The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) on Friday spoke against the decision of the Federal Government to relax the stay-at-home order.
The umbrella body of Nigerian doctors described the move as premature and can potentially expose more Nigerians to the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.
The association warns that the country could experience a bounce in the number of coronavirus cases as health workers are grappling with numerous challenges like lack for bed spaces in epicenters of the pandemic, especially Lagos, unraveled cause(s) of deaths in Kano State and delay in the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) to public and private hospitals, among others.
President Muhammadu Buhari had declared a two-week lockdown of Lagos and Ogun states as well as the Federal Capital Teritory (FCT) Abuja during his first address on the pandemic on March 29, 2020, to enable the country tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
On April 12, the President addressed the nation again on the same issue, announcing an extension of the lockdown by two weeks.
However, on April 27, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari approved a ‘phased and gradual easing’ of lockdown measures in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun when he extended the lockdown by one week.
The relaxation of lockdown is billed to take effect from Monday, May 4, 2020.
At the time of filing this report, there were 2,170 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country with 238 new cases recorded nationwide yesterday.
The number of discharged patients was 319 while the number of deaths stood at 58.
The President of the NMA, Dr. Francis Faduyile, in a statement in Abuja, said: “As the incidence of the COVID-19 hits the 2000th mark by this weekend, just seven days after hitting the 1000th mark, it figuratively tilts the epidemiological curve towards an upward spike.
“More so, the revelation by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that the nation lacks bed spaces in Lagos worsens this frightening scenario.
“The confusing situation in Kano is neither unraveled nor resolved. At the same time, some states continue to live in the delusion of zero COVID-19 incidences.
“The easing of the lockdown even in phases is very premature. Nigeria should learn from her neighbour Ghana where the same action produced 100 per cent increase in infection rate in just a week.
“Instead, the association believes that agencies of state should intensify efforts through mass enlightenment campaigns beyond current attempts to explain the dangers inherent in easing the lockdown prematurely in the face of rising infection rates; and also for the palliatives to reach the needy.”
The NMA condemned the pronouncement of the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Muhammed, mandating the use of chloroquine and Zithromax to treat coronavirus patients in the state.
It describes such approach as improper and unethical.
“The Association bemoans the rather meddlesome pronouncements by some state actors on the management protocols for COVID-19 in the country.
“In particular, we view the directive by the Bauchi State Governor for the use of a specific drug in the treatment of positive cases as improper and unethical.
“Medical doctors have the prerogative to use whatever treatment regimen they consider best based on evidence and presentation of the patients.
“We, therefore, implore our leaders to desist from distracting our time tested doctors and health workers.
“Instead, they should encourage them through the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), incentives and communication tools to interact with peers within the country and overseas as it is customary in the world of medical science to arrive at the best possible interventions for their patients,” he said.
He added: “With 113 healthcare workers in Nigeria reportedly infected with COVID-19 in the course of discharging their duties, NMA reminds all doctors and healthcare workers not to let down their guards in adhering strictly to infection prevention and control protocols.
“The Association re-emphasises that all healthcare workers should wear the proper PPE before attending to any patient as every patient is a potential COVID-19 patient.
“Furthermore, the Association notes with dismay the delay in distributing the available PPE to all public and private hospitals to prevent, detect and treat more patients as it ought to, and pray that the burgeoning bureaucracy is not a clog in the wheels of progress in this regard.
“We wish that the ‘Panel of Experts’ recently inaugurated by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) is empowered to immediately commence their work of thinking, analysing, synthesising, collating and disseminating the most relevant medical information that informs the best management of our COVID-19 patients.
“Science and knowledge must inform policies and politics. We appreciate the FMOH for finally listening to the plea we made several weeks ago.
“We wish the nation and our people the safety and protection from COVID-19 while praying the authorities to continue to carry out all necessary and more invigorated knowledge-based interventions towards a zero COVID-19 Nigeria.”