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FG slams critics over invitation of Chinese doctors

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Nigeria, China, economy
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari (L) and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping

…Says even ‘almighty US’ is seeking help
…Adds they won’t treat patients but train local manpower
…Task force to advise Buhari on extension or otherwise of lockdown
…To unveil national policy on face mask use, issue new public advisory
…Chinese doctors must undergo laid-down protocol — Gbajabiamila
…We’re monitoring 8,881 passengers—NCDC

By Omeiza Ajayi & Joseph Erunke

The Federal Government has slammed critics of an offer by a foreign company, Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Company, CCECC, to import an 18-member Chinese team of medical experts, including doctors, nurses and public health advisers to share experiences with their local counterparts on the management of COVID-19 pandemic.

The government said the Chinese medical team was not coming to treat patients but to train local manpower.

This came on a day the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the Chinese medical personnel coming to Nigeria to assist in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic must undergo the necessary checks as provided by Nigeria.

Several stakeholders had berated the government for its decision to allow the Chinese team into the country, expressing fears that their coming could worsen the spread of the pandemic in Nigeria.

Even ‘almighty US’ is seeking help— SGF

However, Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, said every country needed all the help it could get at this point, adding that even the “almighty United States of America USA” was seeking external help.

According to him, the Chinese will only offer their experiences and expertise as they are not accredited by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria to ply their trade in the country.

He, however, said no country on earth had greater experience than China when it came to managing  COVID-19.

He said:   “One major support that has attracted public commentaries is the offer by CCECC, a Chinese company, to import about 256 equipment and items in different quantities, notable among which are 1,300,000 medical masks, over 150,000 pieces of assorted personal protective equipment as well as 50 medical ventilators.

‘’The company has also proposed, on its own, to sponsor public health experts to help strengthen our public health capacity and advise on processes and procedures.

“However, I wish to clarify that all countries of the world are seeking assistance and are receiving help in the fight against COVID-19. Even the ‘almighty’ United States is looking for help elsewhere. The support coming from China is a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative by CCECC, a company with total value of infrastructure contracts worth over  $10  billion in Nigeria.

‘’The professionals that have been invited from China are public health specialists and medical engineers that will support Nigeria’s capacity in managing the pandemic on advisory basis when necessary, while drawing from the experience of the Chinese.

‘’In no way shall there be case management and interface with patients. They will train our manpower, advise on procedures and methods, install and test the equipment donated before handing them over.

“I, therefore, use this medium to appeal to our medical professionals to see the positive aspects of this gesture as an extension of development in the field of medicine. The PTF recognizes and respects the competence and capability of Nigerian doctors and other medical personnel.

Task force to advise Buhari on extension or otherwise of lockdown

On the lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states, the SGF said reports from the Task Force’s assessment still showed substantial compliance in these places.

According to him, the Federal Government is already meeting the objectives of the lockdown and that 35 percent of infections is by returnees and 25 percent by close contacts, while the sources of 40 percent of infections are currently unknown.

As a result of the 40 percent infection, which sources are unknown, the PTF said soon, a new public advisory would be issued in that regard.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Army intensifies preventive measures in Barracks

“We shall prepare a full assessment by the end of the week in order to advise Mr. President on the next step to take before the expiration of the 14 days lockdown,” he stated.

He also asked stakeholders not to contest test results issued by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.

Vanguard recalls that Akwa Ibom State government had last week, faulted the NCDC for announcing that five people in the state tested positive for COVID-19. The state had challenged the fidelity of the results, urging a second round of tests.

Policy on masks

Mustapha said:  “I did say we will release a policy on face mask, this week. That policy has almost been completed and the draft is now being looked at by various colleagues to make sure that we are all aligned and tomorrow or next, we will be reviewing that policy so that we can all align our positions together.’’

Chinese doctors must undergo laid-down protocol — Gbajabiamila

Meanwhile, Speaker Gbajabiamila has said  the Chinese medical personnel coming to Nigeria to assist in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic must undergo the necessary checks as provided by Nigeria.

Gbajabiamila, after a meeting with the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, and Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, said the measure became necessary to take precautions and allay fears expressed by many Nigerians.

Present at the meeting were the Chief Whip, Mohammed Tahir Monguno; Deputy Leader, Peter Akpatason, and Deputy Chief Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha.

The speaker said the meeting was convened following widespread complaints that trailed the announcement of the coming of some Chinese medical personnel to assist Nigeria.

Explaining the essence of the meeting, he said: “There are a lot of complaints about why we are bringing in Chinese doctors. It is incumbent on us, as lawmakers, to intervene, following the concerns of our constituents to understand the issues and get the right information to them.

“Our duty is to protect the Nigerian people, and every opportunity to increase our knowledge will not be thrown away.

“Having listened to you, what we are taking away from this meeting is that Nigeria needs this intervention from the Chinese, but you have to make it mandatory that they observe all the protocols laid down for the disease.”

“As you explained that they won’t have direct contact with Nigerian patients, you have to make sure that they go through our official immigration laws, they have to get work permit waivers because they are coming here to work.

“Also, they have to be quarantined for 14 days as stipulated by the protocol, and you have to educate Nigerians about this to avoid misconceptions. We have laws and they must be complied with.’’

In his remarks, Minister of Health, Ehanire, told the House leadership that Nigeria did not officially invite the Chinese team, but that it was an offer arranged by a group of Chinese companies based in Nigeria as part of their corporate social responsibility, CSR, to Nigeria.

On his part, Minister of State for Health, Mamora, said the Chinese personnel were mainly experts in molecular laboratory testing, where we have only two indigenous experts currently serving seven laboratory centres.

He said the Chinese doctors were expected to help in setting up molecular laboratories around the country as well as upgrade and reconfigure existing ones.

He added that the Chinese medical personnel would not have direct contact with Nigerian patients but only help to reconfigure the laboratories and train Nigerian personnel and experts on the management of the disease and operation of the equipment and upgraded laboratories.

Noting that the Chinese gesture had no financial implications to Nigeria, Mamora regretted that there was little option than to accept the offer.

He said: “Case testing is the bulk of work because some people are asymptomatic, so we need faster and rapid test kits and processing. We are doing molecular testing that helps us know the viral load as well.

“We need to expand our testing labs across the country. Presently, we have two lab scientists in molecular testing, serving seven labs across the country. As we are expanding across the country, we need more people to be trained in molecular testing for faster results.”

We’re monitoring 8,881 passengers—NCDC

Similarly, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has said it was monitoring 8,881 “passengers of interest” in relation to COVID-19.

This was contained in its situation report dated April 5, 2020.

The report is the 37th in the series, following confirmation of the first coronavirus case in Nigeria on February 27, 2020.

“The National EOC is working with affected State EOCs to identify contacts of the new confirmed cases. A cumulative total of 8881 passengers of interest (POI) identified and being monitored,” the report read.

Vanguard

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