COVID-19: How pandemic has helped in developing Nigerian health sector – SGF #Realnews2020Lecture

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By Anayo Ezugwu

DESPITE the challenges of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the Nigerian economy, Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation and chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, says that the pandemic has helped in the development of critical infrastructure in the country. He says that the infrastructure is critical to an improved health system in Nigeria.

In his keynote address at the 8th anniversary lecture of Realnews Magazine and Publications Limited, in Lagos, on Thursday, November 19, Mustapha noted that so far Nigeria has activated 69 molecular laboratories for COVID-19 testing across the country and that 37 new treatment centres and ICUs are being built across the country.

Speakers at the lecture

According to Mustapha, who was represented by Sani Aliyu, national coordinator, PTF, through CACOVID, there has been an unprecedented commitment of resources to public health by the organized private sector. “It is hoped that the linkages created with the private sector through COVID-19 will continue and help to strengthen other parts of the health system. COVID-19 has stimulated local production of face masks and shields, other PPEs, sanitizers, etc. This has helped many SMEs, and if scaled, will contribute to the recovery of the overall national economy,” he said.

Irrespective of the successes recorded in the fight against COVID-19, Mustapha said the country also faced challenges at the peak of pandemic. He said inadequately equipped treatment centres, inadequate critical care equipment and supplies like beds, oxygen and ventilators etc affected the nation at the beginning of the pandemic.

“Despite great efforts towards optimizing laboratory capacity, the sample collection/testing rate remain low in many states. Increase in financial hardships, crime and domestic violence during the lockdown, thus prolonged enforcement was unsustainable.

“Poor response from some State Governments, failure to provide adequate and complementary funds and the required leadership. Some denied/downplayed the existence of the disease in their states at the beginning. Large populations do not believe that COVID-19 is real. Some who believe that it is real have low risk perception resulting in poor adherence to interventions such as use of face masks and physical distancing.”

Participants at the lecture

The SGF alluded to the fact that the pandemic affected many households in the country. Mustapha cited statistics from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, NBS. According to him, out of 1,950 households interviewed by NBS, 85 percent reported increase in the prices of food items, with 51 percent reducing food consumption.

“Also, 42 percent of these households lost their jobs, 38 percent of households with school children report inability to engage the children in any form of learning, 79 percent reported decrease in household income and 26 percent of them could not afford access to medical services,” he said.

On his part, Prof. Chris Bode, Chief Medical Director, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, urged the federal government and indeed African leaders to adopt the resilience approach in fighting COVID-19 and other challenges facing the region. He says that Africa has turned the grim outlook of the virus into one of unbelievable optimism.

In his opening remarks as the chairman of the anniversary lecture, Bode said Africa rose up as one in the fight against COVID-19.  “A year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic started in China and soon spread to Europe and America. Predictions were dire for the developed world as we watched the wildfire spread of this disease and its unmitigated, rising morbidity and mortality figures.

“Even before it was declared a pandemic, the most optimistic outlook for Africa was apocalyptic. Our people rose as one and, in a concerted effort, the like of which we have not witnessed in 60 years, we turned the grim outlook into one of unbelievable optimism, now the object of several studies from other climes. We must harness this resilience and adapt it in confronting other challenges facing the region.

– Nov. 19, 2020 @ 13:15 GMT |

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