border closure, rice
One of Nigerian borders

•Bids to control nomadic herdsmen; tasks states on 300-bed ‘holding’ centres
•Says fake news distracting fight against COVID-19
•Adds Jack Ma’s donations to Nigeria not contaminated
•Oyetola signs Osun Emergency Prevention Regulation
•Says violators risk six-month jail term; Atiku’s son speaks from hospital
•6 new cases in Osun; tests on Ivory Coast returnees rounds off
•Fleeing nurse of Benue index case apprehended, isolated

By Peter Duru, Omeiza Ajayi & Shina Abubakar

ABUJA — The Federal Government said yesterday that the spike in the number of COVID-19 infections in the country was as a result of the nation’s porous borders, predicting that there could be more infections in the eastern flank of the country as people move on foot across borders.

Consequently, government said it would do everything possible to stop cross-border activities of herdsmen who move from other countries into Nigeria.

This came on as day Osun State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, signed the Diseases (Emergency Prevention) Regulations 2020 to prevent spread of the virus in the state, which number of infections have spiked in the last 48 hours.  The state confirmed six new cases of the virus yesterday.

This is even as the young nurse who took part in the treatment of the Benue Coronavirus index case in Makurdi (names withheld),  who earlier allegedly fled the town after the status of the index case was made public, has been apprehended and placed in isolation.

Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, said yesterday during the daily briefing of the Task Force, that the Federal Government would also put in place measures to control movement of nomadic herdsmen who go across borders in search of greener pastures for their cattle.

On the border issue and movement of herdsmen, the SGF said: “This is a very serious issue because as they move around; sometimes they go in search of pastures across borders. It is a major challenge. We will look at that and begin to address it.

“But that also comes to one fundamental issue that has been very topical in the last one or two years. That is whether we need to make provision of land in our constituencies so that we can domesticate this nomadic pasturing.

“From one issue, it dovetailed into another. If we eventually get that done, this kind of issue will not arise. I acknowledge that yes, as long as they cross borders, they create a problem for tracking, for infection, because our neighbouring countries are not isolated from this pandemic right now.

“The report we are getting is that some of the infections that have surfaced, not confirmed though, from Akwa Ibom and some of the ones that might begin to show across the eastern flank will be as a result of people crossing just on foot from other borders into Nigeria.

“We will be looking at that with the Minister of Interior to see how we can enforce closures of land borders through the established, designated outlays and also the porous areas that we have not been able to cover with facilities to restrict movements across the borders.

“You know we come from a long history of relationship with our neighbours that has shifted over the years. That has made substantially a long stretch of our borders to be porous and communities live across each other. That is an accident of history that we must live with, but we must find solutions to them.”

300-bed holding centres

The Federal Government also appealed to state governments to establish expandable 300-bed capacity facilities to hold suspected cases of the virus before they are transferred to the isolation and treatment centres.

Making the plea, the SGF said: “We recognize strongly the importance of synergy with the states. It is important that states, whether in the front line where cases have been reported or where cases have not been reported, to intensify preparation of facilities that will help in the event of a surge.

“Training of personnel in the management of these facilities is also a critical factor to the success of our strategy. The PTF shall intensify consultations with the governors and other state agencies to achieve the much needed collaboration.

“On the certification of more centres for treatment, the PTF has set up a team of experts now going round to inspect and certify the additional centres, nationwide. They are currently working in Abuja.

“We are requesting that the sub-national governments should provide at least a 300-bed facility — either a hotel or any facility that is available to them with options and graded in different categories, where they can provide basic nursing and other required procedures before patients are moved into the isolation centres or the teaching hospitals and any other health facilities, and those facilities should be expandable as the need arises.”

Fake news

Meanwhile, government has lamented the growing resort to fake news by some elements in the country, saying the development is distracting it from the fight against coronavirus.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stated this during the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, also added that the donations Nigeria received from Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, are in good conditions and not contaminated.

“Fake news is actually distracting our fight against COVID-19 and I think this is quite unhelpful. It is trending on the social media that the equipment and aid that we received from China, from Jack Ma are all infected with the virus.

“This is not true. Also, I was quoted yesterday as having said that the PTF has distributed ¦ 5 billion to the most vulnerable people in the last 24 hours. That also is not correct,” he said.

‘71% of 6,000 contacts traced’

Also speaking, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said 71 per cent of the over 6,000 contacts at large had been traced, explaining that as more contacts are traced, the number of infected persons was expected to go higher.

