COVID-19: No law against release of corpses ― Lagos govt

To release policy on face masks begins mass production of local face mask

Reached over 1 million households

Establishes 20 sample collect centres

By Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi, Sunday said there was no existing law in the state that prohibits them from releasing the bodies of COVID-19 dead patients to their relatives even as he disclosed that no fewer than one million households have been reached in the search for active cases of COVID-19 in communities.

Giving updates on the containment efforts of the virus in the state during a pressing conference further disclosed that the state government will soon issue a policy on the use of facemasks, adding that already the state has commenced mass production of local face mask.

Abayomi explained that families of dead COVID-19 patients can collect the bodies of their loved ones after the bodies have been decontaminated and put in double plastic bags and finally placed in a sealed coffin.

“There are no existing laws that empowered us to deny the families of deceased bodies. The protocol for managing death from COVID-19 is that the body is decontaminated, and then placed in special body bags; sometimes you can double it then place in a casket. And the coffin is sealed. Then the family will be given an opportunity to come and collect the body and take him for burial.

The only issue is that in relation to the existing laws, the burial will have no more than 25 people including the grave-digger in attendance. So there is no current law that allows us to deny relatives the body of the person that died of COVID-19. It is just to be done in a procedure that doesn’t expose family members and relatives to danger.”

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On facemasks, Abayomi, who said the state government will soon come up with a guideline on the use of face masks, said the state government has commenced local production of facemasks.

Abayomi disclosed that wearing of face masks does not protect against COVID-19 infection but rather protect people around an infected person from an increased amount of aerosol generated from coughing or sneezing.

“There is some theoretical evidence that the wearing of masks may indeed reduce the amount of droplets in the environment from the person that is infected with COVID19 and that is the reason why we are beginning to define the strategy of face masks for the general community,” he said.

He said the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has already given instructions that tailors and seamstresses should be commissioned to commence mass production of locally made face masks from a standard design that have been given to them.

He stated that the wearing of the home-made mask is just to reduce the amount of droplets that may be produced and aerosolized by the process of coughing and sneezing.

“Tailors and seamstresses are empowered to produce and provide standard home-made face mask that the public can gain access to and wear without pulling on the limited stocks of professional face masks that health professional require such that in a couple of weeks, we will be able to mass-produce locally made face masks not medical mask.”

He noted that the State is not encouraging the public to go and purchase medical mask because it would deprive the medical community of the medical mask that they require for their professional activity.

“We are not encouraging the general public to purchase a surgical mask in order not to put a strain on the already short supply of medical face masks. Home-made masks help to reduce the amount of droplets you may produce but the wearing of face masks don’t protect you from COVID-19 infection. It is just to protect people around you in the process of coughing.

“COVID-19 is not an airborne infection, in the process of coughing or sneezing you produce droplets in the air, and therefore spread through that means. Mr Governor has given instructions that our tailor should commence immediate production of face masks in local fabrics so that very soon we will have enough locally produced face mask”

On the Active Case Search in community’s strategy, the commissioner who noted the rise in the number of confirmed cases said they have visited over 1 million households, representing about five million people in search of cases COVID-19 in the communities.

He said out of the 5 million people only 29 patients have breathing difficulty and 1,000 people with case definitions of COVID-19.

“Be reminded that there are some conditions that have similar symptoms. Out of 300 samples taken, we have only found three patients who have breathing difficulty and symptoms related to COVID19. More than 90 per cent of these patients will have other COVID-19 related symptoms. The latest active case search in communities has reduced the number of community infections in the state. Our strategy is to achieve a reduced number of cases.

“We are making efforts to ensure that increase in the number of cases is reduced unlike what we see in the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe. With what we are seeing now it is showing that the graph is being flattened and it has shown that the multiplicity of the strategies is indeed working.

The Commissioner said the active case search was to establish the actual number of community transmission of coronavirus disease in the communities.

On private hospitals, Abayomi said only one private hospital has been accredited to treat COVID-19 patients in the state, adding that they have received requests from some private hospitals to also treat patients.

On testing, he explained that each of the testing centres in Lagos can test up to 200 in a shift which gives a total testing capacity of 600, adding that two testing centres would give a total of 1000 capacity per day in addition to the capacity of the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research, NIMR.

He added that the state government has set up sampling stations in the 20 local government areas of the State where citizens that fit the case definition of COVID19 can visit to drop samples for testing.

Abayomi stressed that the new arrangement would provide an opportunity for people at the local government with symptoms of COVID19 to present themselves early for testing.

On the number of deaths in Lagos, the commissioner noted that only two death s occurred in their facilities which were people who came in when little or nothing could be done for them.

He said they are working towards collaborating with the private sector. “We’re increasing public and private sector to ensure we have enough medical manpower to cope with the increasing number of patients and to contain the disease. We are still maintaining social distancing and massive training our health personnel in the skills of infection prevention control.



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