Health

NCDC not aware of Control of Infectious Diseases Bill – Ihekweazu

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says it is not aware of the Control of Infectious Disease Bill but seeks to work with the House of Representative on that. Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of NCDC, said this during the daily Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19, on Thursday in Abuja. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a Bill for an Act to repeal the Quarantine Act and enact the Control of Infectious Diseases Act has passed second reading in the House of Representatives.

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The bill which was sponsored by the Speaker of the House, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, sought to empower NCDC and make it more proactive. Leading the debate, Gbajabiamila said that the NCDC had very little powers to carry out its mandate though it had great professionals. Gbajabiamila said the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill sought to empower the NCDC and make it more proactive and not just reactive. Ihekweazu said: “ I saw the bill like you all did on social media. I think the House of Representative members are doing their best to come up with solutions – new laws; so, I take it positively. “Of course, the bill requires more consultation. I am personally not in favour of drafting a bill in the middle of a crisis.

“Let’s get out of crisis and then use the momentum to engage all stakeholders to come up with a bill that will serve us now and for the future,” he advised. On molecular laboratories, he said that the NCDC’s goal was to have such a laboratory operating in the 36 states of the federation. He said that the NCDC approach was that of a hub-and-spoke that would have a national reference laboratory in Abuja as the hub – organising the supply chain, data, information technology support – connected to all the other laboratories in the country. Ihekweazu said that the agency wanted each molecular laboratory in Nigeria to be able to diagnose any significant infectious disease. “Nigeria now has 3,500 bed spaces for COVID-19 across the country, but in Lagos, we are already struggling. “We are going to work with them to make more spaces available. We may also have to start considering home care in certain circumstances,” he said. Ihekweazu said that NCDC’s response strategy was adaptive to local contexts in each state and each community of the country. He said that it had become clear that there was community transmission in Lagos, Kano and Abuja. He gave the assurance that the agency was adapting its response to reality. “This is why we are taking testing to communities and health facilities in these places,” he said. He said that the NCDC team was responding in Kano to improve on the fight against the pandemic. “ We now have two laboratories functioning, and a third one is in the pipeline,” he said. He said that Nigerians needed to support health workers and not stigmatising the communities where they worked. NAN

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