infectious diseases.
It is our editorial opinion that Ogun State Government should be commended for having the courage to designate its Teaching Hospital as a Diagnostic Centre for the COVID-19 epidemic. Security of lives is a constitution designated responsibility of government, and bio-security is an important component.
It is absolutely important for government to adopt a holistic approach towards the prevention and containment of COVID-19 in Nigeria. More diagnostic centres are required to provide adequate line of support for all isolation centres and reinforce the primary healthcare system.
We also believe the Federal Ministry of Health should promptly oblige Ogun State’s request as anything short of that could undermine National Security. Necessary action would include availing requisite certifications, and facilitating finance, instruments and personnel required for this upgrade. If federal authorities wish to avoid impending crisis, the time to act is now.