States yet to have coronavirus pandemic cases should brace for it, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has warned.

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 also on Thursday said community transmission of the virus is now prevalent, caused mainly by people making inter-state travels.

National coordinator of PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said: “We have noticed that community spread is now being traced to people traveling across state borders. We need to try and restrict our movement in order to stop the spread of this  Coronavirus infection, this is particularly pertinent with regards to the news of people being smuggled in trucks out of Lagos.”

The virus has spread to 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) – 17 states are so far free of the virus since the index case in the country – the Italian who travelled from Milan – on February 27.

The 14 COVID-19-free states include: Bayelsa, Cross River, Imo, Ebonyi, Abia, Jigawa and  Zamfara. The others are Kebbi, Sokoto, Adamawa, Taraba, Yobe, Borno, Gombe, Kogi, Nasarawa and Plateau.

The NCDC Director-General Chikwe Ihekweazu, said: “Now, COVID-19 is at the moment in many states but it will grow to every state in Nigeria, there is no reason why it won’t – it is a respiratory virus.

“It will circulate in Nigeria, absolutely, there is  no doubt about  it.”

Ihekweazu, who spoke on a morning belt television programme on Thursday, pointed out that the first response to the COVID-19 pandemic was primarily the function of states and local government areas.

He said: “They actually own the response at the state and local levels, and we need all of them now. We really have to face the reality that this is an outbreak, this is a virus.

“Our responsibility as a country is to prepare more, to be able to detect, isolate, treat, list contacts and stop the transmission.”

He also explained that  the country was not shutdown during the Lassa fever outbreak because it (fever) is not on the same scale as the Coronavirus pandemic.

“We have responded to Lassa Fever smoothly and nobody shut down the country because it wasn’t necessary, the response was fairly efficient,” the NCDC boss said.

Ihekweazu added that since the index case was reported, the centre had been  “testing a lot more,’’ a development has led to the rising number of  positive COVID-19  cases in the country.

He  said the health agency had activated a testing centre in Kano state to further  boost its testing capacity.

The NCDC chief said: “We just activated the laboratory  in Kano a few days ago. So, these are the results of the increased testing capacity that we are providing for the country.

“The tests are fairly robust; I can’t say 100 per cent but they are as close to that as possible. That explains why we have been recording higher number of positive cases every single day.”

Ihekweazu also  said at the  briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF)  in Abuja,   that  the NCDC had carried out about 7,000 tests.

“With respect to the number of persons that have been tested, so far, we are just around 7,000.

“We want to release the numbers and  even give a breakdown of what we tested in every laboratory within the network. We have agreed every Friday by 6pm to announce the number of tests for that week.”

The NCDC, he added, would soon deploy GeneXpert, a facility for Tuberculosis and HIV screening   for COVID-19 testing.

On the need to make  universities a part of the body of research on COVID-19, Ihekweazu said: “Nobody should wait to be carried along in this work; everybody should come forward and bring out their ideas.”

Also at the briefing, Dr Aliyu  expressed worry   over the escalation of community transmission of the disease by those moving across state borders.

Aliyu appealed to Nigerians to take the  Federal Government and some states’ lockdown orders seriously.

He said the PTF would soon come out with standard guidelines, which would derive from global and World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, for the equipment and protective gears expected to be provided for the ongoing battle.

He encouraged COVID-19 survivors to be bold to come out with their story in order  to help crush the rising public stigma and discrimination, which have been noticed to be a major impediment to  the fight against the disease.

<<The Nation>>