Dr Babatunde lpaye is one of the best brains Nigeria has produced in Medicine.
Dr Babatunde Ipaye, a Public Health Specialist was a Consultant Health Specialist with the World Bank, he was also a former HIV and Health Adviser to the UK-DFID in Nigeria. He was Commissioner for Health, Ogun State, 2015 – 2019.
Presently he consults for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Fund, Malaria Consortium UK, etc.
Recently he spoke to CITYPEOPLE Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE about the current challenge of Coronavirus. Below are excerpts of the interview.
What do you make of the situation of things globally and the way the world has responded?
The Corona Virus or COVID-19 pandemic is a global public health tragedy of immeasurable health, social, psychological and economic consequences. Every continent of the world are in need of help simultaneously and international assistance has become almost impossible unlike other previous public health problems of the recent past.
The world is heading towards a global recession that is worse than that of 2008 and that can only be likened to a post-world war era.
How do you see the situation of the Coronavirus Pandemic in Nigeria? What’s your view of our response? Are we on the right course?
The Coronavirus situation in Nigeria is better described as an Epidemic that started from the major cities. Over 80% of the initial 120 cases were imported from Europe and community level transmission has remained low.
However, this level would have been better managed if the international boundaries have been closed earlier especially air transport from high burdened countries. Nigeria, therefore, acted a bit too late.
It is worthy of note that despite the delayed action, the national response is appropriate in terms of content and strategy but needs more push in terms of scale and quality.
The establishment of national and state levels of emergency operation centres (EOCs) has allowed for effective coordination of national actions.
How do you view the virus and what do you think Nigerians should do to manage it?
The virus unique attribute of the droplet or airborne transmission makes susceptibility global. Everyone irrespective of age, sex or social behaviour is susceptible. The ability of asymptomatic carriers to transmit the virus is the single most important challenge every country is facing irrespective of the level of the health system.
Nigeria needs to learn from countries that have flattened the COVID-19 curve and adopt a combination of strategies deployed by these countries.
I watched your interview on Channels recently where you analysed how people catch the virus and how it incubates over a few weeks and more people catch it. Can you please explain the whole process?
The summary of my position on Channels interview is the need to prioritise CONTAINMENT as a national strategy where everybody plays a part.
1. The government should decentralise testing to allow case detection for many infected persons as early as possible and their subsequent isolation.
2. People must obey social distancing and stay at home instructions from governments at all levels. The political class should also not turn the social support interventions to transmission avenues.
3. Everyone that has come in contact with a suspected person or anyone going to public spaces MUST wear a mask to contain possible sources of viral transmission.
4. The government and politicians social interventions should be structured to deliver help to people at home so as not to aid Coronavirus transmission.
What are the lessons for all of us to learn from this pandemic?
The lesson from this pandemic is that every country no matter the degree of confidence in the quality of the health system should treat every new and emerging health condition with every seriousness it deserves. COVID-19 has overrun even some of the western systems we celebrate. One can only imagine if the pandemic had started in Africa.
Global action for emerging infectious disease epidemic needs better coordination and partnership. If the world had supported China to contain and prevent “antigen export”, this global embarrassment would have been averted.
Lastly, what are your recommendations on how to deal with Coronavirus and other viruses?
This has been answered in Question 4. The other thing to add are;
The WHO and other multinationals must as a matter of urgency initiate cross-country and continental diseases surveillance systems to monitor new and emerging infectious diseases and allow for immediate global action irrespective of the level of threat it poses.
Investments in health systems have become a major global priority even more than military armaments based on the lesson from COVID-19. Weak countries need to be supported to also build a resilient health system that can help the strong economies in a time of need like this.