Dr.Chikwe Ihekweazu’s session was an interview with the convener Pastor Poju Oyemade.
QUESTION 1: From what we hear in foreign news media, it appears the mortality rate in Nigeria is very low and our recovery rate seems much higher than some other countries. What will you attribute this to?
He answered, “We are at the beginning of the outbreak globally. We are not sure where we are on our own trajectory at the moment, so it is too early to reach a conclusion around mortality in Nigeria. What we are doing is working very hard, especially on the state level, to make sure that we see as many people infected recover. Nigerians are counting on us not to give up as we have a lot on our hands working to keep people alive.”
QUESTION 2: What will you consider personally as the most difficult challenge in managing the spread of the virus in Nigeria?
To this question, he said “There are challenges around how our healthcare system is constructed, generally. The separation between state and federal. There’ll be a lot of lessons to learn after this around the fragmentation of our health system and how that can be a challenge during an outbreak. There’s a challenge around just the logistics and supply chain issue: how to get things we need into the country, and across the country to the patients and hospitals that need it. There are challenges around our laboratory architecture. We have not paid sufficient attention to building diagnostic architecture across the country. We have failed to do this collectively, both the private and public sector. We need not fragment the responses. During this crisis, we have to stick to one unified response and that’s the responsibility of the NCDC under the leadership of the Ministry of Health.”
QUESTION 3: We have read that WHO is racing to develop a vaccine. Till then, are we going to continue to practice social distancing and wearing masks even when the lockdown is totally lifted. Can going back to our normal lives be guaranteed this year?
He began by saying that the reality is that we are going to live with COVID-19 for the next year at the very least, so we have to think about how to live safely with the virus. Many of the practices such as handwashing, sanitizers, respiratory and general hygiene are good changes and measures to continue to have for a lifetime. We want some of these measures to go on, because not only will they prevent COVID-19, they’ll also prevent so many other diseases from spreading and ultimately lead us into a better future. I understand some of the other limitations will be challenging for us in Nigeria, because we are social people. Please intensify social connections through technology, but strictly adhere to physical distancing measures. The limitation of mass gatherings may be very challenging but we have to rethink how we do things in the short term. It is a sacrifice we will have to make as a country to get over this. The truth is that now is a time to build our country with both personal and collective responsibility.”