....Stresses need for Strict Adherence to Safety Protocols
The Lagos State Government has once again stressed the need for residents to strictly adhere to precautionary measures against COVID-19 infection transmission to prevent a recurrence of the situation that led to the lock down of the economy. A resurgence of cases in Lagos may lead to the reversal of the strategically calculated measures put in place by the Government to open up the economy.
Speaking on effort being made by the State Government to sustain the gains that have been made to control the global pandemic in Lagos State, Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi explained that many countries and cities are experiencing a second and third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with a resultant spike in the number of cases and fatalities.
He noted that many of the affected countries around the world have found it necessary to impose a second lockdown and restriction of movements, which have significant socioeconomic and security consequences.
"The first wave of Coronavirus started in December 2019 and swept through an unprepared world. The first case of COVID-19 in Nigeria was recorded in Lagos on the 27th of February 2020. Lagos has since become the epicentre of the outbreak in Nigeria with a record of 21,107 confirmed cases and 212 deaths from the virus till date.
"The containment measures put in place at the time included COVID-19 testing, isolation and treatment, surveillance, total shutdown of the State for about 12 weeks and partial shutdown of social, economic and academic activities for over four months", Abayomi recalled.
The Commissioner however warned that the continuous flagrant disregard of safety guidelines by citizens heralds' danger and may lead to a second wave of new infections in Lagos. He advised citizens against unnecessary movement and social gatherings, unless it is absolutely necessary stressing that travelling into and outside the Country should be discouraged except when absolutely necessary.
Worried that the COVID-19 induced culture of face mask use, social distancing and hand hygiene is gradually waning amongst citizens, Abayomi calls for the reinforcement of the adoption and adherence of various preventive measures put in place by the State government to tackle the disease.
"The erroneous belief that COVID-19 has been conquered and is no more in Nigeria should be discarded. Based on our data, this assumption is invalid. It creates a false sense of security amongst the citizens causing many to abandon the use of face masks and other safety measures and protocols put in place by the Government", the Commissioner said. He added: "Though we have reached our peak as predicted and are now experiencing a decline in the number of positive cases, this is not a reason to conclude that all is over. COVID-19 is still very much with us as evidenced in the number of cases being recorded in the community daily and occasional deaths from severe complications.
"The reason for the decline in COVID-19 cases in Lagos is attributable to a number of factors, including public adherence to safety regulations of physical and social distancing, hand hygiene, use of face mask in public places, expanded testing strategy and contact tracing, among others, and this is the more reason why citizens should not relent in this regard if we don't want to experience a second wave of the disease".
While noting that the widespread increasing COVID-19 testing capacity of the State has been very impactful in reducing community transmission, Abayomi urges citizens who fall within the case definition of COVID-19 infection to visit any of the dedicated COVID-19 sample collection sites in their local government or our public laboratories to get a test done free of charge.
He noted that early diagnosis allows for prompt and adequate management and care, resulting in the prevention of transmission to other citizens; particularly, vulnerable and elderly members of society who may have underlying predispositions.
The Commissioner emphasized that COVID-19 testing for other purposes, such as traveling or as a requirement for professional reasons which are not part of the public health response, can be done at any of the 10 Government accredited private laboratories.
"It is important to put in place the right understanding for the reasons to request and where to source a COVID-19 test. If you are displaying symptoms within the case definition of COVID-19, you can get a free test at any of the four designated COVID-19 public health laboratories or get a sample taken at any of our LCDA sample collection centers; however, if you require testing for any other reason such as occupational related requirements or simple curiosity, then you may visit any of the 10 accredited private laboratories or book a test online on the portal covid19.lagosstatebiobank.com or the National portal specific for travelers on nitp.ncdc.gov.ng", he said.
Abayomi explained that Lagos State has a quality assurance process for every test that is done within its boundaries noting that the importance of overseeing the process cannot be overemphasized because COVID-19 is a public health care emergency.
"Therefore, it is important that we continually oversee this process because COVID-19 is a public health threat and the process of ensuring that people get tested as at when they need it and how it is being done is strictly controlled", he said.
"You would recall that we recently suspended COVID-19 testing in one of the 10 accredited private laboratories due to some concerns around quality assurance. The laboratory has gone through a revalidation process and has now been allowed to recommence testing. This is part of the supportive oversight functions of the Government through the Lagos State Biobank", Abayomi added.
The Commissioner explained that the State is also providing free of charge all social amenities, such as the EKOTELEMED service, the delivery of COVID-19 Care packs, sample collection logistics as well as monitoring and validation of all laboratories and isolation centers. "We are doing everything required to maintain a high quality of testing and care within the boundaries of Lagos State", Abayomi stated.
Abayomi further added that the Lagos State Governor and Incident Commander, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, is very committed to protecting the lives and livelihood of its residents as the State continue to permit gradual return to socioeconomic activities. He noted that government would continue to ensure that testing and isolation, if required, continue to be accessible and free to citizens as required.
"This is not the time to relax our guards, if you have any reason to believe you fit the case definition for COVID-19 or you have any questions, please call the EKOTELEMED toll free line on 08000356633 to speak with any of our medical personnel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week", the Commissioner said.