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COVID-19: Nigeria lacks sufficient hospital beds in face of viral pandemic – Data

NIGERIA’S fragile healthcare system paints a grim picture as the country braces itself to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Data suggests that Nigeria’s healthcare systems might be overwhelmed if  Coronavirus spreads wider beyond expectation.

Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health at a media briefing in Abuja on Friday said the country would adapt a renewed approach to combat coronavirus if the need arises.

“We have our own strategy to improvise and increase the number of isolation centres if the need arises. There is a standard isolation centre in Gwagalada, Abuja. There is another one in Lagos which was inherited from the Ebola isolation centre.”

When asked if Nigeria was ready to control a possible outbreak of the coronavirus, he was careful in his response.

“I will tell you that no country is ready for the outbreak of coronavirus or any infectious diseases it depends on how fast they move or respond to it,” he said.

Coronavirus infections in the Nigeria is currently confirmed  at 22 cases nvolving people who have in recent times being to Europe or other high risk countries.

According to the Global Health Security, GHS, Index 2019 released in October last year, the index was based on each country’s vulnerability to epidemic emergencies and their capacity to respond.

The study was carried out in 195 countries to assess their preparedness in the face of a globally catastrophic biological event or serious disease outbreaks.

Nigeria ranks 11th in Africa, and described as being “moderately prepared” for an epidemic trails behind low income countries like Zimbabwe, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

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South Africa tops  the chart of African countries with a robust capacity to respond to diseases outbreak, followed closely by Kenya, Uganda, Morocco and Ethiopia.

Indices based on the GHS index showed that Nigeria lack foundational health systems capacities vital for epidemic and pandemic response, without compliance with international health and security norms.

Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General of Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, said  Nigeria’s strategy was focused on early detection and prevention of coronavirus due to lack of infrastructural capacity.

“Our health system is not as strong as we’d like it to be, it is because we are a bit worried about our capacity to deal with a large outbreak that we are focused so intensively on prevention and early detection,” he said.

In a study published on The Lancet Journal to evaluate the vulnerability of African countries against the importations of COVID-19 from other continents revealed that the management and control of COVID-19 importations heavily relies on a country’s health capacity.

Nigeria was acknowledged in the study to have a pandemic preparedness plan which is outdated and considered inadequate to deal with a global pandemic leading to rapid saturation of its hospital’s capacity if an outbreak ensues.

In the face of scrambling to increase Nigeria’s isolation beds and provide more specialised medical training and equipment to contain a possible COVID – 19 outbreak, statistics is not favourable to Nigeria’s plight.

Nigeria boasts of 0.9 hospital beds per 1,000 people less than the global average of 2.3 while its Intensive Care Unit, ICU, beds for emergencies is estimated at 0.07 per 100,000 people.

The hospital beds include inpatient beds available in public, private, specialised hospitals and rehabilitation centres.

Compared to Kenya whose ICU, beds for emergencies per 1,000 people is 0.3 and its hospital beds per 1000 people is 1.4. South Africa’s hospital beds per 1,000 people is 2.8 above the recommended World Health Organisation, WHO, standard of 2.3 hospital beds.

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Botswana’s hospital bed ratio to 1000 people is 1.8, Egypt with 1.6, Ghana is pegged at 0.9, Zambia has 2.0, Malawi has 1.3 beds and Zimbabwe with 1.7 according to figures obtained from WHO.

Several African countries including Nigeria have suspended flights and other transport links with badly hit zones in Europe and Asia, restricting entry of their citizens.

Restrictions have also been placed on public gatherings, schools, religious services, and mass events have been cancelled across different African countries to prevent the scourge from spreading.

Currently, there are five laboratories in NCDC’s molecular laboratory network with the capacity to test for COVID-19 across Nigeria according to information gleaned from its website.

The WHO, International Health Regulations, IHR monitoring and evaluation framework is a set of four components developed by WHO to support the evaluation of a country’s functional ability to detect infectious diseases and susceptibility to emerging epidemics.

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