Ehanire said: “As of 10am today, 2nd of April, 2020, (yesterday), Nigeria has recorded 174 confirmed COVID-19 cases. 91 are in Lagos, 35 in FCT, 14 in Osun, eight in Oyo, five in Akwa Ibom, four each in Ogun, Edo and Kaduna, three in Bauchi, two each in Enugu and Ekiti, and one each in Rivers and Benue states.

“Those discharged from hospital care are still nine, but others are pending once final tests are done. Two fatalities are on record, these being cases with other serious pre-existing illnesses.

“As contact tracing and testing capacity are being ramped up, more and more cases will be found and the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases is expected to rise initially. We also worry about persons, especially Nigerians, returning to the country through land borders, who run a higher risk of infection while in a confined space for a long time, like transit in a crowded bus or car.

“Therefore, it is advisable that all travelers postpone non-essential travel, whether national, or international. In this regard, Nigerians are also advised to remain where they are resident and stay safe, except if returning home from a journey.

“With the expanded national case definition and the addition of two laboratories to the NCDC network of COVID-19 molecular laboratories, the national testing capacity has increased. Moreover, the lockdown in high burden states presents the advantage of reduced population mobility and leaves more people at home to be found during contact tracing.

“All of this means that more people and samples can be collected and tested more quickly, giving a shorter turnaround time, but it also means that more cases will be discovered initially than before. With 71% of the over presumed 6,000 or more contacts now traced, the number of confirmed cases will be rising dramatically. Contact tracing will still be intensified to reduce the number of outstanding cases,” he added.

Director-General of the National Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu, on his part, announced that the organization currently has 15 rapid response teams supporting 15 states, describing it as the largest deployment of specialized health team in Nigeria.

He added that items received from Jack Ma had since been distributed to all states of the federation.

No patients in Kubwa

In a related development, Minister of State in the Federal Capital Territory FCT, Dr Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, called on residents to ignore rumours on social media platforms that over 100 asymptomatic patients of the virus are in Kubwa General Hospital receiving treatment.

Aliyu, who made the call during a fact-finding mission to the hospital management, described it as fake news, stressing that it was a rumour taken to an extreme, especially at this critical period.

The minister noted that there are designated isolation centres where asymptomatic patients are kept in different parts of the territory, adding that her visit was not just a fact-finding mission but to restore confidence in the minds of the people.

“We are here on the basis of a rumour that over 100 patients of COVID-19 are in this facility receiving treatment.

“There are designated centres where COVID-19 patients are kept. However, there is need to clear the air and to restore confidence,” she noted.

Earlier, Chief Medical Director of Kubwa General Hospital, Dr. Lasisi Muideen emphasized that there was no single patient of COVID-19 in Kubwa General Hospital, noting that the hospital sees over 15,000 patients every month in different fields.

“There is no single patient of COVID-19 in Kubwa General Hospital. This hospital serves both residents of FCT and other neighbouring states of Niger, Kogi, Kaduna and Nasarawa.”

Gov Oyetola signs new rules

Also yesterday, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State signed the Diseases (Emergency Prevention) Regulations 2020.

Oyetola, while signing the regulations, said the law was aimed at preventing and containing the spread of COVID-19 anywhere within the state.

Following the signing of the law, anybody who violates the sit-at-home order will be sentenced to six-month imprisonment or an option of fine upon conviction.

Under the law, transmission or dissemination of false information regarding COVID-19 is also an offence and attracts the same punishment.

Similarly, promotion of unverified, untested, or unapproved cures, vaccines or other similar items that purport to cure, alleviate or reduce instances of persons infected with COVID-19, also constitutes an offence and offenders upon conviction will be liable to six-month imprisonment or an option of fine.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Presidency denies ‘N30,000’ palliative claim

Signing the regulations, the governor said: “It has become imperative to go beyond making suggestions and giving directives in order to stem the tide of the spread of COVID-19, save lives, reduce ill-health and ensure that the economy in which the people of Osun State operate does not become weakened and stretched.

“I make the Regulations for the good order, safety, security and public health in the State of Osun.”

Sick, poor people first for social relief

Meanwhile, the Osun State Government has disclosed that its priority would be the sick and poor residents of the state while distributing its relief materials.

