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Nigeria missed opportunity for early containment, says Tomori

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By Sola Ogundipe

A professor of human virology and former President of the Nigerian Academy of Science, Oyewale Tomori, has faulted Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tomori, who described the coronavirus disease as one that has shocked the world, described the measures currently being taken against the disease as belated.
His words: “We are now taking the measures that we should have taken from the first day that the index case came in. I wish we had done what we are doing now at that time. We waited too late for action to be taken. We missed the opportunity because if we had taken these steps that we are taking now at that time, we would be in a better position.
“ We started with one case and took about nine days before the second case came up and then subsequently we are getting cases more rapidly till now, brought back by the number of people coming back into the country. At the border, all they can do is check your temperature, and you may not be symptomatic, but it is in the following up that we have a problem.”
Lamenting that there were not enough test centres in the country for the diagnosis of the disease, Tomori said even the existing centres could be better utilised.
Tomori said: “How are we utilising the available test centres? We should be having information about how many tests are carried out by each of the laboratories and that way, experts would be in a position to advise the government on the way forward.
“I get worried when they say we have 50 or 51 cases, but nobody has told us how many samples they have tested and if we are only testing 200 samples and getting 50 cases, that is horrendous. It means that a quarter of everybody is positive.
“But if we are testing 4,000 and getting 50, then it becomes a little different. So I do not think we are getting enough information from those in charge.
“Apart from the labs, we need test kits and reagents. It all boils down to having the guidelines. The government should put effort into what every individual should do so they can take the right steps.”
Calling for better preparation to tackle disease epidemics, Tomori tasked the government to make use of its own people to tackle the COVID-19 menace.
According to Tomori, “we never expected that it would be so bad. This is a new virus that is spreading all over the world and because it is new, people do not have immunity against it and so it is going to spread for some time until it can be put under control.
“There are enough talented people in this country and if you put money into research and science, there is no way we would not make progress. It is a matter of relevance. The government has been paying lip service to research.”

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