Health experts have flayed the claims by some states to be coronavirus free, saying that this might very well be as a result of deliberate ploys by states officials to either under report their cases or hide the true situation of the coronavirus pandemic in their states.
Currently, nine states in the country have not recorded a single confirmed case of the coronavirus.
The states are – Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Imo, Kogi, Kebbi, Nassarawa, Taraba, and Yobe. 27 states including the FCT have so far recorded at least one confirmed case of the virus.
In a cable TV interview on Friday, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, revealed that some states were yet to submit samples for COVID-19 tests.
He noted that even though the country has increased its capacity for daily testing to 1,500, some states are yet to send in a single sample for testing.
“It is a bit like pretending like the problem does not exist because you are not looking for it. In every state, we expect a certain number of persons to fit the case definition of an acute respiratory infection without an underlying cause.
“If you take away contacts with travellers and with confirmed cases, the third part of our case definition says that anyone with an acute respiratory infection for which there is no underlying cause, should have a sample collected to know whether they have this disease or not.
“So, we expect every state to submit a certain number of samples for testing every day. We have seen that some states have not submitted a single sample,” he said.
The President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Francis Faduyile, disclosed that there is some connivance by states officials not to get certain persons tested.
According to him, “I can tell you that there are some active connivance with some of the States officials not to get the appropriate people tested. I am not saying that it is certain that every state has got COVID-19 patients, but it looks to me that a lot of us are not truthful in our activities.
“For the other states that have not tested positive for COVID-19, I will not say it will be like the case of Kano State, but I have a strong conviction that all is not well with those states that we think don’t have cases.
“For example, I know that there is a small crisis in Akwa Ibom, where I learnt the government agents were insisting on the total number of cases to be tested per day – some five, 10; even in cases where we have more people that have had contacts or and showing some signs.
“I am aware that the state epidemiologist was changed 24 hours ago because the information reaching me shows that he took about 30 plus samples when the state ministry of health leadership was saying he should not take more than 10 samples.
“I think these are some signs where we have people in government not ready to be open for testing. The same has been said about Kogi State, where we have some people alleging that there is some suppression by the state epidemiologist to have some people tested.”
Concerning the use of rapid tests kits, Faduyile added: “On the part of the NMA, we have suggested that our pathologists will validate some of these rapid testing kits. Once it is validated, it should be easier for us to do tests in a much more rapid period and we can do it to a large number of people in a very short period, even if it is not yet to the best.
“It is good for us to do this preliminary test while those who are positive will be sent to do a compulsory molecular testing.”
Also adding his voice, a Professor of Public Health Parasitology and Director of McCarthy Study Centre of National Open University Nigeria, Mba Okoronkwo, said:
“Perhaps, those states have not started testing anybody; that means that they are pretending that they have not received citizens that have returned from elsewhere that should be screened, and reports sent to the NCDC.
“Secondly, some of those who are affected might be hiding and sneaking around. This makes it difficult to identify them. Some of them may have also gone to private hospitals and laboratories and requested anonymity.”
In a phone interview, the Registrar/Secretary General, West African Postgraduate College of Medical Laboratory Science (WAPCMLS), Dr. Godswill Okara, added: “All this while, we have been talking about the need to upscale testing. For the number of states that have not tested positive for COVID-19, it could be that no testing is going on or even the case tracing and tracking is not being undertaken in those states.
“As it stands now, we can’t really and confidently draw any conclusions from the patterns that we are seeing. Initially, the story was that there was no case in Kano State; now, you know as well as I do what the situation is in that state.
“That underscores the emphasis of the World Health Organization (WHO) on testing in the control effort of the outbreak. Unless a country is carrying out sufficient testing at every level of our society, we cannot really draw any conclusion from what we are seeing at the moment.”