Second Wave: How the FCT COVID-19 Team is Tackling Response Fatigue

Amidst the renewed efforts in the fight against the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, confirmed recently by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), health workers and front liners in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) COVID-19 team, may have fallen under strain and fatigue.

Since the onset of the second wave, the NCDC has recorded a consistent increase in the number of confirmed cases nationwide. As of January 30th, 2021, a total of 1,883 new cases of COVID-19 was recorded in the country. The spike since the beginning of December 2020, according to the Centre, is largely attributable to non-adherence to safety protocols, adding that the average number of daily confirmed cases recorded in the first week of January 2021, was higher than the cumulative cases recorded in the last week of December 2020.

Similarly, in the FCT, the weekly recorded cases of December 2020, exceeded the number of cases witnessed at the pandemic’s peak last year July. The confirmed cases were increasing way beyond what was recorded in the first wave, the severity of the cases and transmissibility were also comparatively higher in proportion.

In the meantime, a cross-section of health workers involved in the response who shared their experience on how they were coping with the current challenges observed that since it is the same set of health workers that have been responding since the beginning of the outbreak up till now, there is bound to be response fatigue. However, some respondents differ in their opinion on the fatigue syndrome.

To brace up to the challenge, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) revamped the enforcement of all the non-pharmaceutical preventive measures that were put in place at the beginning of the response, ensuring that they are being adhered to the latter. The enforcement team is headed by the FCT Commissioner of Police. In addition, mobile courts have been set up and defaulters are being sanctioned accordingly.

Other measures have been put in place by the FCTA to ensure that frontline and health workers get the required support needed to fight the second wave of COVID-19. Also, the payment of its modified hazard allowances for health workers in the FCT COVID-19 response was approved.

The Minister of the FCT, Mallam Mohammad Bello acknowledged in the COVID-19 Stakeholders Review Meeting held in Abuja on Monday, 14th of December 2020, that the management of the pandemic has been extremely demanding to the extent that everyone is tired of it.  The Minister, however, urged those in the frontline to continue to strive and push the limits to win the fight against the spread of the virus in the territory.

“We know that there is fatigue, everyone is tired of COVID-19 but the reality is that it is here. We all need to have our internal motivation and strength to be able to leap to make sure that we jointly fight the second wave of the pandemic”, he said.

The Acting Secretary, FCT Health and Human Services Secretariat (HHSS), Dr Mohammed Kawu noted that in the face of the second wave of infections, responders have demonstrated incredible motivation, optimism, and dedication to work, adding that he receives messages from many health workers requesting that they should be posted to the isolation and treatment centres to support the fight.

The Director of Public Health, FCT HHSS, Dr Josephine Okechukwu said, it is practically impossible for health workers to not experience some degree of fatigue in this battle against the pandemic especially the front liners who have been involved for several months, yet the front-line have remained resolute in their dedication and commitment to the response.

Dr Okechukwu added that the motivation and commitment of health workers are deeply rooted in the ethics of their profession which, according to her, is anchored on saving lives. “We as health workers, especially doctors, laid down our life right from the day we took that Hippocratic Oath to take care of lives, your patients should be your first consideration.

“We are fully committed to doing our work judiciously, we take care of ourselves; we talk to ourselves; we encourage ourselves and then we share that love and unity as we keep saving lives”, she said.

The team lead, This Day Dome isolation and treatment centre, Abuja, Dr Molokwu Azuka Victor, said managing the growing number of confirmed cases induced by the second wave, has been tasking for him and his team. He, however, noted that the FCTA has been supportive.

“For us here, we’ve been able to manage, at a point we had up to eighty patients on admission, it wasn’t easy, but all hands were on deck from the hygienists to the nurses, the maintenance team, to the pharmacists, to the doctors, everybody was always on the ground to make sure that we do our best.”

An epidemiologist and representative of the African Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) and the NCDC in the FCT COVID-19 response, Chioma Dan Nwanfor noted that since the stakes are higher now, fatigue will certainly set in for health workers. She, however, stressed that they cannot afford to give in because they are the foot soldiers on the field.

“So, it is our responsibility to do all we can to continue to boost the morale of our foot soldiers and let them know that we have to do this. It is our call and we must serve. If we do not put our hands together to respond to the second wave, it could probably get out of hand. We are doing our best to ensure that this second wave is flattened in the nearest future”, she added.

In his contribution, the Incident Manager at the FCT EOC, Dr Lawal Lukman Ademola included that the increasing number of confirmed cases is keeping the front liners on their toes, adding that they have also been able to meet up with the exigencies because it is keeping them motivated to work. Responding to the issue of fatigue, he said: “Are people burnt out? I won’t say yes or no, but the pandemic is taking longer than we anticipated.”

This narrative was done in February 2021 as part of the #COVID19NigeriaStories documentation project on state-level responses to COVID-19, implemented by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Nigeria Health Watch with support from the Ford Foundation.

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