NCDC discloses how it plans to scale-up testing for COVID-19

Nigeria’s Coronavirus cases could hit 240,000 by year-end going by the current rate of cases recorded daily in June 2020. Nigeria recorded a whopping 745 new cases on Thursday, June 18th, the highest number of cases recorded on a single day. 

The data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) also reveals cases have increased just as it ramped up testing across the country. Total testing as at June 18th was 106,006 up from just 63,882 as of May 2020, thus about 40% of total testing has occurred in the first 19 days of June. This comes to about 2,340 per day for June thus far. Most developed countries test over 20,000 per day.

In terms of cases per test or daily positivity test rate, Nigeria seems to be recording, 19.7%, or about 19.7 cases for every 100 tested. This is based on an average of 462 cases per day in June and 2,340 cases per day as indicated above.

The data is purely an estimate as the NCDC has not released any daily positivity test for Nigeria. Official figures are recommended for extensive analysis or decision making.  

The Positivity test rate tracks the number of cases recorded out of all tests conducted, and that came back positive for COVID-19. It is viewed as the most reliable way to determine if a government is testing enough.  

A high rate of positive test rate indicates that the government is only testing the sickest patients, who sought out medical attention, and is not casting a wide net.

The WHO has issued guidance stating that governments should see positivity rates below 5% for at least 14 days before relaxing social distancing measures. Nigeria’s positivity rate of 19.7% is far above the WHO recommended 5%.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Brazil has the highest daily positivity test rate with 36.68%, followed by Mexico with 18.71%. Sweden is next at 15.11%, followed by the US and UK at 13.76% and 13.01% respectively. India, which has a similar demographic like Nigeria, has a daily positivity test rate of 8.73%.

Forecast cases 

Pandemics are often once in a century type events, thus, making projections can be dicey. However, running the numbers help appreciate the task at hand and urgency to flatten the curve.

A cursory analysis by Nairametrics Research estimates that at the current rate of daily cases, Nigeria might record up to 240,000 cases by the end of December 2020.  According to our simple forecast, Nigeria could record as much as 18,000 cases in June alone.  

We utilized Microsoft Excel forecast tool to estimate what the number of cases could be assuming the current levels are maintained. This is purely statistical and does not consider efforts to flatten the curve.  

In our analysis, we summed all the confirmed cases per month prior to June and then forecasted for the remaining days in June adding it to the confirmed cases recorded in June 2020. The total figures for each month were then used as the basis for forecasting into December 2020 with June as a starting point. The result is below; 

As mentioned, this chart does not take into consideration other factors that could indeed help flatten the curve like social distancing, lockdown extensions, and other preventive measures. There are also reports of a potential cure for the virus which could help as well.

Some also believe that we could well be approaching a peak and that the numbers might start coming down sooner rather than later. 

Nevertheless, this cursory analysis depicts what we could be facing in the coming months if efforts are not intensified to reduce the spread of the virus.  

Effect on Lockdown

The rising cases, particularly in Lagos has led to several policy reversals relating to the easing of lockdown. The Federal Government has rolled back plans to open up the local airports while the Lagos State government suspended indefinitely the planned reopening of mosques and churches initially set for Friday, June 19 and Sunday, June 21 respectively.

While the centers were already warming up to start their services, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu explained that the plan had to be suspended till the coast is clearer. He said,

We have been closely monitoring the situation since then, and have now concluded that we cannot proceed with any form of re-opening for places of worship in Lagos State, until further notice.

“This is not a decision that we have taken lightly, it is simply in line with our ongoing evaluation of evolving scenarios regarding the course of the infection in Lagos State and the corresponding public health advisory guidelines issued by the experts.’’

“We are now hereby suspending, with immediate effect, the plan to re-open religious houses and places of worship in Lagos State, until further notice.’’

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and continue to base our decision-making on data modelling; as well as on the responsibility we have to act in a manner that ensures the protection of all you the people of Lagos State. Therefore, until further notice, all places of worship in Lagos State will remain closed.”

Also, on Thursday, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 declared that the June 21 date, which was earlier fixed for local airlines to resume operations, is not feasible. According to the Chairman of the task force, Boss Mustapha, the increasing cases are a concern and there are more grounds the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has to cover before local flight resumption.

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