The Nigerian government has said it may consider discharging COVID-19 patients earlier than their required treatment and isolation period, even though they are still positive.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, made this known at the daily Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 briefing on Thursday.
Mr Ihekweazu said new evidence shows that it is safe to discharge recovering COVID-19 patients even when the results are still positive.
“New evidence is emerging that even when the test is still positive after that patient has been in care for a certain amount of time, it is possible and safe to discharge that patient to home isolation.
”So we are looking at the evidence and we might change our guidelines over time.
“I am sharing this so that we start preparing ourselves for some changes and the directions of how we are planning to go,” he said.
The government’s decision may be linked to the reality that treatment centres across the country have become overwhelmed by the number of persons requiring institutional isolation and treatment.
Mr Ihekweazu earlier said Nigeria lacks adequate bed spaces to accommodate COVID-19 patients in isolation centres across states.
He said the federal government was considering the option of home-care treatment for COVID-19 patients.
”Across the country, we have about 3,500-bed spaces identified as available for coronavirus but in Lagos, we are already struggling.
“So, we are going to work with them to keep trying to make more spaces available,” Mr Ihekweazu had said.
As of May 20, a total of 6677 persons have been confirmed to have COVID-19 in Nigeria. Although 1840 persons have been successfully treated and discharged, 200 deaths have been recorded.
Double testing no longer done
The NCDC boss said the agency has switched to testing COVID-19 patients only once as against its earlier stance on double testing before discharge.
This, he said is to enable the decongestion of some isolation centres in the country.
“On our discharge criteria, we changed it from two tests – 24 to 48 hours apart to a single negative test,” he said. “The reason is that most of our cases that tested negative also tested negative for the second time. Of course, there will be some exceptions.”
“Given the pressure, we have on bed spaces especially in Lagos, Kano, and the FCT, we made a pragmatic decision to move to one negative test sufficient to discharge people,” he said.