Commissioner for Agriculture, Adedayo Adewole, said this while receiving food package for 600 families donated to the state government by Agricultural Social Entrepreneurship Foundation, in conjunction with Farmers Connect at the Ministry of Agriculture.

He said farmers in the state had been cooperating with the state government in providing food materials to the government, saying the committee put in place would determine how to distribute the materials.

He said: “The first to be considered are the vulnerable and the sick. We actually have a database of vulnerable people in the state and we are also looking at the possibility of local governments helping out in the process. Our farmers have been exceptional; they have been very compassionate donating relief materials. The state already has a committee to look into how to distribute the food items.”

Speaking after the presentation of the food items, Chief Executive Officer of Agricultural Social Entrepreneurship Foundation, Eniolamide Jinadu, said the gesture is aimed at relieving the people of difficulties they were facing as result of the lockdown.

The food package include rice, beans, cassava flakes, salt and noodles.

Osun records 6 new cases

Similarly, six new cases of coronavirus virus among the isolated returnees from Côte d’Ivoire has been confirmed by the state government, bringing the number of confirmed persons in the state to 20.

This is even as tests on the 127 returnees from Cote d’Ivoire was completed yesterday.

State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Rafiu Isamotu, while confirming the report, said all persons at the isolation had been tested, with 18 positive cases

According to him, all the cases have been moved to medical facilities in Ejigbo for treatment.

However, it was gathered that some residents were apprehensive in the town as the news of the infected cases filtered in.

Fleeing Benue nurse held, in isolation

In a related development, the young nurse who took part in the treatment of Benue coronavirus index case in Makurdi, who earlier allegedly fled from the town after the status of the index case was made public, had been apprehended and placed on isolation.

Benue State Deputy Governor and chairman of the State Action Committee on COVID-19, Mr. Benson Abounu, had few days ago, disclosed that his surveillance team was in search of the nurse.

Mr. Abounu explained that the nurse fled her residence after being stigmatized by her landlord.

“The young nurse took part in the treatment of the index case and when the news of the development got to her landlord. she was stigmatized.

“Out of fear, she ran from her house to her village in Ushongo. We sent our surveillance team to the village to search for her and bring her back to Makurdi for test.”

Vanguard gathered from a member of the state surveillance team who spoke on condition of anonymity that the Caretaker Chairman of Ushongo Local Government Area, Mr. Bemseer Agugu, yesterday traced the nurse and brought her with other staff of the hospital that initially treated the index case. back to Makurdi for isolation

“She initially fled Makurdi but she was traced and brought back to town by the Caretaker Chairman of Ushongo LGA, Mr. Bemseer Agugu, and as I speak with you, she is in self-isolation with other staff of the hospital where the index case received treatment, in line with the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, directive,” he said.

I hope to be out soon — Atiku’s son

Meanwhile, Mohammed Atiku, son of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, yesterday  shared his personal experience of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

In a video shared on Atiku’s Twitter account, Mohammed said: “This month, I tested positive for COVID-19 and I was brought to Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital for treatment and I am on my 11th day and I hope to be out soon.

“I decided to do this video so I could share my experience to be of help to those in the society. When I came here, I was nervous, the anxiety was high, especially being the first index case in Abuja, But day by day, things got better, thanks to the goodwill from Nigerians, friends and families.

“But one thing I will like to address is the issue of fake news that trailed my health status. Perhaps being from a political family, I did not see that as much, but if it were to be an ordinary person, I can tell you fake news can aggravate health conditions and worsen the immune system of patients.

“Let’s comply with the directives of the Federal Government; I also ask that we pray and show our medical staff support; they are at the frontline of this war.”

11 more cases recover, discharged in Lagos, Says Sanwo-Olu

Also yesterday, Lagos State governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced recovery and discharge of 11 more patients from the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, after testing negative twice.

The patients comprise nine males and two females, bringing the number of those who have recovered to 18.

Reacting to the discharge, the governor said: “I am happy to break to you, my good people of Lagos, the news of the release today of 11 more patients from our facility in Yaba. They have fully recovered and have tested negative to #COVID19 and have been allowed to return home to their families.

“The patients include two females and nine males. Their results came out negative in two rounds of tests. I want to use this opportunity to, once again, thank our frontline health workers and other professionals for their service.

“Let me reiterate that this is not the time to relax, but to maintain our vigilance because of the community infection that we are beginning to see. I assure you that at the end, we will hoist a flag of victory — with your cooperation and by the grace of The Almighty.”


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