The Director-General Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the centre had revised the COVID-19 case management guidelines in line with recent recommendations of the global health management body WHO.
This is even as Nigeria has joins the United Kingdom and other countries of the world to initiate moves on raising funds in support of research efforts to produce vaccines for the treatment of the virus.
Speaking on Thursday in Abuja during the media briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Ihekweazu said the NCDC held a review meeting with various case management teams in the Ministry of Health and came up with new guidelines for discharging the patients.
Our correspondent gathered that this aimed at quickening the time of discharge of patients.
Under the new guidelines, which provide that a negative test will no longer be required to discharge a patient, symptomatic ones will be discharged at least 10 days after symptoms onset and at least three days without symptoms.
For asymptomatic patients, they will be allowed to go home 14 days after their first positive test.
The release of the guidelines coincided with a further rise in COVID-19 cases in the country, with 350 new incidences recorded to bring to 11,516 the number of confirmed cases in the country. The nation also recorded eight COVID-19 related deaths, raising the tally from 315 to 323 in the last 24 hours.
The NCDC on Thursday said Lagos recorded 102 new cases, Ogun 34, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) 29, Borno 26, Kaduna 23, Rivers 2, Ebonyi 17, Kwara 16, Katsina 14, Edo, Delta, Kano and Bauchi 10 each, Bayelsa nine, Imo eight, Plateau four, Ondo three, Nasarawa two, while Gombe and Oyo recorded one each.
It said: “Nigeria has recorded 11,516 cases of COVID-19. 3,535 persons have been discharged, while 323 have unfortunately died.”
Ihekweazu further said “There has been new science emerging about the duration of infectivity of individual patients. It led to the WHO issuing new clinical guidelines.
“We then convened colleagues across our organisation, the department of hospital services of the Federal Ministry of Health, as well as other colleagues with whom we work, to review our guidelines and issue new guidelines for the country and of course adapting it to local circumstances.
“The key thing is that the management of COVID-19 will be made primarily supportive; we don’t have any treatment so far that has any proven impact on morbidity.
“One of the major changes that have happened is the discharge criteria. While these guidelines are obviously and primarily targeted at physicians managing patients, it is important that patients and people know. There are two groups of patients – symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.
“For symptomatic patients, they may now be discharged at least 10 days after symptoms onset and at least three days without symptoms. If your symptoms last for longer, we will wait for longer managing you supportively.
“If you are asymptomatic, you can be discharged 14 days after your first positive test. So, we no longer have to wait for a negative test to discharge. This way you can go home with confidence that you are no longer infective and you’re not putting your family and friends or anyone else at risk.
“We are not encouraging that people be discharged while they are still symptomatic. We are talking about discharging people that are asymptomatic and have recovered. That is, you are symptomatic and have recovered or you are completely asymptomatic throughout your clinical episodes.
“At that point you really don’t need more clinical interventions, even at home; you just need time to recover. It is just like you to recover from any other illness. You don’t need any special intervention once you have been discharged.
“Change is difficult because we have been saying you have to have a negative test. Even though we have published these results, many physicians are still not using them. We can assure them and everyone managing cases that 14 days after, in fact, 10 days is what the evidence says.
“But we have added 14 days to make it two weeks for people to then implement discharge for patients that are asymptomatic.”
He added: “In addition, we have also removed the use of antiviral from our treatment guidelines. The trial for Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine will go on.
“We are asking that we limit the use of these medicines to those trial settings and not use them casually around the country. Let us reduce the use of Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine and all the other antiviral previously on our guidelines to contexts where clinical trials are going on.
“So, we have withdrawn them from the guideline from management. However, we have kept them within the clinical trial so that we can study and see whether they work or not. That is really the rational approach to this.”
Speaking on the issue of availability of personal protective equipment (PPEs), Ihekweazu urged both public and private hospitals to procure their own PPEs and factor it into the cost for healthcare delivery.
“Our hospitals both public and private really need to include the purchasing of personal protective equipment in their procurement plans. These are things that they have to buy to keep their hospital going,” he added.