By Henry Gabriel
About 2,000 people are to be tested daily in Kano state for Coronavirus, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has said.
According to the task force, the massive testing will commence this week.
Even though there was no specific date fixed for the commencement of the massive testing, the Taskforce has also urged the House of Representatives to immediately amend the Quarantine Act, 2004 in order for the law to be in tune with the present realities.
Chairman of PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, stated this when he addressed members of the House of Representatives at the resumption of plenary on Tuesday in Abuja.
Mustapha noted that Kano was fast becoming the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in the North, a development that necessitated President Muhammadu Buhari’s “specific directives” on the state in his April 27, 2020 broadcast.
He added that the PTF has been working closely with the Kano State government and key stakeholders to identify the issues and seek immediate solutions.
He, therefore, pointed out that based on PTF’s assessment, some specific additional measures have been taken in Kano in order to stem the tide of COVID-19 including expanding the state’s testing capacity to 2,000 by providing new diagnosis laboratories.
“Handed over a new Diagnosis Lab by 54Gene, supported by Dangote Foundation on Sunday 3rd May, 2020;
“Increased the testing capacity by 400 tests per day. Preparing to get another lab supported by the eHealth Africa for introduction into service;
“Two government labs in AKTH and BUK are also working. By end of this week Kano will have a capacity to test 2000/day,” Mustapha told the federal lawmakers.
He identified other measures taken to include the two-week total lockdown imposed on the state by President Buhari, manpower support to the state, deployment of equipment, palliatives delivery to the state, provision of treatment centers and strengthening the state’s response structure.
“We have deployed a technical team of 41 staff from NCDC supported by 17 staff from WHO to provide technical assistance to the State Emergency Operations Centre (SEOC). A team of clinicians and public health experts under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Health is also in Kano to provide training on case management and strengthen the capacity of the State to handle emergencies.
“A key weakness of the Kano COVID-19 response is the lack of adequate manpower for surveillance and contact tracing. The PTF has mobilised resources from across the health sector including multilaterals, bilaterals, MDAs and the private sector to push through an accelerated expansion of the rapid response teams (RRTs) from 21 to 50.
“This required the provision of 30 additional vehicles from INEC and 15 ambulances from the PTF and private sector. A further 10 hilux vehicles and 10 ambulances have also been pledged by the private sector.
“Working with partners, we are establishing at least one sample collection centre and two facilitators per LGA. In addition to a 7-day motorised campaign across major urban areas in Kano. We have mobilised about 3300 informants through the WHO/polio programme for house-to-house search and reporting of suspected cases.
The Federal government will in due course announce significant additional material and technical resources to complement the State government’s efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic in Kano,” the PTF chairman said
Mustapha further told the lawmakers that the being activities carried out by the PTF are applicable nationwide, adding that more emphasis has been placed on the epicenters where community spread has commenced with a threat to family transmission on the increase.
He also stated that the PTF was working in collaboration with other structures set up by the President to ensure that there is a well-rounded national response.
“The post-COVID-19 era is going to be a challenging one. As a country, we need to prepare for what will be major changes to our long-term social interactions, events, personal contacts and economic prospects.
“Just as important is the need to provide a strengthened legislative framework for dealing with future public health emergencies in a changing world. The current Quarantine Act needs to be updated due to the unique nature of emerging infections such as COVID-19, the dramatic impact this has on sectors beyond just health and the urgency required to deal with such pandemic,” Mustapha added.