Confusion and fear held sway yesterday in Kano as the government and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) presented conflicting figures on the coronavirus disease cases in the state.
At 10:25 a.m. on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health announced nine confirmed cases through its official twitter handle. Later at about 11:55 p.m., the state government announced a death case and 11 additional positive cases, putting the total figure of people infected with the virus at 21.
But the NCDC announced 16 confirmed cases and zero case of death on the same Wednesday.The confusion worsened as NCDC did not change the figures on its official COVID-19 control chart by yesterday morning, causing fear for the residents.
Reacting to the development, a consultant community physician with Bayero University, Kano, Prof. Isa Abubakar, who explained the NCDC guidelines on the release of COVID-19 results, alleged that Kano was not complying with the rule.
Abubakar expressed worry that a lack of synergy between the state rapid response task force on COVID-19 and NCDC in the release of result could lead to the breach of public trust.
The don, who is also the director, Centre for Infection Research Centre, Bayero University, warned that non-compliance with NCDC guideline could jeopardise the coordination and effective management of the pandemic in Kano.
“The standard rule as stated by NCDC who are the central coordinating body of COVID-19 is that results of the samples must be sent to NCDC in Abuja for update at the national collation centre.
“They are the central body and authority charged with the responsibility to handle the test and announce the result. Then, at the state level, the commissioner for health is saddled with the responsible of making the announcement public.
“Remember, the ministry’s twitter handle was hacked recently when the figure was four and suddenly it rose to 10. They had to do a lot of damage control, claiming the social media was hacked. This is one of the negative implications of lack of synergy. If the result is sent to the NCDC who are not likely to be prone to cyber fraud, this wouldn’t have occurred,” Abubakar said..
Another medical consultant with Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Dr. Ibrahim Musa, told The Guardian that the manner in which COVID-19 was being managed was devoid of professional input.
The consultant haematology and blood transfusion also maintained that NCDC should have been allowed to take responsibility of announcing the result to avoid contradiction.
“The Kano State government keeps racing ahead to announce contradicting data without recourse to reconciling it with NCDC. This speaks volume of lack of capacity to handle this pandemic.
“So far, it is only in Kano that we have seen such gross display of poor coordination. No wonder there was a fake chart of COVID-19 cases from Kano a few days ago. Local handling of a pandemic is akin to managing multiple insurgencies.
“It is command and control, period! You have to be in full control but there can’t be two commands at the same time. You are not an island, entirely on your own. It’s not a public relations job or social media popularity contest. Let the trained chaps who understand nuances of risk communication do their job. Once you lose public trust, you have worse crisis to deal with. Cynicism and denials will set in,” he explained.
The Chairman of Kano Civil Society Forum, Ibrahim Waiya, also expressed worry about the conflicting figures from various sources about the COVID-19 cases in Kano.
He cautioned that the development could further divide the minds of the locals who are yet to believe the reality of the pandemic.
“We are confused here because we don’t know who or which figures to believe now. Ordinarily NCDC should be left to make an official statement on the result but what I’m seeing here is a show of power and authority, which will not help the common man.
“There should be coordination, synergy, single authorised source to announce results. That will ensure uniformity and defuse any possible doubt. For now, there is doubt and this is bad because we are still trying to convince some categories of our society that this virus is real.”
Efforts to speak with Kano State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Aminu Ibrahim Tsanyawa, failed as the telephone remained switched off and he did not reply text message sent to him.
The residents are worried that with the rapid spread of the virus in a city of over 15 million population, Kano may become a major centre of the global burden, if not well managed.
Meanwhile, the NCDC has said that there are strong indications that COVID-19 would spread to every state in the country hence Nigerians should prepare for its transmission.
The Director-General of the NCDC, Dr.Chikwe Ihekweazu, who appeared on a live TV programme yesterday morning, noted that though there would be more cases, the goal was to build a more efficient public health infrastructure.
Ihekweazu said coronavirus would spread to all states as he compared the disease to Lassa fever.
“We have responded to Lassa fever smoothly and nobody shut down the country because it wasn’t necessary, the response was fairly efficient. Now, COVID-19 is on a much larger scale – at the moment in 22 states but it will grow to every state in Nigeria, there is no reason why it won’t. It is a respiratory virus.”
He said NCDC would continue to be transparent with its operations and emphasised that the virus “will circulate in Nigeria, absolutely no doubt.”
“We just activated the lab 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. We had the highest number of positive cases in a single day.
“Since the onset of the outbreak, we are testing a lot more (and) that is beginning to show. It is only so much we can do from NCDC; we are working with the state governments,” Ihekweazu said.
Already, the disease has affected 407 individuals in Nigeria across 22 states. While 128 persons have been discharged, Nigeria has recorded 12 deaths.
NCDC reported 34 new cases of coronavirus across five states on Wednesday. That was the highest daily figure of new cases in the country since the first case was detected in February.